How does equitable distribution work in Oregon?

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2021 | Family Law | 0 comments

Many people believe that marital assets are always divided equally in a divorce, but that is only the case in the nine states that have community property laws. Oregon is one of the 41 states that follow the equitable distribution method of dividing marital estates in divorce cases. This means that family law judges in the Beaver State have far more discretion when they are called upon to make these decisions. They are expected to rule in a way that leads to a fair outcome, but they do not have to divide marital property equally. This approach is based on the assumption that all marriages are inherently unequal.

Equitable distribution

Judges analyze several factors when determining how to divide marital property equitably in a divorce. They consider how old the spouses are and how long they were married, and they look at the events that led to the marriage failing. The goal is a fair outcome, so spouses who were unfaithful or abusive may be awarded less property. Judges may also consider it fair to award more property to homemakers who sacrificed their careers or spouses who did work but earned a lot less money than their husbands or wives.

Separate property

Another common misconception about divorce is the belief that all assets are divided. In both community property and equitable distribution states, assets acquired before a marriage and gifts or inheritances received during a marriage are considered separate. However, these assets could be subject to division if they become part of the marital estate through a process called commingling. This happens when gifts or inheritances are deposited into joint bank accounts and used to pay the couple’s bills or marital funds are used to maintain or improve a separate asset.

Leaving property division decisions up to a judge

It should be noted that these issues only become important when divorce cases go to court because spouses are unable to reach a property division agreement at the negotiating table. Leaving these matters up to a judge has several drawbacks. The proceedings take place in open court, and both parties could leave disappointed. Litigating these issues in public also costs far more than less adversarial approaches like mediation.