Alimony, or spousal support, refers to payments that are made to one spouse from the other after a divorce. The family court considers situations in which the spouses have unequal earning power, and have been married for a specified amount of time. A judge also assesses one spouse’s financial need against whether the other spouse has the ability to pay alimony. Overall, the purpose of alimony is to equalize the financial resources of a divorcing couple.

However, it is important to note that spousal support is not automatic, and it is not ordered in every divorce. In some cases, the judge may award temporary spousal support while the divorce is pending. While alimony is payments made from one spouse to another after a divorce to support the spouse, child support is made for the child in the marriage in order to sustain their daily essential needs.

The judge will consider all of the relevant factors in your situation, including but not limited to:

  • The ability to support yourself;
  • Necessary time to acquire a job or get training in order to become employed;
  • The standard of living that was established during the marriage;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • Circumstances leading to the separation;
  • Each party’s age;
  • The physical and mental condition of each party;
  • The ability of the spouse paying alimony to support themselves while making payments; and
  • Other financial responsibilities and resources of each party, such as: previous awards of child support, financial obligations of each party, rights of each party to receive retirement benefits, and taxability or non-taxability of income.

Alimony may be paid in one lump sum, or on an either temporary or permanent basis. The court will generally consider the circumstances of each partner when determining how much and how long assistance is needed.

How Do I Receive Alimony In Oregon?

In Oregon, alimony is termed “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance.” It is defined as the sum of money that is provided to a former spouse after divorce, for an amount of time deemed by the court to be just and fair. A court can issue an award for spousal support, or the parties can come to an agreement that is then enforced by court order.

Once a divorce action has been filed, a court can order temporary spousal support for the duration of the divorce proceedings. This ensures that the recipient spouse is able to afford the costs of the divorce suit, as well as to meet the financial needs of the recipient spouse while divorce is pending.

There are three types of spousal support that a court can award to a spouse. The first is “transitional spousal support,” which is awarded for the amount of time that it takes for the recipient spouse to acquire the necessary education and training in order to become self-supporting.

The second would be “compensatory spousal support,” which is awarded to a spouse who made a significant contribution to the education, training, career, and/or earning capacity of the other spouse. The court may order a third type of spousal support, or “spousal maintenance,” for a specific or indefinite length of time in order to meet the financial needs of the recipient spouse.

How Much Alimony Can I Get In Oregon?

Factors that an Oregon court will consider when deciding between the three types of support include, but are not limited to:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • Tax consequences;
  • Employability;
  • Financial needs;
  • Resources; and
  • Any child care responsibilities.

Determination of compensatory spousal support involves additional factors, including:

  • The amount and duration of contribution;
  • The benefits that the marital property sustained as a result of the contribution; and
  • Each spouse’s earning capacity.

Spousal maintenance requires the court to consider the age and health of each spouse, as well as their income and earning capacities. The court must also consider the standard of living during the marriage.

There is nothing in Oregon’s spousal support laws that places a limit on the amount of spousal support that can be awarded. However, an appeals court can reverse an award of spousal support if it may not be appropriate.

An example of this would be how in a case decided in 2015, the appeals court reversed the wife’s spousal maintenance award of $1,000 per month. The appeals court found that the husband had agreed to contribute $3,000 per year toward his sons’ college expenses. While this amount would affect the husband’s financial resources, it was not but should have been considered when the spousal maintenance award was determined.

Transitional spousal support lasts for as long as it takes for the recipient spouse to obtain the education and training that is needed to become self-supporting. As such, spousal maintenance can be for a specific amount of time, or it can last indefinitely. Temporary spousal support lasts only during the divorce proceedings, and as such ends when a divorce decree is issued.

A lawyer can ensure that you do not inadvertently waive your right to alimony. Additionally, a lawyer can ensure that you get the funds you need right away by requesting temporary spousal support. This is especially important because if you neglect this and ask for it later, it may not be granted retroactively.

What Else Should I Know About Alimony In General?

The death of either spouse or remarriage are the most common reasons for terminating spousal support. Some states allow for the reduction, suspension, or termination of alimony if the receiving spouse lives with another person while they are in a romantic relationship.

If the payor proves one of the automatic termination conditions as defined by the family law court, support ceases permanently. A modification of the spousal support order requires a showing of change in the circumstances, and each case is evaluated separately.

If you have been ordered to pay alimony, the first step you should take is to check your alimony agreement and court order. Most marital settlement agreements and/or court divorce judgments contain provisions defining the terms of alimony payments, as well as how much will be paid each month and when the payments are due.

If you cannot make a payment and need to modify the alimony order, you will need to show a change in circumstances in order to obtain a new alimony order. It is important to make the payments as ordered, to avoid future exposure to liability.

One of the first consequences for non-compliance with the court order would be to ask the court for enforcement, generally through contempt of court proceedings. The recipient spouse may show evidence that the other spouse is not complying with the court order, such as by collecting bank statements demonstrating that payments have not been made. They could also show that only partial payments were made, or that the payments were not made in time. Some states allow the judge to order jail time if the other spouse is found to be in contempt of court.

Some spousal support awards include an income withholding order. This allows the employer to withhold the ordered amount of spousal support from the spouse’s paycheck, who then sends this amount to the spouse directly. Another way to receive spousal support would be to initiate a lawsuit against the spouse who is not paying; however, before filing a lawsuit, you may be able to mediate the legal issue and reach a new agreement.

Do I Need A Lawyer To Receive Alimony In Oregon?

If you are considering seeking spousal support, or think you may have to pay alimony, you should contact an Oregon family lawyer immediately.

An experienced attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to Oregon’s family laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.