February 17, 2010

New Case Law – Indefinite Spousal Support in a Long-Term Marriage

The Court of Appeals decided the case of Bolte and Bolte on February 17, 2010.  The case is an appeal from a divorce trial.  The Court of Appeals modified the spousal support award made by the trial court.

Husband and Wife were married for 22 years, and separated a few years prior to trial.  Wife gave up employment opportunities of her own to further Husband’s career.  The parties had a household income of $14,000 per month, consisting of Husband’s income of $10,700 and Wife’s income of $3,300. 

Husband argued that his income should be only $7,900 per month because the remainder was from a position that he termed temporary.  Husband also argued that Wife’s income should be presumed to be higher because she was underemployed.

Trial court awarded indefinite support in the amount of $1,500 per month. 

The Court of Appeals held that Wife was not underemployed as she was already working full time and is not, for spousal support purposes, required to work at the highest possible salary.  The amount of spousal support must be “just and equitable” under the totality of the circumstances.  Specifically, ORS 107.105(1)(d)(C) provides a nonexclusive list of factors that we consider in establishing a just and equitable support award for spousal maintenance support, which include (1) the duration of the marriage; (2) the standard of living established during the marriage; and (3) the parties’ age, income and earning capacities, training and employment skills, work experience, and financial needs and resources.  The Court of Appeals modified the support award up to $2,500 per month indefinitiely because “without a substantial award of spousal support, wife’s standard of living following the dissolution will be significantly diminished when compared to the parties’ predissolution lifestyle, which was based on a monthly household income of approximately $14,000.”

The opinion can be found here:  http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A139055.htm