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Oregon Property Division
Property Distribution Laws in Oregon
In Oregon the courts generally accept a fair and reasonable property division the parties agree to, but if the parties cannot agree, the property is divided by the Circuit Court within the Judgment of Divorce.
Factors in Equitable Distribution
An equitable distribution state, Oregon is an all property state, and the appreciation of separate property is marital and subject to division. All marital property is divided in an equitable fashion according to the court unless agreed to otherwise by the divorcing spouses. Equitable does not mean equal, or even half but rather what is deemed by the Circuit Court to be fair. There is a rebuttable presumption that both spouses have contributed equally to the acquisition of property during the marriage, whether such property is jointly or separately held.
In dividing the marital estate, the court considers the amount of property and reasonable costs involved if assets must be sold to divide them. It also considers taxes and any other costs reasonably anticipated by the spouses such as medical bills or needs of children. Additionally, the court evaluates retirement plans, pensions, and a spouses contribution as a homemaker. The most common property divided at divorce is real property like the family home, personal property like jewelry, and intangible property like income, dividends, benefits, retirement plans or pensions, or an interest therein, and even debts.
Debts are treated the same as any other property. If acquired during marriage, then they are presumed to be marital and split accordingly. If not, then the court applies the same factors above to assign responsibility for it.
Fault does not matter in the division of property.
According to Oregon Statutes - Volume 2 - Sections: 107.036, 107.105, the court considers the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker as a contribution to the acquisition of marital assets.
Marital Property vs. Separate Property
In order to divide property equitably, the court must know which property belongs to the marriage, which belongs to the spouses separately, and how much there is of each. Marital property is all property acquired or earned during the marriage. Separate property is property owned before marriage, such as property received during marriage like a gift or an inheritance. All of the marital property must be divided. The court may include separate property too, if necessary to achieve an equitable distribution.
In Oregon, the court presumes that the spouses contributed equally to the acquisition of most property during marriage, regardless of what the title says. Property acquired equally is divided equally. Oregon excludes gifts and inheritances to one spouse from distribution if they are kept separate.
In rebuttal to the presumption of equal contributions, one spouse may argue that the other did not contribute equally when the marriage gained a particular asset. Homemaker contributions, which are not monetary, however, count the same as monetary efforts.
Valuing and Dividing Property
First, the court classifies assets and liabilities, property and debt, as marital or separate. Then it assigns a monetary value to the marital property and debt. Finally, it distributes the marital assets between the two parties in an equitable fashion.
The Marital Home
In Oregon as in many jurisdictions, the equity in the marital home is often one of the biggest assets the spouses divide. The equity is the market value of the house, less any debts or liens against it. Equity is established by determining what the current market value of the home is at the time of separation. Once the spouses agree to a current market value, any debts associated with the property (mortgage, taxes, home equity loans, etc.) are deducted from the market value to arrive at the equity to be divided. Normally, making this calculation requires a paid real estate appraisal or a real estate agent can prepare a market analysis for free.
From there, couples choose one of three options to divide the equity:
Pensions and Retirement Accounts
In Oregon vested pensions are marital property. A pension vests when all the requirements to receive the pension have been met. Unvested pensions are also marital property. Until the pension has vested, the person under whom the pension is maintained has only an expectancy of interest in the pension.
Several different methods of valuation are used in determining how much a marital asset is worth, depending upon the asset to be valued and the level of agreement between the parties. Courts generally accept the value when the spouses mutually agree on a value of a particular asset. Experts may be retained by the parties or by the courts to determine the value of marital assets if the parties cannot agree. Such experts may include accountants, real estate or business appraisers, or pension valuators. The use of experts adds to the cost of the divorce.
In Oregon the court may include the retirement benefits and plans earned by both spouses as marital assets available for division. Retirement benefits vary greatly but can generally be divided into two groups:
If spouses share in each others retirement or pension plan, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order must be completed. A QDRO is a written set of instructions that explains to a plan administrator that two parties are dividing pension benefits. The instructions set forth the terms and conditions of the distribution - how much of the benefits are to be paid to each party, when such benefits can be paid, and how such benefits should be paid.
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