My wife recently had her lawyer send me a letter in the mail saying that I owed her half my savings. I know now that she isn't entitled to all of it because I had a portion of it saved before we were married. She also has a lot of money in her savings account that hasn't been accounted for in the divorce. Am I entitled to her savings money? Will I get more in equitable distribution since I earned more and we are a childless marriage?
Oregon is an equitable distribution state, not a community property state, so she may be entitled to half your savings, maybe not. It depends on a number of factors. And yes, you could very well be entitled to half of hers as well. You should consult with a local family law attorney who can analyze the full details of your situation and who can therefore give you a better answer than a quick hit on Avvo.
I assume that you're going through a divorce case, based on this. In a divorce, under Oregon law, the rule is 'equitable distribution.' Oregon is not a community property state. This means that married couples do not automatically own all property together. When a couple divorces, each retains ownership of any property and debts they had at the start of the marriage. Any property obtained during the marriage is divided equitably between the spouses. 'Equitably' usually means 'equally,' but not always. Sometimes it's easier to award each person accounts or other property in their own name, if they're close enough in size. (Dividing accounts, especially retirement accounts, is not free.) So she may well be entitled to some of your savings account; you may be entitled to some of hers. There's no automatic answer. You need an attorney to evaluate your assets and determine what a court is likely to do, and to negotiate with your wife's attorney on that basis.
Who earned more money during the marriage is not usually relevant. The law presumes that a spouse who earns less (or no) money is contributing something else to the marital partnership to compensate for the others' financial contribution.
When a divorce case is filed in Oregon, a statutory restraining order automatically goes into effect. This is not a restraining order that prohibits people from talking to or being near each other (see this page for more information about restraining orders used to prevent domestic violence). Rather, this order prohibits either spouse from hiding or disposing of marital assets, including real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, or other property. The law is intended to prevent one party to a divorce from hiding or keeping assets from the other.
You should consult with an attorney in private for guidance with this process. Being without your own attorney in a divorce, especially if your spouse has one, puts you at an overwhelming disadvantage. The internet can't possibly be an adequate substitute.
Please read the following notice: <br> <br> Jay Bodzin is licensed to practice law in the State of Oregon and the Federal District of Oregon, and cannot give advice about the laws of other jurisdictions. All comments on this site are intended for informational purposes only, and are not intended to constitute legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, or solicit business. No posts or comments on this site are in any way confidential. Each case is unique. Information not contained in these posts may create significant exceptions to the advice provided in any response. You are advised to have counsel at all stages of any legal proceeding, and to speak with your own lawyer in private to get advice about your specific situation. <br> <br>
If you are in the middle of a divorce, the best advice I can give you is: take ALL the court documents, her attorney's letters & any other pertinent information to an experienced divorce attorney and invest in a private consultation. That will be the best money you ever spent.
Be sure to designate "best answer." Please be aware that each answer on this website is based upon the facts, or lack thereof, provided in the question. To be sure you get complete and comprehensive answers, based upon the totality of your situation, contact a local attorney who specializes in the area of law that involves your legal problem. Diane L. Gruber has been practicing law in Oregon for 27 years, specializing in family law, bankruptcy, estate planning and probate. Note: Diane L. Gruber does not represent you until a written fee agreement has been signed by you and Diane L. Gruber, and the fee listed in the agreement has been paid.
The court starts with an assumption that whatever you obtained during the marriage, including both parties' savings, was gained through your joint efforts. This is the "presumption of equal contribution." Either party can challenge this presumption, and the court may accept that an asset was obtained without any contribution by the other party. The short answer is yes, under the presumption, you may be entitled to part of her savings. Things you brought to the marriage will generally leave with you, including the savings you brought, however there are exceptions depending on whether and how your assets were commingled. The long answer is that it is not clear on the facts you have stated whether you will get more in the distribution. Who earned more, and the fact there are no children are not the only factors. Both parties' work history, the extent to which one party functioned as a homemaker, and their kinds of involvement with or work on an asset in question may come into play. You should consult an experienced family law attorney about your situation. Cases involving this issue are fact-intensive, and you will not likely get enough guidance in a forum like this to proceed effectively.
Additionally, you suggest you need more information about her savings, which you can get through the legal discovery process. Frequently parties move money out of accounts, despite legal restrictions on doing so during a divorce. Both parties are entitled to find out about all of each others' assets before there is a trial or a settlement. If you do not have an attorney and your wife does, you will be at a disadvantage in getting through this process.
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