When a married couple divorces, Oregon family courts sometimes order one spouse (the “paying spouse”) to make payments (called "alimony") to the other spouse (the “supported spouse”). When the supported spouse remarries, however, the paying spouse may want to know if he or she must continue paying alimony.
This article explains how a supported spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation affects alimony under Oregon law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony in Oregon after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
Oregon courts may order a spouse with higher income to make alimony payments to the lower-earning spouse. Alimony can be for the purpose of allowing a spouse to get education or job-training, to repay a spouse for helping pay for the other spouse’s education or training, or to help a spouse who doesn’t make enough money to support himself or herself.
Courts consider several factors when deciding whether to award alimony, including the following:
If you would like to know more about alimony in Oregon, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Oregon.
Unlike most other states, in Oregon, the supported spouse’s remarriage is not legal grounds to automatically terminate alimony. To end alimony, the paying spouse must prove that the supported spouse’s remarriage substantially improved his or her financial situation. For example, if a wife receiving alimony gets remarried but can’t find a job and has the same or higher expenses as she did before getting married, a court is unlikely to terminate or reduce her alimony award.
Courts will also consider the purpose of the original alimony award before modifying the payments after a supported spouse’s remarriage. For example, if a court awards a husband alimony to allow him to go back to school and get an education, and the husband marries a woman who earns substantial income and decides not to work, the court may terminate alimony even if his financial circumstances have not substantially improved.
An Oregon court can modify an alimony award at any time, and either spouse can ask the court to review the award. Oregon courts will consider modifying or terminating alimony when either spouse has a substantial change in financial circumstances. Generally, the change in financial circumstances must be involuntary and unexpected; a paying spouse can’t get the alimony payment reduced by just quitting his or her job.
If the paying spouse makes a good faith career change that results in lower income, that can be a reason to modify alimony. The court will also consider reducing or terminating alimony if the paying spouse loses his job or has another involuntary loss of income. The judge may also modify alimony when the supported spouse’s income increases or needs decrease. Oregon courts are careful to consider all factors to make sure a paying spouse’s reduction of income was in good faith and not simply to avoid paying alimony.
If you want to reduce or terminate alimony, you should file a motion to modify alimony in the circuit court clerk’s office for your county. The court will then schedule a hearing where you and your spouse will argue whether alimony should be changed. You should be prepared to present any witnesses or evidence that help establish the change in financial circumstances that warrant modifying the alimony award.
When the court grants a change in alimony, the judge may order the change to be retroactive to the date the paying spouse served the motion to modify on the supported spouse. The paying spouse will still have to pay any alimony that accrued prior to serving the motion to modify on the supported spouse.
Similar to when a supported spouse remarries in Oregon, courts won’t modify alimony due to a supported spouse’s cohabitation unless there’s also been a substantial change in the supported spouse’s financial circumstances. Cohabitation means that two people are living together in a romantic relationship similar to a married couple. If a paying spouse notices that the supported spouse is living with someone else and his or her standard of living has improved, this will likely be good grounds to ask the court to modify alimony.
For example, in one Oregon case, a husband saw that his former wife had moved in with a boyfriend, was wearing an expensive engagement ring, told their children and other people that their relationship was similar to a marriage, and jointly owned property with her boyfriend. The court determined that the couple was cohabiting and had sufficient combined income to terminate the alimony award.
If you are paying alimony to an ex-spouse who is cohabiting with another person, you should attempt to gather evidence that his or her financial situation has improved before filing a motion to modify alimony.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony, contact an Oregon family law attorney for help.