Unemployment rates in Oregon have already increased by more than 3,000% as the economy reels from the effects of COVID-19. As more people face cuts in their work schedules and the threat of unemployment lingers, people may struggle to make spousal support and child support payments.

If you are having trouble meeting your support obligations due to a job loss or change,you might want to consider getting a Modification.

How do I change the amount of spousal support I pay?

When ordering spousal support, a judge considers certain factors. These factors can include how long you were married, how healthy each spouse is, whether one spouse contributed to the other’s education or lifestyle, and what the tax consequences of the order would be. See ORS 107.105(d). The court must always consider the earning ability of the parties, and this typically means that they consider the how much each spouse earns as income. Id.

This means that the support order is designed to reflect what your financial situation was at the time that your support order was entered. But things change, and for many people, a support obligation that was entered in the past does not fully reflect their current financial situation. If circumstances outside of your control have made your spousal support amount no longer affordable, you can go to the court that issued your Judgment and ask for a Modification.

The Modification process requires the judge to consider your current circumstances and decide whether or not they should order a modification. See ORS 107.135. Once the court has determined that your circumstances have changed enough to justify a modification, they must base the new support award on the financial information that led them to determine that a modification was necessary in the first place. See Braun v. Braun, 302 Or. App. 778 (2020).

The hearing process can take several months, but the judge can order the reduction to apply back to the date that you filed for the Modification.

What if I need to change the amount of child support I owe?

If factors outside of your control have caused you to lose some or all of your income, you can modify your child support order in one of two ways:

  • Filing a Modification through the court system. This process is very similar to the one used to modify spousal support. Filing for a Modification gives you the opportunity to include any other changes that you feel your judgment needs, such as changes that might affect parenting time or custody of your child.
  • Asking the Oregon Department of Justice to review your obligation: you can ask your child support case manager to review financial information from you and your ex for free. Typically this will result in a hearing over the phone with an administrative judge. However, if the other party objects, the matter can be moved to the courts.

Getting Help

If you have questions about modifying your support obligation and you need help determining what to do, you may contact us at hello@thecommonslawcenter.org or call us to request an appointment with one of our staff attorneys. Because we are a nonprofit, we will need to ensure that you are income-qualified prior to meeting with you, but we can refer you to other resources if you do not qualify for our help.

About the author 

Staff Attorneys

Articles co-written by our team of attorneys.

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