Oregon Alimony FAQs

Learn how Oregon courts decide whether to award spousal support (alimony).

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Portland, OR

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Spousal support (or alimony, as it used to be called) isn't awarded in every Oregon divorce. 

What is alimony?

Alimony is money the court orders one spouse to pay to the other in a divorce. Alimony is actually an outdated term; it's now referred to as spousal support. 

How is the amount of spousal support calculated?

Judges look at the following factors, among others, to determine whether and how much spousal support should be paid:

  • the length of the marriage
  • the age and health (both physical and mental) of the parties
  • any contribution by one spouse to the education, training and earning power of the other spouse
  • the earning capacity of each spouse
  • whether either spouse needs training or education in order to become employable, and
  • other financial and/or tax considerations.

You can find a list of factors to be considered in Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) Chapter 107.

Are there set guidelines like judges use in child support cases?

Although there are factors for the court to consider, there are no guidelines that calculate precise spousal support awards. 

Can alimony be paid in addition to child support?

Yes. However, in many short-term marriages involving middle-income families, there isn't enough money for alimony after payment of child support.

What are the tax consequences of spousal support and child support? 

Child support is not taxable income to the receiving parent, nor is it tax deductible for the paying parent. In contrast, alimony is deductible for the paying parent and included in the taxable income of the receiving parent. For this reason, if the custodial parent has a low income and the non-custodial parent earns a lot, it is often in everyone's interests to allocate part of the child support award to alimony. This maximizes the whole family's resources by reducing the overall federal tax burden. 

Do courts ever award lifetime alimony?

Courts might make a lifetime alimony order in the case of a long-term marriage, particularly if one spouse was a stay-at-home parent. 

Can men be awarded alimony?

Yes, the statute is gender neutral. However, this doesn't happen too often. Like all areas of law, local custom and practice dictate actual results. If a man is extremely needy and the woman is extremely wealthy, you might see a modest alimony award to the husband, particularly if the husband curtailed his career to care for the household and/or children. 

My original divorce judge did not provide for alimony, but now I really need it. What can I do?

Not much. In Oregon, if spousal support is not awarded at the time of the divorce, you can't try to add it later by filing a modification.

My ex is threatening to file for bankruptcy; will this affect my alimony payments?

Legally, no. Alimony and child support cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Unlike most other types of debts, these debts continue unaffected before, during, and after a bankruptcy case. 

What can I do if my ex falls behind in making payments?

File a motion with an order to show cause for contempt of court, and ask for a wage withholding order, tax refund intercept, or other enforcement action that puts the money directly into your hands before it ever reaches your ex. 

Will a state agency help collect my back alimony?

Yes. You may contact your local District Attorney's office for help (but remember, the DA does not represent you or your ex). You may still want to have your own lawyer; if you have your own lawyer, sometimes the court can award attorneys fees.

by: Randall Poff

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