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How Equitable Division Is Considered During an Oregon High-Asset Divorce

Oregon’s equitable distribution laws aim to ensure that both spouses receive a fair amount of property to support them on their post-divorce journeys. Discuss your goals with a trusted Portland divorce attorney today.

Coming to the realization that your marriage is ending can be an overwhelming experience. Suddenly, you find yourself facing numerous decisions, the consequences of which will affect your life’s next chapter in significant ways. One primary concern for divorcing couples in Oregon is how to navigate the distribution of property, assets, and debts. Oregon’s equitable distribution laws aim to ensure that both spouses receive a fair amount of assets to support them on their post-divorce journeys. However, the term “equitable distribution” can understandably seem vague to many people. This post will explore the purpose of Oregon’s equitable distribution laws and how they may affect your high-asset divorce.

Equitable Distribution in Oregon

Oregon is considered an equitable distribution state, which means that the court will seek to divide the couple’s property in a fair manner. It’s important to recognize that the term “equitable” does not necessarily mean “even,” so a fifty-fifty split is not always the fairest outcome for a divorcing couple. Instead, the court will assess the property and debts and determine the fairest way to allocate these marital possessions to each spouse. As part of the divorce process, you and your spouse must submit a statement listing all assets and liabilities, including all real property, personal property, and any debts in which either party has an interest whether acquired separately or jointly. The court will use this document as a guideline for facilitating the equitable distribution of assets and debts.

What Constitutes a Marital Asset?

During a divorce proceeding, the court will address both ‘marital assets’ and ‘marital property’. Marital assets refer to any real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, investments, business interests, stocks, belongings, debts, etc. that either or both of the parties acquired or incurred over the course of their marriage. It does not matter how the item is titled (individually or jointly). Any marital asset is presumed by the court to have been contributed to equally by both parties during the marriage and therefore, the presumption is that it should be equally divided. Either party may attempt to rebut the presumption of equal contribution. While technically inherited and gifted property are considered marital assets, they are not subject to the presumption of equal contribution. Marital property consists of any real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, investments, business interests, stocks, belongings, or debt, etc. in which either party has an interest, regardless of when it was acquired or incurred. This is often referred to as separate property. It most often consists of property and/or debt acquired or incurred prior to the marriage. As one of the few states that consider all property to be fair game when determining the division of property, Oregon presumes that each party has a stake in the property amassed both during and prior to the marriage.

Equitable Does Not Mean Equal

Many people assume that an equitable distribution of property means the court will simply divide up the property in a fifty-fifty split. However, equitable does not always mean equal—it means that both parties will obtain a fair share of the property. It’s helpful to understand some of the factors that a judge will consider when determining how to distribute marital property in a high-asset divorce equitably.

Length of the Marriage

One significant factor that an Oregon judge will consider is how long the marriage lasted. For instance, if your marriage has lasted for several decades, there will likely be many more marital assets than in a marriage lasting only a year or two. Those assets will likely be commingled and therefore, difficult to trace. Equitable distribution may look different for long-term marriages than for marriages that ended after a few years, where property and debts are less likely to be commingled and therefore easier to trace.

Education Levels and Earning Capacity

As the judge determines a fair distribution of marital property, they will also consider the education and earning capacity of each spouse. If there is an imbalance (perhaps one spouse forfeited a career to take care of the home during the marriage), the judge may award a larger portion of property or spousal support to the spouse who needs to take classes to further their education and earning potential. Ultimately, the court strives to ensure that both spouses walk away from the divorce with the solid financial foundations they need to enjoy a bright future.

Health Considerations

Another factor the court may consider when seeking an equitable division of property is the health of each spouse. Those with considerable health needs may require spousal support or additional financial resources, which the judge will consider when determining an equitable distribution of property. While there is no set formula for calculating an equitable distribution, the court will rely on these factors to establish a fair outcome.

Negotiating a Fair and Favorable Outcome

High-asset divorces in Oregon tend to require more nuance and care, as they not only involve numerically more assets, accounts, real estate, business interests, and investment portfolios, but also often considerably more complex types of property. Many divorcing couples prefer to keep the matter out of court, turning to mediation to attempt to negotiate a divorce settlement on their own terms. Whether you decide to pursue a divorce through mediation or litigation, working with an experienced divorce lawyer is the best way to ensure you obtain your desired outcome. Your attorney will connect you with trusted professionals who can appraise your marital property and inform your decisions about dividing it. While your attorney can help you navigate the financial and logistical aspects of your divorce, they can also provide you with the reassurance and confidence you need during this uncertain time. Get in touch with a knowledgeable and friendly Portland divorce attorney today who can answer your questions, address your concerns, and guide you toward a brighter future.


Call Kuzma Law, LLC, today at (503) 406-1787 to discuss your goals with a trusted Portland divorce attorney.