One of the biggest questions in most divorces is whether either partner must pay the other spousal support. Oregon doesn’t have a strict calculation to determine the amount of spousal support, sometimes known as maintenance or alimony, that should be awarded in divorces and legal separations. However, there are laws and regulations that determine what kinds of support can be ordered and when.
If you are preparing to end your marriage, it is worthwhile to understand how alimony works in Oregon. This guide to Oregon alimony explains the different situations when spousal maintenance can be ordered, how it can be structured, and what might be included in your order.
Reasons for Alimony in Oregon
Spousal support can be ordered when a couple ends or alters their legal relationship. This includes getting divorced, ending a domestic partnership, or pursuing a legal separation. The general process remains the same for each, so while the rest of this article will use the term divorce, the information also applies to other situations as well.
Three general types of alimony can be ordered in these situations:
- Transitional Support Orders: These are short-term orders issued to help the recipient transition into self-sufficiency. They are intended to ensure that the lower-income spouse can maintain their standard of living until they can work and maintain it on their own. These orders are explicitly temporary and expire when the recipient meets a certain educational or career point.
- Spousal Maintenance Orders: These are long-term orders intended to maintain the recipient’s standard of living without any educational requirements. They may have end dates, or they may be indefinite. Indefinite orders are sometimes known as “permanent” alimony because they typically last until either spouse dies, the recipient remarries, or a modification is granted. Permanent orders are most common after “long-term” marriages, those lasting a decade or longer.
- Compensatory Support: In Oregon, compensatory support or “reimbursement” alimony may be issued. Suppose one spouse has significantly contributed to the other person’s education, increasing their earning capacity. In that case, they could reimbursement for their contributions by receiving an additional order specifically covering those expenses.
While these are the broad categories into which alimony orders fall, there is substantial room for customization within each. Couples who negotiate their divorce settlements on their own have the freedom to determine whether they want alimony orders and which types they want. Meanwhile, if a couple goes to court to have the matter decided by a judge, that judge will use their discretion to determine if and what kind of support to order.
Types of Spousal Support Payment Structures in Oregon
Along with the three main types of support, there are two primary structures for how payments occur. These are:
- Monthly Alimony Payments: This is the structure most people think of when considering court-ordered maintenance. The paying party is responsible for sending the recipient a set amount of money each month for the duration of the order. This is the most common solution and allows both parties to work the order into their budget in advance.
- Lump-Sum Alimony Payments: An order can require the paying party to send a lump sum to the other person. This is calculated by determining how much support the other party would receive if they received monthly payments for a set period. The entire amount is paid at once, freeing the paying party from a monthly obligation. This is particularly common in high-net-worth divorces, where a lump sum payment is less of a financial burden.
In most cases, a judge will only order monthly payments to avoid placing an undue burden on the paying party. However, under Oregon spousal support rules, couples may choose either structure if they draft their divorce settlement out of court.
What Are Provisions in Spousal Support Orders?
Of course, these are not the only ways a support order can be customized. Every spousal maintenance order can also be modified using provisions. These clauses within the order add additional terms and conditions for how it should be paid. Common examples of provisions in spousal maintenance include:
- Conditions to end support: In many orders, the couple or judge will add a provision to end payments early on certain conditions. For example, the support may end if the recipient gets married or stops attending vocational training.
- Vocational evaluations: Similarly, the recipient may be required to attend vocational assessments to determine if they are able to work or are putting in effort to improve their abilities.
- Step-down schedules: If an order is intended to provide for the recipient until they can take care of themselves, it may include a step-down plan that reduces payments periodically to encourage the recipient to achieve self-sufficiency.
These and other provisions allow couples and judges to draft orders that fit the unique circumstances of a specific marriage.
How Alimony Is Calculated in Oregon
So, within these general outlines, how is alimony calculated in Oregon? There is no hard-and-fast rule for the process. Instead, the judge or the couple must consider multiple factors when landing on the final number:
- Each spouse’s age and health
- Their respective earning capacities and incomes
- Their respective assets and debts after asset division is complete
- Their contributions to the marriage, such as contributing to the other’s education or sacrificing a career to care for children
- Their respective need and ability to pay
- The marital standard of living
- Any history of domestic abuse
These factors, in combination, are used to determine a fair order.
Consult the Spousal Support Experts at Regele Law, LLC
Spousal support is a complex topic that must be considered carefully, especially in high-net-worth divorces. At Regele Law, LLC, our skilled attorneys understand the nuances of Oregon alimony laws inside and out. If you have questions or concerns about how spousal support may work during or after your divorce, get in touch with our Salem, Oregon, family law office to discuss your situation today.