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The 1999 amendments to the spousal support statute, Or. Rev. Stat. § 107.105(1)(d)(B), broadened the statutory provisions such that contributions of one spouse do not need to contribute directly to the higher earning capacity of the other spouse, as long as they contribute to the education, training, vocational skills, career, or earning capacity of the spouse. Consequently, contributions to the education and training of a spouse can suffice.
Wife and husband were married in March 1990. At that time, husband was a full-time college student, while wife worked full time for the State of Oregon and attended college classes part time. In 1992, husband completed his undergraduate degree and began dental school. Wife continued to work full time and to attend classes 'sporadically,' but stopped attending classes in 1993 after the parties' first child was born. Thereafter, the parties shared childcare and household responsibilities, with wife assuming the larger portion. Wife's job provided the family with financial support and health insurance. When the husband graduated from dental school, he immediately began to earn more than $100,000 annually and became the family's primary wage-earner. After the parties' second child was born in 1997, wife left her employment and assumed primary childcare and household responsibilities. The parties separated in 2007. The trial court awarded the wife custody of the parties' children and divided the real and personal property equally; each party received assets valued at $720,402. The trial court, however, ruled that the wife was not entitled to compensatory spousal support. The court of appeals affirmed. The wife appealed.
Under the circumstances, was the wife entitled to compensatory spousal support?
On appeal, the court held that while the appellate court correctly determined that the wife's contribution to the marriage was significant, because the undisputed facts showed that the wife contributed to the husband's education, training, vocational skills, career, or earning capacity by working full time while the husband attended both undergraduate and dental school. However, the appellate court erred by failing to adequately consider all of the facts of § 107.105(1)(d)(B) for determining whether the wife should receive an award of compensatory spousal support. The court determined that the wife was entitled to $ 2,000 for 10 years based on the following: (1) the wife worked full time while the husband attended undergraduate and dental school; (2) the parties were married for 16 years; (3) the husband earned more than $ 350,000 per year while the wife's earning capacity was $ 30,000 to $ 40,000 per year; and (4) the wife's asset award of $ 720,000 and the comfortable lifestyle available to her for the 10 years preceding the divorce did not offset completely the contributions she made to the husband's education, career, and enhanced earning capacity.