January 21, 2011

New Case Law – date of valuation of retirement account

On January 19, 2011, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Deming and Deming, a case in which the court ruled on an issue of the proper date of valuation of husband’s retirement accounts.  The entire opinion can be found here:  http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A139552.htm

The parties were married for 28 years and wife acted as a homemaker for the majority of that time.   The parties separated prior to the divorce, with wife living in California and husband living and working in Saudi Arabia.  During the term of separation, wife remained financially dependent on husband. 

The trial court valued husband’s retirement accounts as of the date of separation.  On appeal, wife argued that the proper date of valuation is the date of dissolution. 

A court has authority per ORS 107.105(1)(f) to divide all property held by either party as of the time of dissolution, and is required to divide the property in a manner that is just and proper.  Oregon law provides for two classes of marital property:  property acquired during the marriage and property acquired before the marriage.  With respect to property acquired during the marriage, there is a presumption that both spouses contributed equally to its acquisition, regardless of an intervening separation.  Due to the fact that the funds held in husband’s retirement account are from the parties’ joint marital efforts (wife’s efforts as homemaker allowing husband to work) and the fact that wife remained financially dependent on husband during the period of separation, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court should have used the date of dissolution to value the retirement accounts.