Portland Spousal Support Attorney

Sometimes, one party to a divorce is or has been a stay-at-home parent and homemaker. If both parties work, there may be a significant difference between the incomes the parties earn. In some situations, one party may have contributed a great deal to the other party’s success, such as helping him or her obtain a medical or other professional degree.

In all of those examples, one spouse may have to pay the other spousal support. In Oregon, there are three kinds of spousal support: transitional spousal support, maintenance spousal support, and compensatory spousal support. The Oregon Legislature and decisions from the Oregon Supreme Court and Court of Appeals all provide guidance as to the type of support, and the amount and duration of support, that is appropriate in different situations.

Transitional support is usually awarded when one spouse has not worked for some time and needs more education or training to get an appropriate job. Transitional support is usually awarded for a limited duration, and may be awarded in addition to a combination of spousal maintenance or compensatory support.

Whether a case is settled or goes to trial, spousal maintenance support is usually awarded if there is a significant difference between the parties’ incomes, or if other circumstances exist, such as health issues that make it difficult for a spouse to work. By law, spousal maintenance support is awarded in Oregon to help maintain the “out” party’s standard of living, so that it is not overly disproportionate to the standard of living the parties had during their marriage.

Compensatory support may be awarded under certain circumstances. This usually occurs when one party made significant contributions to the other party’s education or career, and when the parties have not yet gained a substantial financial benefit from those contributions. For example, assume that a husband and wife married during undergraduate school, and the wife worked full time to put the husband through the remainder of his undergraduate degree, and then supported him through a MBA program. Assume that, upon receiving his MBA, the husband received a lucrative job with an investment bank, and then filed for divorce. The wife could have a claim for compensatory support.

There are no specific rules about the amount of support or the duration of support. In shorter marriages with young couples, courts often award spousal support, in appropriate circumstances, for duration of up to one half of the length of the marriage. On the other hand, generally, the longer the marriage, and the older the parties are, the more likely it is that support will be “indefinite” in appropriate circumstances.  The amount of support can greatly vary depending on the specific facts of a case. 

Effective January 1, 2019,  federal tax laws changed so that spousal support awards are no longer be tax deductible to the person who pays support or taxable to the recipient of the support.  That will change the amount of support that will be awarded for divorces that are finalized after the new rules took effect.  The tax rules do not apply to modification of spousal support awards that were in place before January 1, 2019. 

There is no guidance yet from Oregon appellate courts about how to deal with spousal support under the new tax law, but the person who pays support will pay less support than he or she would have under the prior tax law. 

The type of spousal support, its amount, and its duration all depend on the specific facts of your case. Peter will work with you to identify the types of support that may be at issue and a range of outcomes for the amount and duration of spousal support.

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