Oregon law defines marriage as a civil contract between two people at least 17 years old and capable of consenting to marriage. For many couples, marriage is more than a legal status. The reasons why individuals seek a marital relationship include:
- Financial support and benefits,
- Social advantages,
- Traditions or beliefs
- Mutual love
According to Oregon’s Center for Health Statistics, Oregon had over 25,000 marriages in 2021. An average of 3,000 marital unions occurred each month from June to October. When the relationship breaks down, spouses can seek a divorce.
Each year, the United States has nearly half the number of divorces as marriages. Oregon has a similar marriage and divorce comparison. For the year 2021, over 11,600 divorces occurred in the state.
The Oregon divorce process begins when one spouse files a petition with the court in the county where the petitioner or respondent lives. The petitioner is the party who files for the dissolution of the marriage. The other spouse is the respondent.
In a divorce case, the court resolves issues concerning property division, child and spousal support, custody, and parenting time. A spouse may request spousal support when they need monetary aid to support them after the relationship ends. Income inequality during the marriage means that one spouse has a significantly lower or higher wage than the other. In some circumstances, the person who does not contribute financially to the household takes care of the home and children.
Spousal support is money or other financial assistance that one spouse pays to the other during a legal separation or after a divorce. The obligor is the spouse who pays spousal support. The spouse receiving the payments is the obligee.
The parties can agree to terms of spousal support. If they disagree, the petitioner must complete and submit the Uniform Support Declaration form. Next, the court decides which party receives the payments, the type of support and the amount. The paying spouse may have to pay the compensation in installments, lump sum or both. Spousal support ends at the death of either party. However, the obligor remains liable for any unpaid balance owed when one spouse dies.
The remarriage of the party receiving spousal support does not automatically stop the obligation of the spousal support. If the new marriage substantially increases the obligee’s financial status, the obligor may seek to modify or terminate the support order. The court or administrator reviews the request and considers the sources of all income opportunities and other benefits the obligee now has.
Oregon law has three types of spousal support – transitional, compensatory and spousal maintenance. A court can award one or more kinds of spousal support in the final order.
Transitional spousal support is money awarded to help the obligee seek the education or training needed to reenter or advance in the job market. The court considers certain factors in its determination of this type of support, including:
- The length of the marriage
- The requestor’s training and employment skills
- The requesting party’s work experience
- Each spouse’s financial needs and resources
- The tax consequences to each spouse
- Child custody and support obligations and
- Any factor the court believes is just and fair
Under Oregon law, a court can award compensatory spousal support when a spouse significantly contributes to the other spouse’s education, training, vocational skills, career or earning capacity. The support goes to the spouse who makes the contributions, which can include:
- Financially supporting the other spouse’s pursuits
- Sacrificing their career or education advancement
- Maintaining the marital finances as the sole wage earner
- Managing the maintenance of the household
The judge can apply factors to determine compensatory spousal support, such as:
- The type, amount and duration of the spouse’s contribution
- The length of the marital relationship
- Each party’s earning capacity
- The extent of the benefit the marital estate received from the spouse’s contribution
- Each party’s tax consequences and
- Factors the court decides are just and fair
The purpose of spousal maintenance is for the obligee to continue the standard of living they had during the marriage. The support order may require the obligor to pay spousal maintenance for a limited time or indefinitely. Additional factors the court can consider for spousal maintenance are:
- The spouses’ ages;
- Each party’s work experience
- The spouses’ training and employment skills;
- The conditions of the petitioner’s and respondent’s physical, mental and emotional health;
- The length of the marriage;
- The spouses’ incomes and earning capacity;
- Tax consequences
- Both parties’ financial needs and resources; and
- Child custody and support responsibilities