Spousal support, formerly known as alimony, is a court ordered payment by one spouse to the other spouse, usually on a monthly basis, for a period of anywhere from a few months to many years. The party receiving the spousal support is deemed to have been in some way financially disadvantaged in the marriage, and spousal support is the courts way of “leveling the playing field.” The classic example is the spouse who stays at home to take care of the children while the other spouse continues to work and “climb the corporate ladder.” In Oregon, we have three different kinds of spousal support: transitional, maintenance and compensatory support. Transitional support is usually awarded in shorter term marriages, where the parties are younger and in relatively good health. It is designed to get the disadvantaged spouse back into the workplace after a short period of vocational training or education. Maintenance spousal support is typically awarded in longer term marriages, where the parties are older and the disparity in incomes and earning capacity is quite marked. In cases where one of the parties is disabled, spousal support may be awarded on an indefinite or permanent basis. Compensatory support is still relatively rare. The classic example is the case where one party puts the other party through medical or law school. When the newly minted doctor or lawyer, now earning a very high income, files for divorce, the spouse who paid for their education may claim he or she is entitled to compensatory spousal support.
For tax purposes, spousal support is deductable by the person paying it and income to the party receiving it.
At one time, spousal support was almost exclusively paid by the husband to the wife, as traditionally, men made more than woman did and woman were more likely to be the stay at home parent. As mores have changed, and the economic downturn of 2008 has resulted in a huge increase in the number of stay at home Dads, more and more men are asking for, and being awarded, spousal support.