Dissolution of Domestic Partnerships for Gay and Lesbian Couples, Eugene, Oregon Attorneys- Arnold Law Office, LLC, Attorneys at Law

Dissolution of Domestic Partnerships

Facts about Domestic Partnerships

  • Property can be treated similarly to marital property (see intent of parties below).
  • The analysis is similar to a breach of contract claim (you may have agreed to have an equal domestic partnership either explicitly or implicitly).
  • There is no spousal support. Spousal support for married couples is a creature of statute. Since domestic partnership comes from a common law contract-type analysis, spousal support is unavailable.

It’s about the Intent of the Parties

The Supreme Court in Beal and Beal, 282 Or. 115, 577 P.2d 507 (1978), is considered the leading authority on the question of property rights of parties who have lived together in a non-marital relationship. The parties in Beal purchased a house after they divorced. The purchase contract listed both parties’ names as husband and wife. Both parties contributed to the down payment. Mrs. Beal paid the first mortgage payment, and Mr. Beal paid all the subsequent payments. They lived in the house together, maintained a joint savings account, and made improvements to the property from their joint account. Looking at these facts, the court concluded that the parties had intended to pool their resources for a common benefit while they were together.

To determine the rights of the parties in a non-marital relationship, the Beal court explained that the primary consideration in such cases is the express or implied intent of the parties. The court went on to state that when the intent of the parties is not clear, an Oregon court must “closely examine the facts in evidence to determine what the parties implicitly agreed upon.” Such factors may include:

  • How the parties held themselves out to their community
  • The nature of the cohabitation
  • Joint acts of a financial nature, if any
  • How title to the property was held; and
  • The respective financial and nonfinancial contributions of each party.

The Court further stated that in cases where there is not clear evidence of an intended division of property, “inferences can be drawn from factual settings in which the parties lived.”

Other courts have dealt with the issue of property division post-Beal. In Risseberger v. Gorton, 41 Or. App. 65, 72, 597 P.2d 366, rev den 287 Or. 301 (1979), the court followed the Beal analysis. In the absence of an explicit contract, the Oregon Court of Appeals looked to the facts of parties’ relationship to govern the parties’ rights. The parties:

  • Shared a home
  • Co-mingled their resources
  • Had a child together
  • Made payments on the real property from their joint account; and
  • Held out for insurance purposes that they were married.
  • Petitioner repeatedly asked Respondent to put her name on the titles of the real property and the automobiles that had been purchased with his separate funds, but he refused.

While there was significant evidence of co-mingling resources that would lead to an implicit agreement to share equally, the Risseberger court placed greatest emphasis upon the Respondent’s refusal to place Petitioner’s name on the titles, an explicit statement that the parties’ were not to be co-owners of the real property or the automobiles.

In Rogelis v. Pettis, 49 Or. App. 537, 619 P.2d 1339 (1980), the parties lived together in a non-marital relationship, and were jointly conveyed a large piece of acreage. To divide this property, the Oregon Court of Appealslooked to the intent of the parties. Under the Beal analysis, lacking anything explicit such as a contract, the Rogelis court looked to the facts to infer the implicit intent of the parties. The court placed importance upon the fact that the parties took title as husband and wife; Pettis took title to this property using the last name of her partner, Rogelis. The court also looked carefully at the financial contributions of the parties. While Rogelis did most of the construction on the home they built on this acreage, Pettis contributed a significant amount of money for the down payment for the residence. Rogelis paid the mortgage, but Pettis paid the other household obligations. The Rogelis court placed the greatest weight upon the financial contributions of the parties, over the other factual considerations contemplated by Bealsuch as the nature of their co-habitation or how they held themselves out the community. Pettis had contributed significant resources, and as such, the court awarded her one-half interest in the property.

In Holloway v. Holloway, 63 Or. App 343, 663 P.2d 789 (1983), the separated domestic partners contested the division of a piece of property that had been purchased in Mr. Holloway’s name only. The parties lived together, co-mingled funds, held out as a married couple to the community, equally contributed to the household and jointly applied for a loan to pay off the balance of the property. The court was ready to award Mrs. Holloway an equal half of the ranch, but for the fact that she admitted to making statements to Mr. Holloway that she would never try to take the ranch from him, and admitted knowledge of his statements to her that he did not intend to share the property, marry her, nor live as husband and wife. The court found that her admissions were evidence of an explicit agreement to keep their property separate, even in the face of the other factual considerations of their relationship.

In Shuraleff v. Donnelly, 108 Or. App. 707, 807 P. 2d 764 (1991), the parties brought suit to divide property after separation from a non-marital, cohabitation relationship. The parties were careful to divide monthly living expenses, filed taxes separately, kept their bank accounts separate and did not place both names on all of the property they acquired during their relationship. The parties did enter into several property transactions together, using each other’s properties as collateral, putting up separate funds for the other’s purchases, developed a holly farm together, and placed their names on some of the deeds as “husband and wife.” The Shuraleff court made its decision based on the efforts and contributions of the parties over their 15 years of cohabitation. Even though the parties made significant efforts to keep much of their property separate, the court divided their assets equally between them, including the assets that were owned individually, based on the idea that both parties contributed to the opportunity of the other to acquire those assets.

In Wilbur v. DeLapp, 119 Or. App. 348, 850 P.2d 1151 (1993), the parties were domestic partners for 18 years. He was primarily responsible for paying their costs of living, and she was a homemaker. The court looked to the intent of the parties, and lacking intent as directed by Beal, looked for facts and actions upon which to based inferences. The court decided to award the house to the parties based upon their contributions. While Mr. DeLapp was the breadwinner and paid the mortgage, the court recognized such contributions of Ms. Wilbur, like her contribution of her social security payments, the selling of her personal possessions to pay bills, and the pooling of her small income from when she did work to their joint benefit.

In Wallender v. Wallender, 126 Or. App. 614, 870 P.2d 232 (1994), the parties divorced after a 15-year marriage, but continued to live together after the divorce for 9 years. The property was divided during the divorce, but they continued to cohabitate and maintain an intimate relationship. During that time, Defendant continued to be the primary provider of financial resources for the family; he paid the mortgages, paid the utility bills and taxes, and periodically transferred his money into Plaintiff’s account. Plaintiff paid for some joint expenses from her own accounts, and argued that she was entitled to half of the assets in Defendant’s name due to their long-term cohabitation and joint labor. The court placed greatest weight on the parties’ intent. Plaintiff admitted that she knew Defendant did not intend for her to own half. Only in property where the Plaintiff specifically contributed financially and consistently along with Defendant did the court divide interests equally.

Do you know the Top-25 Commonly Hidden or “Forgotten” Divorce Assets? Sign-up for a free download of them all:

Interpreters Available