Oregon Divorce Law

Divorce and Legal Separation in Oregon



Divorce and Legal Separation in Oregon

Oregon Divorce Basics

Divorce in Oregon is legally referred to as Dissolution of Marriage.

Residency Requirement:

To file for dissolution of marriage in Oregon, at least one party must be a resident or be domiciled in the state at the time the suit is commenced and continuously for a period of six months prior to filing.

Filing:

The Petitioner (filing party) may file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Annulment or Separation in the county where either the Petitioner or Respondent (non-filing party) resides.

The Respondent shall not be required to answer a Petition for annulment or dissolution of a marriage or for separation except by filing a general appearance or a general appearance with counterclaims relating to matters other than the grounds for annulment, dissolution or separation.

Generally, no trial or hearing on the merits in a suit for dissolution of marriage may be held until at least 90 days have passed from the date of the service of the Summons and Petition upon the Respondent, or the first publication of summons, with the following exceptions.
  • The court may grant a judgment for dissolution of marriage prior to the 90 day waiting period, upon written motion supported by an affidavit setting forth grounds of emergency or necessity and facts that satisfy the court that immediate action is warranted to protect the rights or interest of any party or person who might be affected by a judgment in the proceedings;
  • If the parties are co-petitioners; the Respondent is found by the court to be in default or has waived his/her further appearance; or the parties stipulate to the entry of a judgment, the court may enter a judgment of dissolution instead of having a hearing.
Domestic Partnership:

A Petition for Dissolution, Annulment or for Legal Separation of the partners in a domestic partnership or for any other proceeding related to the partners’ rights and obligations may be filed in the county where either the Petitioner or Respondent last resided.

Summary Dissolution:

Summary Dissolution
is a streamlined process for obtaining a dissolution of marriage or domestic partnership. To qualify for this process, the following requirements must be met:
  • The residency requirements are met;
  • There are no minor children born to the parties or adopted by the parties during the marriage/domestic partnership;
  • There are no children over age 18 and under 21 attending school, either born to the parties or adopted by the parties during the marriage/domestic partnership;
  • There are no minor children born to or adopted by the parties prior to the marriage/domestic partnership; and
  • Neither party is currently pregnant;
  • The couple has not been married or registered as domestic partners longer than 10 years;
  • Neither party has any interest in real property;
  • There are no unpaid obligations in excess of $15,000 incurred by either or both of the parties from the date of the marriage/domestic partnership;
  • The total aggregate fair market value of personal property assets in which either of the parties has any interest, excluding all encumbrances, is less than $30,000;
  • The Petitioner waives any right to spousal/partner support;
  • The Petitioner waives any rights to pendente lite orders (temporary orders, pending the lawsuit) except those related to family abuse prevention; and
  • The Petitioner knows of no other pending domestic relations suits involving the marriage/domestic partnership in Oregon or any other state.
A Petition for Summary Dissolution shall be filed in the circuit court, stating that as of the date of the filing each and every necessary condition has been met. The court may require a showing by appearance of affidavit of the Petitioner.

The Petitioner must serve the Respondent with a Summons and a copy of the Petition, and within 30 days after service, the Respondent shall file a written Answer with the court. If he/she fails to answer the Petition or to appear for hearing, the court may find the Respondent in default and enter a judgment of Summary Dissolution.

Spouse’s Name:

If the affected party requests it, the court shall order to change the name of either spouse to a name he/she held before the marriage.

Domestic Partnership

The state of Oregon has a strong interest in promoting stable and lasting families, including the families of same-sex couples and their children. State public policy supports that all Oregon families should be provided with the opportunity to obtain necessary legal protections and status, and the ability to achieve their fullest potential.

Oregon has established a domestic partnership system which provides legal recognition to same-sex relationships, which furthers the state’s interest in the promotion of stable and lasting families by extending benefits, protections and responsibilities to committed same-sex partners and their children that are comparable to those provided to married individuals and their children. This will help to ensure more equal treatment of gays and lesbians and their families under Oregon law.

Oregon statutes define domestic partnership as a civil contract entered into in person between two individuals of the same sex who are at least 18 years of age, who are otherwise capable and at least one of whom is a resident of Oregon. A Partner refers to an individual joined in a domestic partnership.

Any privilege, immunity, right or benefit granted by, and any responsibility imposed by, statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other law to or on an individual because the individual is or was married, or because the individual is or was an in-law in a specified way to another individual, is granted on equivalent terms, substantive and procedural, to or on an individual because the individual is or was in a domestic partnership or because the individual is or was, based on a domestic partnership, related in a specified way to another individual.

Any privilege, immunity, right, benefit or responsibility granted or imposed by statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other law to or on a spouse with respect to a child of either of the spouses is granted or imposed on equivalent terms, substantive and procedural, to or on a partner with respect to a child of either of the partners.

For purposes of administering Oregon tax laws, partners in a domestic partnership, surviving partners in a domestic partnership and the children of partners in a domestic partnership have the same privileges, immunities, rights, benefits and responsibilities as are granted to or imposed on spouses in a marriage, surviving spouses and their children.

