Spousal support is often a hotly-contested topic in divorce cases. While the parties argue over the amount and duration of the support, it is easy for parties and attorneys alike to forget about the importance of identifying the type of support to be awarded. Distinguishing between the types of support is necessary not just in advocating to a court or mediator, but in ensuring that the terms of the divorce will stand up to scrutiny if the case is appealed.
Oregon courts may award three types of spousal support, which are explained in ORS 107.105(1)(d)(A), (B) and (C):
- Transitional spousal support as needed for a party to attain education and training necessary to allow the party to prepare for reentry into the job market or for advancement therein.
- Compensatory spousal support when there has been a significant financial or other contribution by one party to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning capacity of the other party and when an order for compensatory spousal support is otherwise just and equitable in all of the circumstances.
- Spousal maintenance as a contribution by one spouse to the support of the other for either a specified or an indefinite period.
Each type of spousal support has a different non-exclusive list of factors that must be considered in awarding that type of support. It is crucial that the proper factors be considered and that any dissolution judgment includes findings addressing those factors. As the Court of Appeals made clear in DeAngeles and DeAngeles, 273 Or App 88 (2015), it is reversible error to award support based on the wrong factors.
Transitional support is generally appropriate if the recipient’s income is expected to increase in the near future due to returning to work, increased income at work, or a new job or career.
Compensatory support is generally appropriate when the recipient has contributed to the other spouse’s career. This is often awarded when one party helped to pay for the other party’s education.
Spousal maintenance or “maintenance support” is generally awarded after longer marriages. It is often indefinite or for a longer duration than the other types of support. Maintenance support is the only type that includes “the standard of living” of the parties during the marriage as one of its enumerated factors.