We would be looking at all sources of income of both of the parties, especially the spouse that is receiving spousal support. If that spouse has a live-in person or is remarried, we would look at the income provided by that person.
If the payor is remarried or living with someone, it’s not the same; we shouldn’t be looking to that person’s income to pay spousal support. It’s still a very grey area, so you could look at the income or at least the fact that the person is helping pay expenses for the payor spouse, so the payor spouse’s expenses are lower.
We’d even look at retirement assets, savings and investments, real estate, and how much each spouse has to basically live on. Do they have some savings and could they take some money from savings, especially in the retirement cases? We’d be looking at social security income. We’d be looking at a variety of factors about their incomes and really stacking it up on each side, looking at the spouse receiving support. How much does that person have? Regarding the spouse paying support, how much does that person have and how lopsided does it still look or is it starting to look a lot more even?
What are the risks in starting such a case? For instance, is there a risk that a judge could grant the opposite of what you’re requesting: increasing spousal support when you’re asking for it to be decreased?
That’s a very unlikely risk, but it has happened a handful of times. You’re typically not going to see spousal support increase unless one spouse has become severely disabled and we expected that she would be able to go back to work but she didn’t because of her disability. Or she had a plan she was going to get a degree and become a teacher but then she got out of school and there were absolutely no jobs for teachers, so she didn’t get the job she thought she was going to get.
Some really extreme factor like that where the plan didn’t work out and they were not able to make the kind of money contemplated might be a reason to increase the spousal support. It’s very unlikely that when you file a case to modify spousal support for a real reason – like you lost your job, your income’s gone down, you’re retiring, or your spouse has remarried – the opposite occurs.
Laura Schantz is a family law attorney and mediator practicing in Beaverton, Oregon. To learn more about Laura Schantz and her firm, Schantz Law P.C., visit www.oregondivorceattorney.com.