New Case Law – Spousal Support Awards

As a Portland Oregon divorce law firm, Stephens & Margolin LLP is dedicated to keeping up to date on Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court opinions. As a service of The Oregon Divorce Blog, we will be providing updates as new opinions come out.

On January 28, 2009, the Oregon Court of Appeals published an opinion in Powell and Powell. The case was an appeal from a dissolution of marriage (divorce) proceeding in Lane County. Husband filed the appeal to challenge the trial court’s property distribution and its award of spousal support to Wife.

The parties were married for 25 years. At the time of trial, Husband was 56 and Wife was 54. Husband worked as a professional musician and private music instructor earning approximately $2,000 per month. Wife had not been employed for a year prior to the divorce. Her last job was as a cook at a public school. During the marriage, the parties accumulated a substantial amount of credit card debt, the majority of which was incurred by Husband after the parties’ separation. The trial court awarded Wife indefinite spousal support in the amount of $750 per month.

The court of appeals will not modify a trial court’s property division unless it is convinced that it can make a significantly preferable disposition. Gilbert-Walters and Walters, 177 Or App 133, 140, 33 P3d 709 (2001). Here, the court did not believe that it could do so.

With regard to spousal support, the court found that the trial court had not adequately taken into account Wife’s earning capacity. The primary goal of spousal support, following a long-term marriage is to provide a standard of living comparable to the one enjoyed during the marriage.  The court of appeals modified the award of spousal support to $500 per month.

You can review the full opinion in Powell and Powell at http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A134463.htm.

The lawyers at Stephens & Margolin LLP can assist parties going through divorce regarding questions on division of assets and spousal support and in better understanding the law in Oregon regarding divorce. If you have any questions about Oregon appellate law please contact Daniel Margolin or C. Sean Stephens at Stephens & Margolin LLP

About Daniel Margolin

Daniel Margolin is a founding partner of Stephens & Margolin LLP and a Portland, Oregon native. His practice focuses on all aspects of family law litigation. Dan applies his litigation expertise to provide additional expertise when assisting clients with Family Law Appeals and Collaborative Divorce matters. To find out more or contact Daniel Margolin, visit Stephens & Margolin LLP
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14 Responses to New Case Law – Spousal Support Awards

  1. The court has always the last word. It is always within its discretion to weigh evidence and award spousal support.

  2. DoJo says:

    My Question to you is, Oregon tends to favor the wife.. My husband and I have been together for 9 yrs. He has been ordered to pay spousal support till 2011, they were married for 15 yrs. The x-wife currently works 2 hours a week, having worked out a deal with her employer, (rumor). We are currently trying to get the spousal support modified, because they take out so much we currently do not have even enough to pay rent every month.. Question: how would a person go about getting spousal support modified.. there is NO paperwork currently available at the state dept. that covers this.. the only paperwork available is combined with child support, is there anything on the web that will guide us through how to fill out the forms?

    Thank you for your time

  3. JR says:

    This is for DoJo,
    I am currently attempting to get my spousal support modified. I currently pay $1,300 per month support, my ex quit her job and now works about 5 hours every other week. The plant I used to work at in Eugene, shut down, so I have been on unemployment for almost nine months. She is contesting this and it appears it will be a hard road. I found a form for modification in a stationery store in Salem. The form is “Ex Parte Motion and Order to Show Cause RE Post-Judgement Relief”.
    Also, ensure that you file an affidavit explaining why you want a modification AND a uniform support affidavit at the time you file for your modification. If you don’t, it could be dismissed. Also, cover all of your bases and NEVER assume she will just make it a fair, stand up fight, she won’t. Trust me, I know. It’s not a fun road, but don’t give up.

  4. JR says:

    For DoJo,
    One more comment. It’s worth at least paying for a consultation with an attorney, it could save you a lot of trouble down the road.

  5. Pingback: New Case Law Spousal Support Awards THE OREGON DIVORCE BLOG | Uniform Stores

  6. S says:

    I have a friend who recently seperated from her husband due to his drug abuse problems. They have both been unemployed for several months and outside of unemployment income he has been recieving money from an injury awarded him a few years ago.

    They have both been using the monthly award money to meet financial needs. Does the spouse have any rights to part of this award? I’ve checked other resources on ORS site but couldn’t identify anything on this issue.

    Thanks,
    S

  7. Logan says:

    After my wife graduated from college we filed for divorce. I have custody of our three childen. She was unmploy at the time so, her child support was based on Oregon minimum wage ($115/mnth).
    I paid for medical and dental for the kids. She doesn’t pay anything but the $115.
    For over four years, I have ask Oregon Child Support service to modify her support. They wanted me to show burden proof (her check stubs/income tax). I was unable to do that.
    She moved to California and have been working for the past four years. Now that she found out that Child Support finally want to modify the support; she quite her job. Is there anything I can do to get her to pay double medical coverage for the kids and modify her child support to reflect her earn income ability.
    Thanks

    • admin says:

      Logan:

      You should arrange for a consultation with our office or another lawyer to go over your situation in detail. Generally speaking, support can be modified if there is a substantial unanticipated change in one’s economic circumstances. Your ex going from being unemployed to employed certainly sounds like a change. Moreover, how support is calculated has changed several times since your support order was calculated. While you could pursue your motion administratively through the state, you may have better luck using a lawyer and asking a judge to change the support order.

  8. KaHo says:

    A friend of mine is going through a divorce, they have one child (that they will share custody) but she has not worked since the child was born (7 years ago). She is perfectly capable of working, but is choosing not to because she wants him to continue completely supporting her. Will the courts make her look for a job? Will he have to continue paying for everything he does now?

    • Dear Kari:

      Absent special circumstances, courts expect both parties during and after a divorce divorce to contribute to their own support through work. There is a presumption that everyone can earn at least minimum wage, and the court would expect your friend to try to her abilities to self support. There are a lot of nuances to this, and if your friend has more specific questions, I encourage her to call us.

  9. Iris Renogaw says:

    Married for 30 years. Husband left and moved in with girlfriend. I’m 2 years from retirement. Husband makes 72k, I make 62K. Plans for retirement now up in the air. May not be able to afford medical insurance. Can I request spousal support to cover medical insurance? Husband was going to work longer so I was depending on his medical to cover me.

    • Iris,

      Spousal support questions can be complicated, and are fact dependent. I suggest you call our office to arrange for a consultation to go over the statutory factors and your particular situation in detail.

  10. It sounds like the Court of Appeals got this one right.

  11. kim says:

    My dad is 74 his ex 53. He receives a small pension and ss benefits. The court awarded her spousal support of 300.00 and just being over a one year, she is taking him back to court to get raised to 500.00. No changes to his income. He is still making payments to the attorney and she wants to go at it again. What can we do? Is there a chance she will win?

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