Oregon Supreme Court Clarifies Dissolution Property Division

The end of the year in 2019 saw a deci­sion from the Ore­gon Supreme Court, Stave­land and Fish­er, 366 Or 49 (2019) which clar­i­fied the stan­dard of review for domes­tic part­ner­ship mat­ters – those involv­ing the dis­so­lu­tion of unmar­ried non-reg­is­tered domes­tic part­ners.  The Court of Appeals, in affirm­ing a por­tion of the tri­al court judg­ment, used a stan­dard of review from an ear­li­er case that cen­tered on the prop­er­ty dis­tri­b­u­tion in a dis­so­lu­tion of mar­riage case.  The Ore­gon Supreme Court cor­rect­ed the Court of Appeals on the prop­er analy­sis – deter­mi­na­tion of the intent of the par­ties and uphold­ing find­ings of fact from the tri­al court if there unless no evi­dence sup­ports the find­ing.  The Supreme Court left open the door for a future argu­ment that in addi­tion to the effec­tu­a­tion of the intent of the par­ties, equi­ty should be tak­en into account when decid­ing on a dis­tri­b­u­tion of prop­er­ty – an argu­ment that was not presented.

The Supreme Court also clar­i­fied and pre­sent­ed the prop­er analy­sis for dis­tri­b­u­tion of prop­er­ty in a dis­so­lu­tion of mar­riage case as well.  The opin­ion in Stave­land and Fish­er will be help­ful to judges, attor­neys and lit­i­gants in under­stand­ing the prop­er ana­lyt­i­cal frame­work to dis­trib­ute prop­er­ty in cas­es of dis­so­lu­tion of mar­riage and dis­so­lu­tion of domes­tic partnerships.

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