New Case Law – Indefinite Spousal Support in a Long-Term Marriage

The Court of Appeals decided the case of Bolte and Bolte on February 17, 2010.  The case is an appeal from a divorce trial.  The Court of Appeals modified the spousal support award made by the trial court.

Husband and Wife were married for 22 years, and separated a few years prior to trial.  Wife gave up employment opportunities of her own to further Husband’s career.  The parties had a household income of $14,000 per month, consisting of Husband’s income of $10,700 and Wife’s income of $3,300. 

Husband argued that his income should be only $7,900 per month because the remainder was from a position that he termed temporary.  Husband also argued that Wife’s income should be presumed to be higher because she was underemployed.

Trial court awarded indefinite support in the amount of $1,500 per month. 

The Court of Appeals held that Wife was not underemployed as she was already working full time and is not, for spousal support purposes, required to work at the highest possible salary.  The amount of spousal support must be “just and equitable” under the totality of the circumstances.  Specifically, ORS 107.105(1)(d)(C) provides a nonexclusive list of factors that we consider in establishing a just and equitable support award for spousal maintenance support, which include (1) the duration of the marriage; (2) the standard of living established during the marriage; and (3) the parties’ age, income and earning capacities, training and employment skills, work experience, and financial needs and resources.  The Court of Appeals modified the support award up to $2,500 per month indefinitiely because “without a substantial award of spousal support, wife’s standard of living following the dissolution will be significantly diminished when compared to the parties’ predissolution lifestyle, which was based on a monthly household income of approximately $14,000.”

The opinion can be found here:  http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A139055.htm

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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7 Responses to New Case Law – Indefinite Spousal Support in a Long-Term Marriage

  1. LJC says:

    My husband has indefinite spousal support. He has been divorced for 12 years. He was married for 24 yrs. He is now 64 yrs old. He will receive no pension. His ex-wife, as far as we know still has a very good job. Our retirement will be what we have saved. His ex-wife received her half the the retirement fund at the time of the divorce. The indefinte support is $1500 per month – $18,000 a year. If I do the math, and she lives another 30 years, we can just attach her name to the majority of our savings. Why isn’t there something written about retirement in the settlement or is it just my husband’s decree?

    • admin says:

      Without looking at the actual judgment it is very difficult to answer your question. If there has been a change in circumstances or your husband has made all payments for 10 years and his ex-wife has not tried to become self supporting he could have a case for modification/termination of support. Please consult and attorney about his rights.

  2. SF says:

    I agreed to pay 2500 monthly for 2 years, then 1750 for 2 years, then 1500 for two years. I was informed by the attorneys and the mediator that if we went to trial, the judge would base spousal support on the previous 2-4 years of tax returns. These years were in the height of the economy and my earnings were absurdly and uncharacteristically high.

    We have three young children of which I have about 70% of the time in the school year and 50/50 in the summer.

    Now, the economy has tanked, my earnings are less than 50% of what the dissolution agreement stated (87k annually).

    I have nearly depleted my savings, borrowed from my parents to make ends meet and see no potential for a solution.

    If I go to the court to attempt to modify this, I will be spending money that I need to survive. This is not a sensible risk.

    If I succeed, I will have spent money on legal fees that would otherwise have gone to my Ex Wife and our children. The attorneys will get 10-20k rather than my children benefiting. This does not benefit this children.

    My Ex Wife and her family are worth TENS of MILLIONS of dollars. They are supplementing her income with gifts of cash, clothes, presents and hand-me-down items that are designer/top notch items. All of these are not considered “income” but she continues to benefit from these back door items. I estimate that these amount to 20k annually.

    So here I am, making about 48k, paying out 30k to a person who doesn’t need it. Our society assumes that men are somehow ‘bound’ to pay the Ex Wife and women are somehow ‘helpless’. This mindset does not help the children.

    Fast forward 25 years: My Ex Wife will be inheriting a few million dollars and between now and then, will never have the stress or worry of where to get a meal or cover medical expenses. My parents are retired teachers, void of millions of dollars but rich on participating in their grandchildren’s lives. During the transitional period, I will pay out $120,000 to a woman that doesn’t need it. Half of this money I need to survive on for me and my children. The other half I will need in my old age.

    Our divorce system is the best system we can come up with. But our modification system is set in way in which the party in dire need is forced to spend precious money, with high risk involved, hoping for justice that likely wont come.

    If the Petitioner (the desperate one) is unsuccessful, then their final resources are wasted and the children suffer. Additionally, the Respondent can drag on the proceedings hoping to run the Petitioner out of money.

    We need a DA or other individual where these matters can be addressed without further financial hardship. We need a system where these matters can be made just without jeopardizing the family while enhancing the attorneys coffers.

  3. Michelle Roppe says:

    SF,

    Have you got an answer or did you get help with your situation? Cause my husband is in the same situation. I would like to see what I could do. Please reply!

  4. Colleen Waters says:

    I was married for 25 years, and divorced now for almost 7. I have just been informed by my exhusband he can not pay October’s payment, and would like to get rid of the spousal support we legally filed before he’s up for retirement (Sept 1, 2012) (Sergeant with the OSP) and or engagement or marriage. I only worked part time through our marriage in order to take care of our now three grown son and support him in his career. Unfortunately, I have crohn’s disease and currently have a colostomy that caused medical issues on a monthly/yearly basis. I am employed full time as a Assistant Secretary at a Elementary School, where all (or most of my sick days have been used for medical problems.) Our agreement was $1500 month until I remarried or one of us died. I’d verbally said okay to $1300 about a year ago to allow him to qualify for a house he wanted to buy. Now…..I’m in limbo and haven’t a clue what to do?? Any suggestions and how much does it cost to retain a lawyer for something like this??

    Sincerely,
    Colleen Waters

  5. I strongly opposes any award of ‘indefinite spousal support’ because such an award is unjust toward the paying spouse.

  6. Andrew says:

    This seems a travesty of justice. Why would the husband have to pay the mortgage to cover the equalization of the property split on the farm. This is double dipping. He gets half, but them has to pay it back over several years.
    Also, awarding indefinite alimony to someone just before they retire is nonsense.
    We need to follow in teh footsteps of Massachusetts and Florida and abolosh indefinite alimony. Aminony, by default, should terminate at retirement.

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