For clients, divorce has many unknowns and an issue they worry about most often is spousal support. Whether the client expects to pay or receive support, settling these cases can be difficult. Each party has different expectations and until recently, there has been limited guidance to help lawyers give client’s targeted information about what to expect. Oregon does not use a formula to calculate spousal support and, as a result, the outcomes can vary widely between cases, courts and judges.
A new tool offers a solution. SupportHound is online software that analyzes case facts and compares them to similar cases throughout Oregon. Before SupportHound, lawyers were limited to reviewing the results from cases decided by the Appeals Courts only. For the first time, we can now compare and contrast rulings at the trial level, greatly expanding our reference points and allowing us to take into consideration regional differences.
SupportHound collects data from each county in Oregon (over 1,770 at the time of this blog post entry) and provides that information in a searchable database. Results are summarized in a report for clients.
We are looking forward to the growth of SupportHound as a great tool to help us craft better solutions for our divorce clients.
SupportHound’s Features – Search and Analysis
You can search Oregon cases based on the (monthly) income of both spouses, years of marriage, and county. Data from all counties can be included in the search, or, you can narrow it to one or more select counties. You can also ask SupportHound to search based on a range of years of marriage (e.g. 7 years to 25 years). The search criteria you provide is related to but separate from the information of your divorcing parties. What this means is, you will provide the monthly income of both parties in your case and the length of their marriage, but the search criteria can be based on a range of income and years of marriage so that additional settlement/case data can be collected for the results report.
As you may guess, the report is meant to be beneficial and is not indicative of what may be the true and future settlement award in your case. The results provided state “This suggested award has been calculated by taking similarly situated cases for length of marriage, payor gross income, payee gross income, and selected counties. The suggested award has no binding authority.” A suggested monthly award, length of the award, and a calculation of the percentage of the payor’s monthly income are all helpful parts of the report. These figures can help guide a divorcing party, their attorney, or a mediator to understand what the average award is based on the criteria provided.
Sample results page
Sorting cases is easy with the advanced filters provided. Below the results/spousal support analysis is a list of cases found in the SupportHound database. You can filter these cases based on income, child support awards, length of marriage, county, case number, and more.
We think that the PDF export feature is very helpful because it allows us to save the results to a file which we send to the client for their review, or, show to the client during an appointment. The PDF file contains all of the same formatting, results, and list of cases as the online report. We can mark up the PDF version with comments (using PDF editing software) before we send it on to the client so that it contains our own comments.
Lastly, we find the results and analysis to be helpful. Settling the case with a good guide in hand is more than we’ve had in the past. Our long-term experience with the practice of family law has always served us well. This kind of data, however, just makes it a little easier to convey the message to our clients.