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The Specifics of Spousal Support(Alimony) in OR & WA

The Specifics of Spousal Support(Alimony) in OR & WA

When a couple divorces, one person might be required to pay spousal support (commonly called “alimony”) to provide for their former partner. Oregon and Washington each have slightly different laws about spousal support. 

If you’re going through a divorce, you may have questions about how the legal process works, including questions about alimony. We hope this post will help. We’ll go over the basics of spousal support and when it’s typically ordered, as well as how Oregon and Washington courts handle cases differently.

When Is Spousal Support Ordered?

Spousal support is most commonly ordered when one person needs to pursue education or training programs in order to maintain their standard of living, or when there is a disparity in earning capacity. Not every divorce involves spousal support.

Unlike with child support, there are no guidelines or formulas for calculating spousal support. Instead, the court awards an amount based on what it considers “just” (in Washington) or “just and equitable” (in Oregon).

That’s why determining spousal support is almost always related to the division of property. The court generally tries to divide property and debts equally, but alimony considerations sometimes shift the balance. For example, one person might be awarded more property in exchange for not receiving alimony payments.

Specifics of Spousal Support in Oregon

Oregon has three different types of spousal support, and any combination of the three could potentially be applicable depending on your situation:

Transitional support helps one person get the education or training they need in order to reenter or advance in the job market.
Compensatory support can be ordered when one person has made a “significant financial or other” contribution to the other’s education, training, vocational skills, career, or earning capacity (ORS 107.105).
Spousal maintenance is a type of support usually only ordered in long-term marriages to help one person maintain a similar standard of living to what they had during the marriage.

Spousal support is either paid all at once or with regular installments, but there are no strict rules for determining the exact type, amount, and duration of the payments. The law leaves it up to the court to determine what’s fair based on factors like:

The duration of your marriage 
Each person’s work experience and earning capacity
The tax consequences for each person
Each person’s financial needs and resources

Depending on your circumstances and the type of support ordered, the court may also consider:

Your ages
Your standard of living during the marriage
Custody, child support, and your parenting plan (if you have children)
How you’re dividing property 
Allocation of responsibility for debt
Each person’s physical, mental, and emotional health 
Costs of healthcare
Any other factors the court considers relevant

Specifics of Spousal Support in Washington

In Washington, spousal support is called a “maintenance order” (RCW 26.09.090). Like in Oregon, alimony in Washington exists to help people meet their needs and provide for themselves after a divorce.

Also like Oregon, it’s up to the court to decide whether spousal support should be ordered and how much is fair, based on any factors that are relevant, including:
  • The recipient’s financial resources and ability to meet their needs independently (also taking any child support into account)
  • How long it would take to get the education or training needed to find appropriate employment
  • Your standard of living during the marriage
  • The duration of your marriage
  • Each person’s age and health (physical, mental, and emotional)
  • The payer’s ability to pay while also meeting their own needs and financial obligations

We Can Help You Navigate the Divorce Process

Going through a divorce can be overwhelming. If you’re dealing with a spousal support agreement that you feel is unfair, or you just want professional advice as you navigate your divorce process, we can help.

The divorce lawyers at Gevurtz Menashe are well versed in divorce cases of all kinds in both Oregon and Washington. We'll walk you through the whole process, make sure you're aware of all your options, and offer professional advice whenever you need it. 

The first step is to schedule an initial consultation. Please call our Portland office at 503-227-1515, Vancouver at 360-823-0410, or schedule a consultation online.