November 6, 2007

Baby you can drive my car, or: how would an Oregon family law court handle the McCartney-Mills split? (Part II)

How much spousal support would Heather Mills be entitled to if she divorced Sir Paul in Oregon? That’s not as easy a question to answer as child support might be (there is a formula specifically set up for child support, and we’ll get to child custody and support next).

Earlier we mentioned that Sir Paul made about 100 million USD last year. Per month, that’s about 8.3 million USD. How much of that would a court pass off to Heather?

(As a preliminary matter, we should point out that it’s never guaranteed a court would award spousal support, even where one party is very rich and the other is not, or the marriage is a long or short one — it depends on the circumstances. In this case, a court might find that the income on the property settlement — say, to the tune of 250 million USD — would be more than ample to cover Heather’s expenses.)

But if the court does look at the possibility of spousal support, it has three types to choose from in Oregon: transitional, compensatory, and maintenance. (We’ve talked about them previously.) Transitional applies when a spouse needs some help to get back on his or her feet (Ouch! Sorry, Heather), and can be used for education or training programs. Compensatory applies where a spouse has put the other spouse through college, or medical school, or otherwise financially supported the spouse while he or she acquired training or education. Neither of these seem to apply to Heather, but the last, maintenance support, does.

Although we have no idea what Sir Paul and Lady McCarney’s expenses are on average, the goal in setting maintenance spousal support is to allow a spouse to lead a lifestyle “not disproportionate” to the type of lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage. So if Heather was used to private jets, living in estates (and all of those associated expenses), haute couture (though presumably not Stella’s line of clothing), and so on, a court would be more likely to award a large amount of spousal support. The goal isn’t so much to make the parties equal, though, but just to put the supported spouse in the place where he or she can live comfortably in a style “not disproportionate” to the type of lifestyle she’d previously enjoyed. The entire list of statutory factors involved in setting maintenance support is found at ORS 107.105.

Next up: Child Custody & Support