A common question in divorces is whether one of the spouses is entitled to spousal support in Oregon (spousal support is Oregon’s terminology for alimony). An additional related question is how the court is going to determine the amount of spousal support to award.

Oregon recognizes three primary types of spousal support. These are 1) transitional; 2) compensatory; and 3) maintenance. The overarching principle applying to awards of spousal support is that the support awarded by the court, if any, must be “just and equitable.”

Transitional support is the support necessary to allow the spouse “…to attain education and training necessary to allow the party to prepare for reentry into the job market or for advancement [in the job market]” ORS 107.105 (1)(d)(A).

Compensatory spousal support is the support to compensate for “significant financial or other contribution by one party to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning capacity of the other party.” ORS 107.105 (1)(d)(B). A common situation in marriage is where one spouse is the “homemaker” for a period of time to allow the other spouse to pursue higher education and ultimately a professional career. In such a situation, if the wife (for example) was the homemaker for a prolonged period of time to allow her husband to complete medical school and pursue his medical career, the wife is likely entitled to compensatory support for this contribution, even if she did not contribute financially to her husband’s education. Financial contributions are also included in this category, as well as being the spouse that stays home and takes care of the young kids.

Maintenance support is the support to balance the income of one spouse who has an earning capacity that is significantly less than the other spouse. Maintenance support can be either for a period of time or can be awarded indefinitely. The goal of maintenance support should be to provide the spouse that has less earning capacity with a roughly equal standard of living to that which he or she enjoyed during the marriage.

The three categories of support all relate to each other, and where support is ordered, the court is supposed to consider and equitably balance the types of support awarded. The court may order one, two or all three types of support. There is a list of factors that the court will consider in determining support, which vary slightly according to the type of support. For example, in considering an award of maintenance support, the factors to be considered by the court include:

(1) The duration of the marriage;

(2) The age of the parties;

(3) The health of the parties, including their physical, mental and emotional condition;

(4) The standard of living established during the marriage;

(5) The relative income and earning capacity of the parties, recognizing that the wage earner’s continuing income may be a basis for support distinct from the income that the supported spouse may receive from the distribution of marital property;

(6) A party’s training and employment skills;

(7) A party’s work experience;

(8) The financial needs and resources of each party;

(9) The tax consequences to each party;

(9) A party’s custodial and child support responsibilities; and

(11) Any other factors the court deems just and equitable.

This article is intended to be a general overview of Oregon law concerning spousal support, and it is not intended as legal advice. Brad Schrock is an attorney experienced in divorce and litigation matters. If you are facing divorce, call Schrock Law Office for an appointment to discuss your situation.