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Child and Spousal Support

Determining Child Support

Child support in Oregon is based upon presumptive guidelines. The guidelines factors include each parent's income, the number of joint and non-joint children, child care and health insurance needs. Special circumstances may warrant a deviation from the guidelines.

If the paying party is employed, Oregon and federal law provide for wage withholding. Other enforcement remedies include interception of tax refunds, suspension of professional and drivers licenses, and contempt. Enforcement assistance may be available at no charge through the district attorney in the county where the party owed the support lives.

Child support may be paid to a bank account, through the court clerk, or through the Child Support Program of the Department of Justice, or DOJ. When the support money is routed through DOJ, a number of services become available to both parties, including accounting, enforcement, modification, and periodic review, at no charge.

Unlike debts, which may be discharged in bankruptcy under certain conditions, child support is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

A court may order, or the parties may designate, which party is entitled to take a child as a dependent for tax exemption and tax credit purposes. Absent such designation or agreement, tax authorities will generally consider the custodial parent or the parent with the majority of overnights as entitled to the dependency exemption and any associated credit.

Child support may be modified upon motion of either party, based upon a substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances since the last order. Child support may also be modified through a periodic review every three years by your local district attorney's office. Generally, modifications must be filed before the original obligation expires.

Obtaining and enforcing child support can be difficult. It is always a good idea to obtain professional legal advice.

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Determining Spousal Support or Alimony

Spousal support, also know as Alimony, is awarded to provide a means for a spouse in a divorce or separation to maintain as much as possible a similar economic lifestyle to that enjoyed during the marriage, or to allow a spouse to obtain education and job training, or to compensate the spouse for contributions made to the earning potential of the other spouse. Spousal support may be temporary for a period of months or years, or indefinite. It may be a consistent amount or of a step-down nature. In determining the amount of alimony to be awarded, the court will examine the needs and earning capacity of the party requesting spousal support, the ability of the paying party, contributions made by one spouse to the education or livelihood of the other spouse, as well as the length of the marriage. Courts are also concerned about a divorcing person's likelihood of entering the welfare system without an alimony award.

The law authorizes an individual to enforce an order for support regardless of in which state the obligated and receiving party presently live, and whether the party paying the support presently resides within the United States.

If the paying party is employed, Oregon and federal law provide for wage withholding. Other enforcement remedies may include interception of tax refunds, suspension of professional or drivers licenses, and contempt. If there is a child support award as well as a spousal support award, enforcement assistance may be available at no charge through the district attorney in the county where the party owed the support lives.

Spousal support is considered taxable income to the recipient and is deductible by the paying party.

Unlike debts, which may be discharged in bankruptcy under certain conditions, spousal support is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

Depending on the type of spousal support, it may be modified upon motion of either party, based upon a involuntary, extraordinary, and unanticipated change of circumstances since the last order. A modification must be initiated before the spousal support obligation expires.

Obtaining and enforcing spousal support can be difficult. It is always a good idea to obtain professional legal advice.

Enforcing or Collecting Support

The law authorizes an individual to enforce an order for child support regardless of which state the order was made or where the individual presently resides within the United States. The enforcement of these orders and the ease or difficulty with which support can be collected depends on which state made the order, in which state the parents and children presently live, and whether the parent who owes the money is employed or has property or other assets which might be used to pay the support.

If the paying party is employed, Oregon and federal law provide for wage withholding. Wage withholding is generally the amount of the support payment, or twenty-five percent of the paying party's net income, whichever is greater with additional withholding if an arrearage exists. Other enforcement remedies include interception of tax refunds, suspension of professional or drivers licenses, and contempt. Enforcement assistance may be available at no charge through the district attorney in the county where the party owed the support lives. A private attorney can also assist in recovery of child or spousal support by wage garnishment and attachment of bank accounts and other property.

Enforcing child and spousal support or alimony can be difficult. It is always a good idea to obtain professional legal advice.

Modifying Your Child or Spousal Support Order

Your child or spousal support order may be modified administratively or by a court. Unless both parties agree to a change, a support modification is decided through a contested administrative or court hearing.

Spousal or child support may be modified upon a moving party showing a substantial and unanticipated change of material circumstances. Such changes may include employment, disability, illness, remarriage or cohabitation. With some types of spousal support, it may be modified only if the change in circumstances was involuntary. Child and spousal support obligations may only be modified while the awards still exist; in other words, a modification motion must be filed before the obligation expires.

In child support matters only, in addition to a modification based upon a change of circumstances, a district attorney may review the obligation to ensure that it is consistent with the state's child support guidelines. The process, called a periodic review, can occur only every three years and only if a party requests it. To receive help from a district attorney for modification or enforcement, child support must be paid through the Child Support Program of the Department of Justice. For more information, call the support unit of your local district attorney.

Unless otherwise agreed, modifications are only effective prospectively, that is, after filing and service of a motion filed with the court. All modifications must be formalized in a judgment and approved by the court. Oral and written agreements may not be enforceable. However, in some cases, a party may be granted credit, or satisfaction, by the other party for payments not made or reduced payments, if both parties agree. A parent is also entitled to a support credit when they obtain physical custody of a child with the consent of the custodial parent.

To determine whether a modification is appropriate for your situation, you should obtain professional legal advice.

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Kramer & Associates
520 SW Sixth Avenue
Cascade Building #1010
Portland, Oregon 97204
503-243-2733