April 14, 2009

Modification of Spousal Support – Part 1 (a few thoughts)

Though my girlfriend might be insulted to discover that my attention can, in fact, be diverted from the madness of college hoops in March, that’s exactly what happened last Saturday as I watched A.J. Price drain his forth 3-pointer of the game, sealing yet another Final Four berth for the Huskies. Let me clarify. First, though the Huskies of Washington put forth a valiant effort this year, I’m a UCONN man, so I’m talking about the Connecticut Huskies. Second, my attention was only diverted after UCONN took an insurmountable lead. Nevertheless, the clock was still ticking, and instead of watching the screen, I found myself staring at my french fries, contemplating something that I had just overheard at the table next to mine.

“I don’t know what to do… I won’t be able to make my spousal support payment this month… I feel horrible.” The man who spoke these words was well-dressed, middle-aged and an obvious sports fan. By all accounts, he was a “regular guy.” This does not surprise me, because if there is one near constant among family law matters it is this: folks don’t like paying spousal support.


The payment of any monthly obligation can be tedious; keeping up with consumer obligations (paying high interest credit cards), or even providing for more basic needs (paying the mortgage), is a dreary process which is constantly eating away at our disposable income. Nevertheless, whereas we have presumably derived some benefit from accruing consumer debt (e.g., the purchase of new clothes, an automobile, vacation, etc), and whereas we derive current and future benefits by making our monthly mortgage payment, there does not appear to be any comparable benefit derived from the payment of spousal support. This seemingly thankless obligation, coupled with the probability that the person to whom this obligation is owed is often someone who we may not particularly like very much, can make the payment of spousal support particularly loathsome.

And so this is exactly what struck me about the comment made by this “regular guy.” I got to thinking that, perhaps, for some, once the obligation to pay support has “sunk in”, and after the pain and hurt feelings associated with divorce have passed, the payment of spousal support may appear different to the person paying it then it once did. Perhaps the notion of helping out a former (or maybe even a current) loved one starts to feel pretty good.

The economy is clearly in bad shape and the downturn has affected everyone. While many companies are trying to avoid lay-offs by reducing employee salaries, other employers are having to take more drastic measures. For some, this means lay-offs and severance packages. For others, it means unemployment checks. Whatever the situation, for many, the economic downturn means a decrease in income.

Please continue to parts 2 and 3 of this post:  Part 2 (http://oregondivorceblog.com/wordpress/?p=407); Part 3 (http://oregondivorceblog.com/wordpress/?p=409)