Spousal support in Oregon is money paid by one spouse to the other for the receiving spouse’s future benefit. State law controls the parameters and requirements of spousal support or alimony, so for Oregon residents, Oregon laws will be applicable to their divorce proceedings.
What else should you know about spousal support if you or a loved one is considering divorce in Oregon? Here are five essential pieces of information.
#1: There Are Several Types of Spousal Support in Oregon
When most people think of alimony they think of the long-term payment of monthly installments to a former spouse, but there are actually three types of spousal support in Oregon, which are appropriate in distinct circumstances.
The first kind of spousal support under Oregon law is transitional support. These are temporary payments to cover a short-term disparity in earning potential between the spouses. Most commonly, the court orders transitional support to allow one spouse to return to school or a training program in order to increase his or her earning capacity. While completing the degree, the spouse may be able to receive transitional support.
The second type of spousal support is maintenance support. These are typically ongoing monthly installment payments intended to balance the lifestyles and living costs of the spouses. When people discuss spousal support or alimony, this is usually what they are referring to.
Third and finally is compensatory support. A court will order compensatory support to even out a major expense during the marriage that left one spouse with a significantly higher earning potential, but which both spouses helped fund. Common examples include when one spouse obtains a law degree, MBA, medical degree, or other doctorate degree.
#2: There Is no Set Calculator for Determining Oregon Spousal Support
Some states have a formulaic process for calculating what spousal support payments will be after a divorce. While Oregon does have a guideline calculator for determining child support payments, no such formula currently exists for spousal support. Instead, determinations of spousal support include a review of the couple’s joint costs of living as compared to each individual’s separate cost of living. Courts will also consider the length of the marriage, each spouses’ earning potential, and each spouse’s age and health when determining if spousal support will be appropriate.
Spousal support will likely be awarded particularly in situations where there is a large disparity in earning capacity between the spouses. Oregon courts try, when possible, to allow each spouse to continue their lives at a comparable standard of living to what was enjoyed during the marriage.
#3: Spousal Support Is Usually Not Indefinite
The duration of a spousal support award can vary greatly depending on the circumstances. One spouse could pay spousal support for one year, five years, or 20 years. Unless a couple mutually agrees, only the court can determine and order the amount of spousal support required. Oregon courts generally consider the age and health of each spouse as well as the length of the marriage when determining the duration of spousal support.
In situations involving long-term marriages or where a spouse has developed a disability or health issue that prevents them from supporting themself, spousal support may be indefinite.
#4: Oregon Spousal Support Has Tax Consequences
Spousal support has tax ramifications for both parties. The spouse receiving monthly, or a lump sum, spousal support payments must treat the payments as though they are income. This means that the received payments must be declared as income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and for purposes of state income tax filings. Alternatively, the spouse making spousal support payments may deduct the amounts paid on their own tax returns.
Beginning in 2019, spousal support will no longer be deductible by the paying spouse.
#5: Oregon Spousal Support is Modifiable After Divorce
Spousal support awards are based on each spouse’s circumstances at the time of the divorce. Sometimes, unexpected changes happen that affect the fairness of the award. For example, a large spousal support award may be predicated on the large income that the paying spouse earned as the divorce concluded. If that spouse loses their job, or otherwise encounters unexpected market changes that significantly reduce their income, the paying spouse may not be able to afford the high level of spousal support payments as originally anticipated.
Spousal support orders can be modified by demonstrating to the court that there has been a “substantial change in economic circumstances of a party.” If either party’s earning capacity has shifted drastically since the divorce concluded, that shift in income may warrant a change in the amount or duration of spousal support payments.
In many states outside of Oregon, spousal support will automatically terminate if the spouse receiving spousal support remarries to a new partner. In Oregon, however, remarriage does not automatically terminate a spousal support obligation. Courts will consider the extent to which the receiving spouse’s new marriage has improved their economic situation and then decide whether modification of the spousal support award is necessary.
Have Other Questions about Oregon Spousal Support?
At Gearing Rackner & McGrath, we are prepared to answer all of your questions about spousal support, the division of assets, and other financial aspects of divorce.