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.