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Property, Debts, and Taxes

  • Property: anything that belongs to you or your spouse. Property includes furniture, bank accounts, jewelry, clothes, your house, cars, retirement accounts, pets, etc. 
  • Debt: any money that you or your spouse owe someone else. For example, credit card debt, student loans, car debt, a mortgage, tax debt, and other loans.   
  • Marital property: any property that you or your spouse got during your marriage. Marital property belongs to both spouses equally. It doesn't matter who bought the property or whose name is on the deed, title, registration, or other paperwork for the property.
  • Marital debt: any debt that you or your spouse got during your marriage. Most marital debts are the responsibility of both spouses. 

All property (like houses, cars, money, furniture, and pets) and debts (like credit cards, mortgage, loans, and unpaid bills) will be divided so that each person knows what property they own and what debts they owe.  

Each family’s finances are unique, and the information on this page only gives very general guidance. If you have any questions, you should find legal help.  

If a married couple can’t decide how to split up their property, a judge will decide for them based on the laws of Oregon.  

In Oregon, a judge will usually divide all the debts and property equally. It doesn’t matter who bought the item or whose name is on the title. It doesn’t matter if one spouse worked while the other stayed home. By law, everything that you and your spouse get during your marriage is owned by both of you equally, with only a few exceptions. 

In Oregon, a judge must divide property equitably. This usually means debts and property are divided 50/50. But sometimes a judge can divide property in a way that isn’t 50/50 if they think it’s fair overall.  

If a married couple can’t decide how to split up their debts, a judge will decide for them based on the laws of Oregon. In most cases, both spouses are equally responsible for debts, even if the debt is only in one person’s name. It doesn’t matter which spouse took out the debt.  

A judge will try to divide debt in a way that is fair and practical. Here are some examples of what can happen:  

  • If a debt is attached to certain property, like a car loan, then the person who gets the property will usually be ordered to pay the debt.  
  • Usually, each spouse will be responsible for their own student loans.  
  • Each spouse is usually responsible for debt they got after their separation but before the divorce is final.  
  • A judge can make one person pay more of the debt, but if this happens, the judge also will usually give that person more property to balance things out.   

Yes. But it is your responsibility to tell the court about all the property owned by you and your spouse. The part of a judgment that addresses property and debt can’t be changed after the case is closed, except in very rare situations. If you forget to include something, and you and your ex-spouse disagree about what to do after the divorce, you should find legal help.

When a judge divides property, they don’t pay attention to who bought the item or whose name is on the papers for the property. (For example, the car title or registration.) Anything a spouse gets during the marriage belongs to both spouses.  

Usually yes.   

There are a few situations where a judge can divide property you had before you were married. The rules are complicated. You should get legal help if you have property from before your marriage that you would like to keep. 

Most judges won’t make you pay new debts that your spouse gets after you separate.     

No. In most cases a judge will divide property equally. It doesn’t matter which spouse bought most of the property or whose name is on the paperwork for the property.   

It depends on what you did with the gift after you got it. Gifts include things like inheritances, cash, vehicles, or jewelry. If you kept the gift separate from your other marital property (for example, you put an inheritance in a separate bank account) and you did not share the gift with your spouse, you may be able to keep it in the divorce.   

There are many rules for dividing gifts. Talk to a lawyer. You can find legal help here.  

If either you or your spouse have a pension plan or retirement plan that you paid into during the marriage, the plan is considered shared property.  

A judge can divide retirement accounts without triggering early withdrawal tax consequences. But there are extra legal steps involved. The process is complicated.  

A judge can also avoid dividing retirement accounts by letting a spouse keep their retirement accounts and then giving the other spouse different property that is equal in value. Sort of like a trade. 

You should find legal help if you have questions about dividing retirement accounts.

If you or your spouse bought a home or land during your marriage, this property is shared property. If you and your spouse don't agree on what to do with this property, a judge will decide for you.  

A judge usually does one of two things:    

  1. Let one spouse keep the home. The spouse that keeps the home will usually have to refinance to pay the other spouse their share of the equity. Equity is the current value of your home minus any money you owe on the home.   
  2. Make the couple sell the home. If neither spouse can refinance or afford to stay in the home, a judge will usually make the couple sell their home and then split the money from the sale 50/50.  

It’s always a good idea to talk to a lawyer before putting an agreement in writing. You can find legal help using the Referral Directory.  

Here are some strategies: 

  • Tell the creditor that a judge told your ex-spouse to pay the debt and give the creditor your ex-spouse’s contact information.  
  • If you decide to pay the bill or the creditor sues you to get you to pay it, you have the right to sue your ex-spouse to pay you back. But you need to act quickly.  

If these strategies don’t work, talk to a lawyer for more help.  

Warning! Even if the court orders your spouse to pay a debt, if your name is still on the debt, the creditor can come after you. If you pay the debt, you can sue your ex-spouse to pay what they owe. 

Most of the time, it’s too late. You can’t change your mind after your divorce is finished.  

There are a few exceptions to this rule, like if one spouse was hiding valuable property from the other. If there is a problem with your final divorce papers and how they divide property or debt, get legal help

Yes. After you are officially divorced: 

  • Your tax status will change from married filing jointly or separately to single or head of household.  
  • The person paying child or spousal support cannot deduct support payments from their income. 
  • The person receiving child or spousal support does not count support payments as income. 
  • The parent who has the children most of the time usually gets to claim them on their taxes. Sometimes divorce papers will change this.  

If you have tax questions, talk with an accountant, a lawyer, a tax preparer, or the IRS. 

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