January 28, 2009

New Case Law – Spousal Support Awards

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 January 28, 2009, the Oregon Court of Appeals published an opinion in Powell and Powell. The case was an appeal from a dissolution of marriage (divorce) proceeding in Lane County. Husband filed the appeal to challenge the trial court’s property distribution and its award of spousal support to Wife.

The parties were married for 25 years. At the time of trial, Husband was 56 and Wife was 54. Husband worked as a professional musician and private music instructor earning approximately $2,000 per month. Wife had not been employed for a year prior to the divorce. Her last job was as a cook at a public school. During the marriage, the parties accumulated a substantial amount of credit card debt, the majority of which was incurred by Husband after the parties’ separation. The trial court awarded Wife indefinite spousal support in the amount of $750 per month.

The court of appeals will not modify a trial court’s property division unless it is convinced that it can make a significantly preferable disposition. Gilbert-Walters and Walters, 177 Or App 133, 140, 33 P3d 709 (2001). Here, the court did not believe that it could do so.

With regard to spousal support, the court found that the trial court had not adequately taken into account Wife’s earning capacity. The primary goal of spousal support, following a long-term marriage is to provide a standard of living comparable to the one enjoyed during the marriage.  The court of appeals modified the award of spousal support to $500 per month.

You can review the full opinion in Powell and Powell at http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A134463.htm.

The lawyers at Stephens & Margolin LLP can assist parties going through divorce regarding questions on division of assets and spousal support and in better understanding the law in Oregon regarding divorce. If you have any questions about Oregon appellate law please contact Daniel Margolin or C. Sean Stephens at Stephens & Margolin LLP