In Oregon, alimony is termed “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance.” It is defined as the sum of money provided to a former spouse after divorce for a length of time deemed by the court to be just and fair. Spousal support can be made in installments or a lump sum. It is also separate from any child support payments made for the nature of child custody. A court can issue an award for spousal support, or the parties can come to an agreement that is enforced by court order.
Once a divorce action is 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, such as expert witnesses. A court can also award a sum of money necessary to meet the financial needs of the recipient spouse while divorce is pending.
Further, there are three types of spousal support a court can award a spouse to receive after divorce. The first is “transitional spousal support,” which is awarded for the amount of time it takes for the recipient spouse to acquire the necessary education and training to become self-supporting. The second type is “compensatory spousal support,” which is awarded to a spouse who made a significant contribution to the education, training, career, or earning capacity of the other spouse. Finally, the court can order a third type of spousal support, termed “spousal maintenance,” for a specific or indefinite length of time to meet the financial needs of the recipient spouse.
With respect to all three types of spousal support, a court will consider any and all factors that are just and fair in making a determination. Factors the court will look at in deciding on 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.
Compensatory spousal support involves additional factors, including the amount and duration of contribution, the benefits the marital property sustained as a result of the contribution, and each spouse’s earning capacity.
Spousal maintenance requires the court look at the age and health of each spouse, as well as their income and earning capacities. It must also take into account the standard of living during the marriage.
Nothing in Oregon’s spousal support laws 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, taking into account the foregoing factors, it may not be appropriate. For example, 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 the husband had agreed to contribute $3,000 per year toward his sons’ college expenses, and even though 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 necessary to become self-supporting. Spousal maintenance can be for a specific amount of time or last indefinitely. Temporary spousal support lasts only during the divorce proceedings and ends when a divorce decree is issued.
A lawyer can make sure you do not inadvertently waive your right to alimony. The court will not know you need spousal support unless you ask, so it is best to include a request for alimony in the beginning—with your divorce petition. In addition, a lawyer can make sure you get the funds you need right away by requesting temporary spousal support. If you neglect this and ask for it later, it may not be granted retroactively.
If you are considering seeking spousal support, or think you may have to pay it, protect yourself and your financial situation. Contact your local Oregon family lawyer today.