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 physical disability);
- 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.
In Oregon, 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.