Alimony Reform in Oregon
Driven like many other grassroots groups across the country by a desire to change antiquated alimony laws in their states, a Pacific Northwest group has raised their banner to change the way post divorce alimony support is dished out, to align the law with societal changes. The call for alimony reform goes on.
Oregon Alimony Reform, or OAR, was formed “to promote respect, independence and equity for the parties of divorce,” reads the group’s home page. “The goal of OAR is to reform and modernize alimony laws in Oregon.” Like counterparts in Massachusetts, Florida and New Jersey, the Oregon group says the alimony payer should not have a “permanent or indefinite duty to maintain a former spouse’s chosen standard of living,” but the spousal support paid to an ex-spouse should be reasonable, equitable and most importantly…limited. Alimony payments for spousal support should not be “till death do us part.”
Oregon is among 14 states that have seen alimony advocacy groups created to push alimony reform. As we covered in earlier blogs on this website about alimony reform, in 2011, Massachusetts implemented sweeping alimony reforms, Florida’s House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly approved the drafting of a new alimony bill and New Jersey’s Judiciary Committee voted in favor of an alimony reform bill. Spousal support is viewed differently there now.
Changes in Oregon alimony law OAR advocates are:
- Limiting the duration of alimony payments to a reasonable period of time
- Excluding the income of a payer’s romantic partners and future spouses in determining alimony amounts
- Ending alimony payments on remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse
- Limits on the maximum amounts of alimony payable
- Automatic termination of alimony payments upon good-faith retirement
- A streamlined process for modifications when the payer suffers a decline in income
“OAR and its many supporters have identified the urgent need for an equitable alimony calculator, similar to the child support model,” the website reads. “This will give divorcing parties clarity, predictability and reasonable alimony amounts. As it stands now, alimony awards vary wildly from case to case and from county to county in Oregon. In addition, even if the payer is unable to make the alimony payment because of a decline in income, and regardless of whether the recipient actually needs the payment, modifications are expensive and hard to obtain.”
As found in Massachusetts and Florida, the divorce courts in Oregon award indefinite alimony, meaning the duration is not defined, as opposed to permanent, as in other states. “While this supposedly modifiable,” OAR said, “history has shown that modification and termination is difficult, time consuming and costly.”
OAR cites a recent Oregon divorce case as an example of alimony run amok.
“An ex-husband earning $13,000 per month and paying $2050 per month in spousal support requested modification on losing his job after his severance pay ran out. At the time he was receiving just $1800 in unemployment benefit. At court the judge lowered the spousal support payment to $1550 plus $200 child support, leaving his ex-wife, earning $4000 per month, with $5550 per month and the ex-husband with $50. Why should someone with an income of $1800 pay someone with an income of $4000? Enforcing alimony limits would avoid this injustice.”
Like their sister groups, OAR wants alimony laws in their state to come into step with the times. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but at least they’re turing, they say.
“Today’s injustice is justified on past injustices,” OAR said.