Prohibited and Void Domestic Partnerships:

A domestic partnership is prohibited and void in the following situations:
  • Either party to the domestic partnership had a partner, wife or husband living at the time of the domestic partnership, unless the partner, wife or husband was the other party to the domestic partnership; or
  • The parties to the domestic partnership are first cousins or more closely related to each other, either by whole or by adoption, except when the parties are first cousins by adoption only.
The following are voidable domestic partnerships and may be declared void from the time it is so declared by a judgment of a court having jurisdiction over the partnership:
  • Either party to a domestic partnership was incapable of entering into the contract or consenting to it due to lack of legal age (currently 18 years), or sufficient understanding, and the marriage was not ratified afterward; or
  • Consent to the domestic partnership was obtained by force or fraud.
Entering into a Domestic Partnership:

Two individuals wishing to become partners in a domestic partnership may complete and file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the county clerk. The county clerk shall register the Declaration in a domestic partnership registry and return a copy of the registered form and a Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership to the partners.

An individual who has filed a Declaration of Domestic Partnership may not file a new Declaration or enter a marriage with someone other than his/her registered partner unless a judgment of dissolution or annulment of the most recent domestic partnership has been entered. This prohibition does not apply if the previous domestic partnership ended because one of the partners died.

Surname in a Domestic Partnership:

Upon entering into a domestic partnership, either partner may retain his/her surname prior to the domestic partnership or change it to the surname of the other partner or to a hyphenated combination of the surnames of both parties.

If a partner requests a surname change he/she may also change his/her middle name to the party’s surname prior to the domestic partnership. Each party must indicate on the Declaration of Domestic Partnership the party’s name after domestic partnership and this shall become the sole legal name of each party after domestic partnership.

Legal Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage/Domestic Partnership

Oregon is a no-fault state, with only one ground for divorce. A judgment for the dissolution of a marriage/domestic partnership or a permanent or unlimited separation may be granted when irreconcilable differences between the parties have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage/domestic partnership.

Annulment

A marriage may be declared void from the beginning for the following causes:
  • Bigamy; or
  • When the parties are first cousins or more closely related to one another, either by whole or half blood or by adoption, except when the parties are first cousins by adoption only.
    These marriages are prohibited and absolutely void.
The following are voidable marriages and a judgment for the annulment may be decreed for these reasons:
  • Either party to a marriage was incapable of entering into the contract or consenting to the marriage due to lack of legal age (currently 17 years), or sufficient understanding, and the marriage was not ratified afterward; or
  • Consent to the marriage was obtained by force or fraud.
To file for an annulment on these grounds when the couple was married in Oregon, either party must be a resident of or be domiciled in the state at the time the suit is filed. If they were not married in Oregon, or the suit is based on other grounds, one of the parties must be a resident or be domiciled in the state when the suit is filed and for six months prior.

Property Division

In dividing, or other disposition between the parties of the real and/or personal property, and in fixing the amount and duration of the contribution one party is to make to the support of the other, the court shall not consider the fault, if any, of either of the parties in causing grounds for the annulment or dissolution of the marriage or for separation.

Oregon is an equitable distribution state. The division of the marital property shall be made as is just and proper in all the circumstances. A retirement plan or pension, or an interest in them is considered part of marital property.

The court shall consider the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker as a contribution to the acquisition of marital assets. The presumption shall be that both spouses have contributed equally to the acquisition of property during the marriage, whether it is held jointly or separately.

If a spouse has been awarded spousal support in lieu of a share of property, the court will order the paying spouse to provide for and maintain life insurance in an amount equal to the obligation, designating the receiving spouse as beneficiary for the duration of the obligation.

Spousal Maintenance and Support

In making a spousal support order, the court shall designate one or more categories of spousal support and shall make findings of the relevant factors in the decision.

Transitional Spousal Support – for spouses who need to attain education and training to allow him/her to prepare for reentry into the job market or for advancement in their career. The court considers the following factors in awarding transitional support:
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The spouse’s training and employment skills;
  • The spouse’s work experience;
  • The financial needs and resources of each spouse;
  • The tax consequences to each spouse;
  • The spouse’s custodial and child support responsibilities; and
  • Any other factors the court deems just and equitable.
Compensatory Spousal Support – for a spouse who has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning capacity of the other spouse. The court considers the following factors in awarding compensatory support:
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The relative earning capacity of the parties;
  • The extent to which the marital estate has already benefited from the contribution;
  • The tax consequences to each party; and
  • Any other factors the court deems just and equitable.
Spousal Maintenance - as a contribution by one spouse to the support of the other for either a specified or an indefinite period. The court considers the following factors in awarding spousal maintenance:
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The age of the spouses;
  • The health of the spouses, including their physical, mental and emotional condition;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The relative income and earning capacity of the spouses, recognizing that the wage earner’s continuing income may be a basis for support distinct from the income that the supported spouse may receive from the distribution of marital property;
  • The spouse’s training and employment skills;
  • The spouse’s work experience;
  • The financial needs and resources of each spouse;
  • The tax consequences to each spouse;
  • The spouse’s custodial and child support responsibilities; and
  • Any other factors the court deems just and equitable.

