Preparing for Divorce
1. Assets and Liabilities — Make a List
Oregon divorce and support laws divide assets and distribute income. When preparing to divorce, gather all your financial documents in preparation to share with your attorney. Think about documents related to real and personal property, monthly debts and expenses, bank and investment accounts, credit cards and loans, retirement and pension accounts, and any other financial documents you can think of. Your attorney can use these documents to negotiate a financial settlement or prepare for a trial if settlement isn't feasible.
2. Protecting Assets and Minimizing Debts
Consider opening your own banking and credit card accounts. Do what you can to limit your soon to be ex-spouse's access to your credit. This can be a delicate subject if you are the primary income earner. Your objective is to protect assets from dissipation and minimize new debts without leaving your family in a bad situation. Once divorce is filed, the court will order that neither party dissipate or hide property nor encumber assets or take on extraordinary marital debt. Often, all new debt from the time parties separate are allocated to the party who signed for that debt.
3. Setting Expectations about Your Assets
Oregon is not a "community property" state, it is a "just and equitable" state. This means that the court will fairly and equitably divide all property and debt acquired during the marriage. Some of this property is less obvious, like the increase in value on real property, businesses, and pensions/retirement accounts. Oregon law requires divorcing people to disclose to each other all assets and liabilities so that everyone knows the nature of the marital estate being divided. Oregon law, for the most part, doesn't care whose name is on a debt or asset: if it was acquired during the marriage there is a presumption that each party equally contributed to its acquisition. Practically speaking, each party will leave the marriage in relatively equal financial standing.
4. Staying Current on Bills
Until the date of dissolution, all debts and assets acquired during the marriage are considered joint. Even if only your partner's name is on the debt. Until you come to a marital settlement agreement and/or the court rules and enters a judgment, you are each obligated to make your monthly and periodic payments. For example, maybe you are keeping the house and one of the cars, but right now your partner makes those payments. During the divorce, they may not make those payments and put one or both loans in default. You need to make arrangements to protect your future interests and pay those debts.
5. Setting Expectations about Kids and Support
Sometimes men get custody of the kids and women pay spousal support. Sometimes there are two moms or two dads. While it is true that women most often get the kids, and are paid spousal and child support, it isn't a given. Spousal support will be ordered depending on the length of the marriage, the reliance of one party on the other party's income, the disparity of that income, and the age and ability of the parties to work (among some other factors you should discuss with your attorney). Women who are the primary earners can and will be ordered to pay spousal and child support if the circumstances warrant it. You are well advised to talk to an attorney honestly about your situation before you come to any conclusions about how your post-divorce life will look.