One of the first questions people ask when getting divorced is, "how are child support and spousal support determined?" People want to know what they can rely on to ensure that they are paying their bills monthly. In this blog, I guide you through how child support and spousal support are determined based on how to choose to handle the case.
Child Support Determination
Child Support is determined in an objective measure and is much more clear than spousal support.
The state of Oregon provides a child support calculator that parents can rely on to assess child support payments. The calculator considers each parent's gross income. If one parent does not have an income, the expectation is that the parent can be expected make at least minimum wage.
The child support calculator considers the amount of spousal support paid by one parent to the other parent to share in paying for child related expenses. It also determines how much each parent will pay for health insurance. The legal expectation is that the parties will not deviate substantially from what is outlined by the calculator.
Spousal Support Determination
Spousal support is much more subjective and individualized. There is no calculator to determine spousal support in Oregon. The statute says that spousal support is an amount of money for “a period of time” as may be just and equitable for one party to contribute to the other engross or in installments or both. Spousal support is determined by what may be appropriate for the situation.
- Spousal Support Determined in Litigation
Attorneys use a few ways to determine spousal support – although none are overly helpful since the guidance is limited and the clients' needs are individualized. The statutes identify three different types of support:
- Transitional Support
- Compensatory Support
- Maintenance Support
The judgment must specify the type of support that is being provided to a supportive spouse. The statutes rely on the length of the marriage, financial needs, work experience of the supported spouse, health of the supported spouse, financial needs and resources, tax consequences, and role in the marriage. However, the court may rely on "any other factors the court deems just and equitable." To determine what is equitable under the circumstances, some attorneys use guideposts based on previous case law, which gives some guidance where the range of spousal support is between 15% to 30% of the difference between the two incomes. Unfortunately, that can be a significant range. Recent tax law changes have not helped because those guidepost ranges may now be irrelevant. Prior to 2017, spousal support was deductible to the payor and income to the payee. Now neither of those are true. There is no case law to provide any guidance on what an appropriate amount of spousal support should be.
- Spousal Support Determination in Collaborative Divorce
Many mediators and collaborative attorneys try to empower the clients to assess the needs of their situation and work together to figure out an appropriate amount of support for a specific duration.
In mediation, or during the collaborative process, when the clients sit down and compare their needs and abilities to pay, there can be fruitful conversations about what can be paid to support a spouse through the transition from married to divorced. These conversations will address the challenging issues and allow for honest conversations about the future for each client and their family as a whole.
If you or a loved one needs help with any issues concerning divorce or family law, contact us at Clarity Law LLC. Patrick Ward is a Portland Family Law attorney, and our practice is dedicated solely to the practice of family law.