April 30, 2009

New Case Law – Lump Sum Spousal Support

As a Portland Oregon divorce law firm, Stephens & Margolin LLP is dedicated to keeping up to date on Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court opinions. As a service of The Oregon Divorce Blog, we will be providing updates as new opinions come out.

On April 15, 2009, the Court of Appeals ruled in the case of McLauchlan and McLauchlan.

Husband appealed from the trial court’s ruling in his divorce with regard to the division of property and the award of spousal support to his ex-wife.

As part of the division of assets, the court awarded the “Butte Falls” property to wife provided that she could come up with a plan to refinance the property in order to pay to husband his equalizing judgment. On appeal, husband argued that the trial court did not have the authority to incorporate wife’s refinance plan into the divorce judgment, and that the trial court should have ordered the property sold rather than awarding it to wife. At issue was husband’s claim that wife, and thus the trial court, undervalued the property at trial. The court of appeals held that husband did not property preserve the error at the trial court level because he did not argue that the court lacked authority to do what it did and further that husband had the opportunity to present evidence regarding the value of Butte Falls but did not.

With regard to spousal support, the trial court ordered that husband pay spousal support to wife and reduced the amount of support to a “lump sum present value.” Husband disagreed witht both the amount and the reduction to a present value. Despite the fact that wife agreed with husband that it was error for the trial court to provide for a lump sum present value for spousal support, the court of appeals held that the parties misunderstand the law and that the trial court acted properly.

ORS 107.105 provides that a divorce judgment may provide for spousal support both “in gross or in installments or both.” The trial court awarded wife $1,000 per month for a period of five years and also provided that as part of the refinance of Butte Falls, she can deduct $54,000 (which the court deemed as the present value of the spousal support award). The court of appeals held that it was proper for the trial court to provide for alternative awards, both of which are proper under the terms of the statute.

The entire opinion can be viewed here: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A134002.htm

The lawyers, including Daniel Margolin, who focuses part of his pratice on family law appeals, at Stephens & Margolin LLP can assist you with your family law questions. As this case shows, it is crucial to have a competent attorney at both the trial court and appellate level. If you have any questions about Oregon appellate law please contact Daniel Margolin or C. Sean Stephens at Stephens & Margolin LLP