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Oregon Prenuptial Agreements (Contracts)


Note: I use the term “temporary” marriage below instead of “short-term” marriage because the latter is how marriages of very short duration are described and labeled in some courts. (*See below for more on “short-term” marriage in Oregon.)

Whenever someone asks why we (Americans, I presume, or maybe Oregonians) don’t have temporary or “short-term” marriage (meaning of limited duration by choice, not a marriage that lasts for a short-term), I refrain from playing the wedding-wag and saying, “what do you think a prenup is all about?”

Prenuptial agreements are about a whole lot more than money and power and can be extremely valuable marriage contracts, but if not managed seriously by each party to the marriage, I suppose they could be viewed as a back-door route to temporary marriage (e.g. in Islamic law), which may be one among other reasons they can raise some people’s blood pressure.

If you are planning to marry and are curious about prenups (curiosity is a good thing), in addition to reading some of those terrifying books, websites, and magazines on weddings, I recommend you read Nolo Press, “Prenuptial Agreements: How to Write a Fair & Lasting Contract,” 3rd ed., by Katherine Stoner & Shae Irving, J.D.

Online links to additional information about marriage and prenuptial agreements in Oregon and beyond:

1) ORS 700.108 et seq, Premarital Agreements (see also ORS Index)

2) OSB, Marriage in Oregon

3) Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (1983) and

4) Last but not least, consult a lawyer – please! Oregon State Bar Information and Referral Service and our “How to Find a Lawyer in Oregon” guide (also from the website if that link frustrates).

* For more about Oregon short-term (of limited duration) marriage, see “In re: Complaint as to the Conduct of MAGAR E. MAGAR (OSB 94-178, 94-210; SC 29172)

Footnote 5. Courts have applied the concept of a “short-term marriage” in the context of distributing marital assets. Broadly speaking, upon the dissolution of a short-term marriage, the “property division is a relatively simple task in the nature of a rescission.” Jenks and Jenks, 294 Or 236, 242, 656 P2d 286 (1982). According to Jenks, the determination whether a marriage is “short-term” depends not upon “any specific number of months or years[,]” but, instead, upon whether “the parties’ financial affairs become commingled or committed to the needs of children to the point that the parties cannot readily be restored to their premarital positions.” Id. More recently, this court has stated that, whether one defines a short-term marriage by looking to duration or to the commingling of assets, “reliance solely on the concept of a ‘short-term’ marriage * * * will lead to analytical mistakes.” Massee and Massee, 328 Or 195, 210, 970 P2d 1203 (1999) (citations omitted). Instead, the factors set out in the relevant statute, ORS 107.105(1)(f), “are the guide to the court’s discretion in dividing marital property.” Id. Our use of the term “short-term marriage” in this opinion should not be construed as an endorsement of that term….”

–To read Jenks v. Jenks, copy and paste this into Google Scholar:
Jenks and Jenks, 294 Or 236, 242

–To read Massee v. Massee, copy and paste this into Google Scholar:
Massee and Massee, 328 Or 195

(And don’t forget this OLR blog post on those pesky engagement/wedding rings.)

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