Oregon is an "Equitable Distribution" State: What Does that Mean?
Unless a fair and reasonable division of property can be agreed upon, Oregon law states that a couple must divide their property under the principle of equitable distribution in a divorce. Equitable distribution means that the court will divide their property in a way that it deems fair, which may not be an equal division.
How Equitable Distribution Affects Your Divorce
The first step in any property division is deciding what property belongs to the marriage, known as marital property, and what property separately belongs to each spouse. Marital property consists of anything acquired or earned while the couple was married. Separate property can be inheritances, gifts, and property purchased or obtained outside of the marriage. Separate property is only touched by the court if it is needed to establish equitable distribution.
Oregon courts make the presumption that the acquisition of property during a marriage was equal, regardless of actual ownership. The only property left out of this are gifts made to one spouse that are always kept separate. Equal ownership can be overruled if it can be proven that some assets did not receive an equal contribution. Keep in mind, however, that it is not just monetary contributions that make a difference in court.
In dividing property, there are a few things the court will consider:
- Amount of property to be divided
- Costs involved in the sale of assets
- Taxes on property
- Expected costs, such as the needs of children
- Retirement plans and pension
- Role of the homemaker
It is important to recognize that the court looks at debts in the same way it looks at other property. If debt was marital property, then it will be divided equitably in the divorce as well. Depending on the property division, the needs of the spouses, and the upkeep of a reasonable lifestyle, the court will decide on the appropriate spousal support payment as well.
The court assumes that a couple is unable to divide property on their own. If a couple can come up with an agreement for their property, the court will generally accept this as valid. Even if only some property can be agreed upon outside of the court, the remaining property can be divided according to equitable distribution.