Oregon is NOT a Community Property State
In Oregon, we divide all marital assets through an equitable distribution system. In other words, all property shared in the marriage is susceptible to division in a way that is fair, but not necessarily equal. Some states, however, choose to follow community property laws, which vary from the equitable distribution system used in Oregon.
If you are getting divorced in Oregon, make sure you understand how equitable distribution works and how it differs from community property states.
About Equitable Distribution
When you go through a divorce in Oregon, the court will rely on an equitable distribution policy when dividing your marital assets. In other words, all your property in your marriage will be split in a fair, equitable way that may not be strictly “equal.” Property may not be divided right down the middle, but split between each spouse in a way that the court deems fair and just.
All property acquired during the marriage is referred to as "marital property" and is susceptible to division; however, specific properties owned by either one spouse or the other, either because they were purchased before the marriage took place or were inherited, will be considered "separate property." Separate property is rarely divided between spouses in the divorce process.
How Does the Court Decide How to Divide Property in Oregon?
The court will decide what constitutes a fair division based on several factors.
Initially, Oregon courts will assume that both spouses contributed equally to the marriage; however, either spouse is free to contest this assumption but must be able to argue their side. For example, if one spouse earned more financially, then he or she may argue that their contribution was more significant. In another situation, one spouse may say that he or she not only contributed financially, but acted as the primary caretaker for their children and therefore was the larger contributor to the marriage.
Whatever the argument, the judge will hear both sides and decide on a case-by-case basis.
Equitable Distribution vs. Community Property
Both equitable distribution and community property start out the same by assuming that all assets and debt acquired during the marriage belong to both spouses (excluding separate properties and debt); however, while equitable distribution holds that all assets should be divided fairly and not necessarily equally, community property states that courts will divide all marital property in a 50/50 split, regardless of their contributions to the marriage or whether or not only one spouse earned an income.
Knowing Your Assets
Understanding how equitable distribution works can undoubtedly make it easier to handle your upcoming divorce; however, it is still important to remember that every case is different. Obtain the outcome you are looking for by making sure you do what it takes to gather relevant information about the assets and debts in your marriage. Even though equitable distribution rules will apply to your Oregon divorce, every case is different—the more you know about your financial situation, the better equipped you will be to handle any upcoming issues.
Contact McKinley Irvin in our Oregon office to discuss your divorce or to settle a property division dispute.