How a Divorce Works
A divorce in Oregon begins in one of two ways:
- One spouse files the case as a sole petitioner, or
- The two spouses file as co-petitioners.
FILING AS SOLE PETITIONER
A sole petitioner can file for divorce in Oregon without the knowledge
or consent of his/her spouse. A sole petitioner files a petition for dissolution
and the spouse is served with the divorce papers (a summons and petition).
The spouse (the respondent) must file a response within 30 days. The respondent
states in the response whether he or she contests (disputes) the relief
requested in the petition. A sole petitioner and respondent typically
each have their own family law attorney.
FILING AS CO-PETITIONERS, A.K.A. UNCONTESTED DIVORCE
Spouses are entitled to file as co-petitioners in Oregon when they can
agree to all matters that the divorce court will otherwise decide (such
as property division and child custody). These spouses file their petition
jointly. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses sometimes file without
an attorney. There are considerable risks involved in filing for divorce
without consulting a family law attorney, so this is not recommended.
Some couples choose to go to mediation to try and resolve their cases
amicably. While this is a good option for some, it is still advisable
to consult with an Oregon divorce attorney.
Grounds for Divorce
WHAT DOES “NO FAULT DIVORCE” MEAN?
Oregon is one of many states in the U.S. that employs a “no fault”
divorce model. This means that the particular reasons why you are getting
divorced do not matter to the court. The Oregon family law court’s
only requirements for granting you a divorce are that you and your spouse
have “irreconcilable differences,” and one or both of you
no longer wants to be married.
DOES THE COURT EVER CONSIDER SPOUSAL MISCONDUCT?
Generally, the Oregon family law court will not consider any spousal misconduct
(such as infidelity, dishonesty, emotional disengagement or over-spending)
when dividing your assets and debts.
However, if you have minor children, the Oregon courts will sometimes consider
spousal misconduct when determining the custody and parenting plan for
your children. Spousal misconduct is only considered if it may endanger
your children or impact their health, safety or welfare. A spouse’s
current drug or alcohol abuse, history of domestic violence, mental illness
or child neglect are all examples of spousal misconduct that may be relevant
to the court when it decides parenting issues. If your marriage involves
any issues like this, it is essential that your divorce attorney have
experience in contested child custody and parenting plan cases to make
sure your children’s interests are well protected.
It is also possible, although rare, for an Oregon court to consider “economic”
spousal misconduct (such as extreme overspending or hiding assets) when
awarding spousal support or dividing property.
CAN I HAVE MY MARRIAGE ANNULLED?
You can have your marriage annulled (declared invalid) by an Oregon court
under only a few specific circumstances:
- If you meet the Oregon residency requirements;
- If either spouse was under age 17 at the time of marriage;
- If either spouse, at the time of marriage, did not have the capacity to
understand the marriage contract (usually because of mental illness or
- If a spouse consented to marriage but that consent was given as a result
of force (they were threatened) or fraud (they were lied to);
- If either spouse was already legally married to someone else at the time
you were married; or
- If you and your spouse are related to each other, first cousins (except
by adoption) or nearer relations.
annulment is an alternative to divorce. It is not a form of divorce. Divorce ends
a marriage, while annulment sets aside the marriage as if it had never occurred.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce?
In Oregon, on average, it may take between six and 12 months from the date
your divorce case is filed until your divorce is final.
However, there is no “typical” divorce. The amount of time
your divorce will take depends on the particular facts of your case, including
whether you have children, whether your assets require expert financial
evaluation and whether or not one or more court hearings are required.
Generally, contested divorces take longer than uncontested divorces in
Oregon. Divorces where custody is disputed take longer than cases where
custody or parenting plan issues are not disputed. The court’s own
schedule (for instance, whether other cases are in trial or whether judges
are on vacation) may also impact how long it takes to get a divorce. Your
attorney can give you an idea of how long your particular divorce case
will take in Oregon.
Alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and arbitration,
can often be quicker than the traditional divorce settlement process or
litigation, but not always. Again, it depends on the complexity of your
case and many different factors.