Spousal Support

Spousal support, formerly known as alimony, is the periodic payment of money to or from a spouse, domestic partner, former spouse or former domestic partner. In Oregon, if the court has jurisdiction, spousal support can be ordered in any divorce, legal separation, annulment or dissolution of a domestic partnership. In fact, Oregon courts have the authority to order spousal support even when each party failed to request it within his/her written pleadings. Unlike child support, there is no calculator to determine either the appropriate amount or duration of spousal support awards. Instead, courts determine spousal support awards based on a number of factors some of which are enumerated by the Oregon Revised Statutes, and discussed further below.

Spousal Support & Taxes

Spousal support is taxable to the recipient and deductible to the party paying spousal support. Of course, to get a taxing authority such as the IRS to treat periodic payments to or from a spouse, former spouse as spousal support there are certain requirements. Believe it or not merely labeling the award of such periodic payments as spousal support is not enough. In addition to meeting other requirements, the document requiring spousal support payments must provide that the obligation to pay spousal support terminates on the death of either party.

Oregon Spousal Support Categories

Oregon law recognizes three distinct spousal support categories including transitional spousal support, compensatory spousal support, and spousal maintenance. Each spousal support type is defined to serve a different purpose. In addition to the requirement that spousal support may only be ordered if it is fair and equitable, each type may only be ordered if it serves the purpose for which the category was created.

Transitional Spousal Support

Transitional spousal support is only available to enable a spouse or domestic partner to obtain education and training necessary for job market re-entry or advancement. Usually, transitional spousal support is only awarded when a spouse or domestic partner has been out of the workforce for an extended period of time. The most common scenario is when one parent has been the stay at home parent while the other parent has been the wage earner. However, just because a parent has been a stay at home parent for years doesn’t necessarily mean that parent should receive transitional spousal support. For example, if the stay at home parent is highly educated, has marketable skills, a comparable earning capacity to the other parent, and substantial assets, it may be inappropriate to award transitional spousal support. On the other hand, transitional spousal support may be appropriate, even when the parties do not have children.

Oregon law provides the court with a non-exclusive list of factors the court may consider to determine if an award of transitional spousal support is appropriate. The court may consider a party’s work experience, training and skills, financial needs and resources, custodial and child support responsibilities, the duration of the domestic partnership or marriage, the tax consequences to each party, and any other factor the court deems just and equitable. There is no simple litmus test to determine if a court will award transitional spousal support. To determine if court is likely to award transitional spousal support to you, your spouse or your domestic partner, you should retain the services of an experienced and dedicated family law attorney.

Compensatory Spousal Support

Compensatory Spousal Support is only available if the court determines that one party has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning capacity of the other party. As with all categories of spousal support, an award of compensatory spousal support can only be granted if it is equitable under the circumstances. Of course, an award of compensatory spousal support is not necessarily limited by the extent to which a marriage or domestic partnership has already benefited from the contribution. For example, in a long term marriage or domestic partnership, where one party held the traditional job of homemaker, the court may award compensatory spousal support to a party particularly when the marriage or domestic partnership preceded the education or enhanced earning capacity. In fact, while it will benefit a party to show that his/her contribution resulted in enhanced earning capacity, that showing is not required to obtain an award of compensatory spousal support.

Oregon law provides factors that a court may consider to determine if an award of compensatory spousal support is appropriate. The factors for compensatory spousal support include the duration of the marriage or domestic partnership; the amount, duration, and nature of the contribution; each party’s relative earning capacity; the extent to which the marital estate has already benefited from the contribution; the tax consequences to each party; and any other facts the court deems just and equitable. Just like with transitional spousal support, there is no simple test to determine if a court is likely to award compensatory spousal support in your case. While there are facts and circumstances where it is clear to an experienced divorce attorney that a court should award compensatory spousal support, a proper assessment will require a detailed review of your circumstances.

Maintenance Spousal Support

Maintenance spousal support, known as spousal maintenance, is awarded to enable the parties to live separately at a standard of living comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, to the extent possible. Maintenance spousal support may be ordered for a fixed period of time or it may be indefinite. Of course, the goal, if it can be achieved without injustice or undue hardship is to end the support dependency relationship within a reasonable time. In general an award of indefinite maintenance spousal support is more likely to be ordered if the marriage is long term. However, if the party requesting maintenance spousal support suffers from serious health problems and has a limited earning capacity, indefinite spousal maintenance may be appropriate for a short-term marriage or domestic partnership.

Oregon law provides factors that a court may consider in determining if it is appropriate to award maintenance spousal support. The factors for maintenance spousal support include, the duration of the marriage; each party’s age; the health of the parties; the standard of living established during the marriage; the relative income and earning capacity; training and employment skills; work experience; the financial needs and resources of each party; the tax consequences to each party; a party’s custodial and child support responsibilities; and any other factor the court deems just and equitable. In Oregon a wage earner’s continuing income may be a basis for support distinct from the income that the supported spouse may derive from the assets awarded to him or her in the distribution of the marital estate.

If spousal support is involved in your divorce, legal separation, or dissolution of a domestic partnership, you should hire an experienced knowledgeable family law attorney.

At the law office of Kyle D. Edmonds, we offer experience, knowledge, and advice on how to resolve matters involving spousal support.