June 10, 2009

The house is mine, or is it?

During initial consultations, a spouse often says to me “He/She signed the house over to me two years ago” or “The house is only in my name.” They expect that this means that they will be awarded the house free and clear and that the other spouse has no interest in the house. This is not true. ORS 107.105(f) provides, in part, as follows: “Subsequent to the filing of a petition for annulment or dissolution of marriage or separation, the rights of the parties in the marital assets shall be considered a species of coownership . . .” This means that regardless of whether a house is titled in only one spouse’s name either because it was purchased that way or because the other house signed a deed transferring ownership solely to the other spouse, the house is still a marital asset subject to equitable division. There are many factors that can play a role in the actual division of the property, including in whose name the house is titled, but that fact is not dispositive.