Benson and Benson

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Property Law
  • Date Filed: 06-11-2014
  • Case #: A155392
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Lagesen, J. for the Court; Duncan, P.J.; and Wollheim, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

When property is purchased with one spouse's pre-marital assets, the court's task is to determine each spouse's contribution to the acquisition of the house; to assess whether, in light of those contributions, the presumption of equal contribution has been rebutted; and, if so, to evaluate the just and proper distribution of the assets in the light of factors considered by the court.

Husband appealed from a dissolution judgment that awarded the marital home to husband but awarded an equalizing judgment for a quarter of the home's value to wife. He asserted that the trial court erred in concluding that wife had any interest in the house and, consequently, by entering the equalizing judgment in her favor. The home husband and wife lived in together was purchased in 2009 or 2010 by husband and wife with money husband recieved from the sale of a home in Montana that he initially purchased with an inheritance. Husband continued to pay property taxes on property after wife moved out in April 2013. The home was in husband's name alone. At the dissolution hearing, wife argued she should recieve a quarter value of the home due to improvements she did during the marriage. ORS 107.105(1)(f)(C) creates a rebuttable presumption that both parties contributed equally to the acquisition of an asset that was acquired during the parties' marriage; however, because the presumption is rebuttable, either or both of the parties may seek to overcome it. If either or both parties make that attempt, the court first must determine the magnitude of each spouse's overall contribution to the acquisition of marital assets from evidence in the record; if one party is a homemaker, the court must assess that party's contribution "to the enterprise of homemaking." If the court finds that the presumption is rebutted, then it must distribute the property according to what is "just and proper" under the circumstances. The court considers a number of factors to make their determination. Because home was purchased with husband's premarital assets, the court task was to determine each spouse's contribution to the acquisition of the house; to assess whether, in light of those contributions, the presumption of equal contribution had been rebutted; and, if so, to evaluate the just and proper distribution of the assets in the light of the factors identified above. The trial court did not undertake this assessment. Portion of general judgment of dissolution relating to property division reversed and remanded for reconsideration; otherwise affirmed.

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