March 23, 2010

New Case Law – What is the correct amount of spousal support

The Oregon Court of Appeals filed an opinion in Quant and Carrier on March 17, 2010.  The entire opinion can be read here:

The case dealt with what the proper amount of maintenance spousal support should be pursuant to ORS 107.105.  Wife assigns error only to the trial court’s award of transitional spousal support, in the amount of $2,000 per month for two years, arguing that, because of her health problems and the disparity in the parties’ earning capacities, the trial court should also have awarded indefinite maintenance support. The trial court recognized the disparity in the parties’ earning capacities– that wife had no income and some fixed expenses, and that husband had significant income and the ability to assist wife with her expenses.  The court further found that it was highly unlikely that, even with retraining, wife would ever attain the earning capacity of husband.  The court found, however, that because the parties kept their finances largely separate, wife has had little benefit from husband’s earnings during the relationship and has not enjoyed during the marriage a standard of living that would be commensurate with that level of income.  The court found further that wife has the ability to supplement her income and that, given wife’s employment skills and talents, she could be self-sufficient.  The court found that wife’s employment possibilities would be only minimally impacted by her physical problems.  Because husband had been providing wife with some financial help, the court awarded wife transitional support of $2,000 per month for two years so that she could retrain as a medical coder.

The court of appeals, basing its decision on the fact that maintenance support is designed not to allow the dependent spouse to become financially independent and self-supporting, ruled that wife should be granted an award of maintenance support in the amount of $1,500 per month for a period of seven years.

Spousal support awards are very fact specific. It is important to clearly tie the facts of a person’s need for support to the reasons articulated in Oregon’s statutory framework.