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Spousal support is money that a court orders a party to pay to a former spouse to help that spouse meet his or her needs, preserve a similar lifestyle (close to the level) she enjoyed during the marriage, or financially assisting a spouse to become self-sufficient. Awards of spousal support are based on a totality of the circumstances and are not awarded in every dissolution case. Spousal support is not available in cases where the parties were not married.

Unlike child support, an award of spousal support is not based on a formula. It is purely based upon what is “just and equitable under the circumstances,” often leaving it to the court's discretion. The amount and duration of spousal support is based on a variety of statutory (based in law) factors. Those factors include:

  • length of the marriage (generally not awarded in short term marriages);

  • ages of the parties;

  • health of the parties;

  • work experience and earning capacity (probably the most important factor);

  • standard of living the couple had during the marriage;

  • how the couple deals with property division in the marriage;

  • the parenting plan regarding children;

  • how responsibility for debt is allocated;

  • costs of health care, etc.

For tax purposes spousal support is considered to be income to the receiving spouse and is deductible to the paying spouse. (This could all change with proposed tax reform.) Spousal support will have an affect on court ordered child support where a party receiving spousal support will have a higher income based upon the support award while the paying spouse’s income is deemed lower for purposes of a child support award.

There are three kinds of spousal support: (a) transitional, (b) compensatory and (c) maintenance.


  • Transitional Support is a monthly amount (generally for a shorter period of time) to assist the receiving party in obtaining education or training necessary for a re-entry into (or for advancement in) the job market. This type of support is commonly awarded in shorter or mid-length marriages where a party may need additional resources for a limited time to become gainfully employed and to assist with the  “transition” into single life.

  • Compensatory Support is for cases when a party has significantly contributed to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning capacity of the other party. One will sometimes see this support award to "offset" the difference in a property award. This type of support is reserved for rare circumstances.

  • Maintenance Support is a contribution by one spouse to the other, either for a specified or indefinite period of time. This is commonly awarded in long-term marriages where there is a significant gap between the earning capacity of the parties, a gap which will probably never be closed or where a party may lack the ability to gain meaningful employment in the future.

Contrary to what one may expect, spousal support generally does not automatically terminate upon remarriage of the spouse receiving the support. However, remarriage may cause grounds for modification or termination of the support. Either party can ask for a hearing to modify the amount or length of spousal support based on a substantial and unanticipated change in the financial circumstances.

The law relating to child and spousal support is very complex and has a substantial financial impact on the lives and resources of the parties involved. Legal representation to protect your rights is generally a worthwhile investment.

We encourage you to call our office at (541) 632-4313 for a free confidential consultation regarding your Spousal Support or other family law matter. For some more resources regarding family law in Oregon click here.

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