Adultery in Oregon: Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

If you’re getting divorced in Oregon, and your spouse has cheated on you, will it have an impact on any alimony award?

By , Attorney · Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School

One spouse's infidelity can spell the end of a marriage. Adultery and divorce in Oregon often go hand-in-hand, and when one (or both) spouses have cheated, it's possible that the adultery will affect the outcome of the divorce, including any potential award of alimony. Every state's alimony laws are different; here's a breakdown of how Oregon's alimony laws address adultery.

Overview of Alimony in Oregon

Courts may award alimony (also called "spousal support" in Oregon) when one spouse has a demonstrated financial need and the other spouse ("paying spouse") has the ability to pay. Oregon judges can award alimony both during the divorce proceedings and after the divorce is final.

Oregon divorce laws recognize several different types of spousal support. The factors a judge will consider depends on the type of support being awarded.

Transitional Support

"Transitional support" is designed to help a spouse become financially independent and is usually awarded on a temporary basis during a divorce or while one spouse completes an education. For a transitional support award, a judge will consider the following:

  • length of the marriage
  • the spouse's training and job skills
  • the spouse's work experience
  • each spouse's financial needs
  • each spouse's financial resources
  • tax consequences for each spouse
  • each spouse's child support and custody responsibilities, and
  • any other relevant factor.

(Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 107.105(d)(A) (2021).)

Compensatory Support

Sometimes, spouses contribute to the other spouse's education, job training, or career. For example, one spouse might have worked two jobs while putting the other spouse through medical school. In these situations, Oregon judges can award "compensatory spousal support" after considering the following:

  • amount of the contribution and how long it lasted
  • length of the marriage
  • each spouse's earning ability
  • how much the couple has already benefited from the contribution
  • tax consequences for each spouse, and
  • any other factors the court believes are relevant.

(Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 107.105(d)(B) (2021).)

Spousal Maintenance

"Spousal maintenance" is general support that is not transitional or compensatory. Factors Oregon judges consider when awarding this general spousal maintenance include:

  • length of the marriage
  • each spouse's age, physical health, and mental health
  • standard of living during the marriage
  • each spouse's income and earning potential
  • each spouses' education and job skills
  • each spouse's work experience
  • the financial needs and resources of each spouse
  • tax consequences
  • custody and child support obligations, and
  • any relevant factor.

Does Adultery Affect Alimony in Oregon?

In Oregon, adultery won't have a direct impact on your alimony award. Marital misconduct such as adultery affects alimony only when it is relevant to one of the factors the court considers when determining alimony (discussed above). For example, in one Oregon case, a husband broke his wife's ankle during an argument, and the court said it would only consider the injury if the broken ankle affected the wife's ability to work.

It can be hard to prove that an affair created one spouse's need for alimony. However, if an unfaithful spouse spent tens of thousands on gifts for and vacations with a lover, a judge may offset the adulterous spouse's property award or order compensatory alimony in divorce if the emotional impact of the affair was so great that it hurt the other spouse's ability to hold a job.

Is Oregon a No-Fault Divorce State?

Oregon, like every other state, allows "no-fault" divorces. In a no-fault divorce, the judge does not consider whether a spouse's behavior or misconduct caused the divorce. Rather, a spouse seeking a no-fault divorce has to claim only that the couple has "irreconcilable differences," meaning that they can't get along. Neither spouse is blamed for causing the divorce. (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 107.025 (2021).)

Oregon recognizes only no-fault divorce—there is no such thing as a fault-based divorce in Oregon. This means that a spouse can't bring up the other spouse's marital misconduct unless it relates to child custody or property division.

Will One Spouse's Adultery Affect Child Custody or Support?

The needs and best interests of a child are central to any custody decision. When determining child custody, a judge will look at the child's relationship with each parent, the child's ties to the community, and each parent's ability to provide stability, among other factors. Usually, a parent's fidelity is irrelevant when determining which parent is best able to meet the child's needs. However, courts will—in very limited circumstances—consider information about a parent's affair if the parent's behavior somehow endangers the child.