Child Custody and Support

Custody:

Whenever the court renders a judgment of marital annulment, dissolution or separation, the court may provide in the judgment for the future care and custody, by one party or jointly, of all minor children of the parties born, adopted or conceived during the marriage and for minor children born to the parties prior to the marriage, as the court may deem just and proper.

The court may hold a hearing to decide the custody issue prior to any other issues. When appropriate, the court shall recognize the value of close contact with both parents and encourage joint parental custody and joint responsibility for the welfare of the children.

Oregon’s policy regarding parenting includes the following:
  • Assuring minor children of frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interests of the child;
  • Encouraging the parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of raising their children after they have separated or dissolved their marriage;
  • Encouraging parents to develop their own parenting plan, with the help of legal and mediation professionals, if necessary;
  • Granting parents and courts the widest discretion in developing a parenting plan; and
  • Considering the best interests of the child and the safety of the parties in developing a parenting plan.
In any proceeding to establish a judgment providing for parenting time with a child, a parenting plan shall be developed and filed with the court, to be included in the judgment. This plan may be either general or detailed.

A general parenting plan may include a general outline of how parental responsibilities and parenting time will be shared and may allow the parents to develop a more detailed agreement on an informal basis. It must set forth the minimum amount of parenting time and access a non-custodial parent is entitled to have.

A detailed parenting plan may include provisions relating to some of the following topics:
  • Residential schedule;
  • Holiday, birthday and vacation planning;
  • Weekends, including holidays, and school in-service days preceding or following weekends;
  • Decision-making and responsibility;
  • Information sharing and access;
  • Relocation of parents;
  • Telephone access;
  • Transportation; and
  • Methods for resolving disputes.
If either parent requests it, or if the parents are unable to develop a parenting plan the court shall develop a detailed parenting plan for them. In developing the plan, the court will consider only the best interests of the child and the safety of the parties, and will try to ensure the noncustodial parent sufficient access to the child to provide for appropriate quality parenting time. The court may deny parenting time to the non-custodial parent only is it finds that parenting time would endanger the health or safety of the child.

In determining the custody of a minor child, the court shall give primary consideration to the best interests and welfare of the child. When determining the best interests and welfare of the child, the court shall consider the following relevant factors:
  • The emotional ties between the child and other family members;
  • The interest of the parties in and attitude toward the child;
  • The desirability of continuing an existing relationship;
  • The abuse of one parent by the other;
  • The preference for the primary caregiver of the child, if the caregiver is deemed fit by the court; and
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child. However, the court may not consider such willingness and ability if one parent shows that the other parent has sexually assaulted or engaged in a pattern of behavior of abuse against the parent or a child and that a continuing relationship with the other parent will endanger the health or safety of either parent or the child.
In determining custody of a minor child, the court shall consider the conduct, marital status, income, social environment or lifestyle of either party only if it is shown that any of these factors are causing or may cause emotional or physical damage to the child.

No preference will be given to a mother over a father for the sole reason that she is the mother, or given to the father over the mother solely because he is the father.

Support:

In ordering child support, a statutory formula will apply, which is established by the Division of Child Support of the Department of Justice. In establishing the formula, the Division shall consider the following criteria:
  • All earnings, income and resources of each parent, including real and personal property;
  • The earnings history and potential of each parent;
  • The reasonable necessities of each parent;
  • The ability of each parent to borrow;
  • The educational, physical and emotional needs of the child for whom the support is sought;
  • The amount of assistance that would be paid to the child under the full standard of need of the state’s IV-A plan;
  • Preexisting support orders and current dependents; and
  • Other reasonable criteria that the division may find to be appropriate.
Oregon uses the Income Shares Model for calculating child support.

The court may require an accounting from the custodial parent regarding the use of the money received as child support, at any time. The court is not required to order support for any minor child who has become self-supporting, emancipated or married or who no longer attends school after reaching 18 years of age.

An order or judgment providing for the custody, parenting time, visitation or support of a child shall include provisions addressing the following issues:
  • Payment of uninsured medical expenses of the child;
  • Maintenance of insurance or other security for support; and
  • Medical support for the child.

Legal Separation

To file for separation, one of the parties must be a resident of or be domiciled in Oregon at the time of filing.

A judgment for separation may be granted when the following conditions are met:
  • Irreconcilable differences between the parties have caused a temporary or unlimited breakdown of the marriage;
  • The parties make and file an agreement with the court which suspends the couple’s obligation to live together as husband and wife for a period not less than one year, and the court finds the agreement to be just and equitable; or
  • Irreconcilable differences exist between the parties and the continuation of their status as married persons preserves or protects legal, financial, social or religious interest.
A judgment of separation shall state the duration of the separation.

The court may convert a judgment of separation to a judgment of dissolution of marriage within two years after the separation judgment.

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