Divorce, Separation, and Annulment
This web page provides general legal information in summary form. The information is not a complete explanation of the law in this area, and it is not intended to substitute for legal advice. The law in this area may change, and the changes may not be noted here. Contact a lawyer for legal advice.
A divorce legally ends a marriage or a Registered Domestic Partnership (RDP). In Oregon divorce is called "dissolution of marriage." A dissolution of marriage or a RDP is started when one spouse or partner files a petition for dissolution. The spouse or partner who files the petition is called the petitioner. The other spouse or partner is called the respondent. Both parties can file a joint petition, in which case they are co-petitioners.
If there are children involved, the petitioner also must file a certificate regarding pending child support proceedings and existing support orders and a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) declaration. The UCCJEA declaration must list any pending custody or parenting time proceedings and where the children have lived for the last five years. This information can be included in the petition or filed as a separate document. Other documents may be required during the case if Respondent files a response.
Note: The laws about dissolving same-sex marriages and/or partnerships are rapidly changing and there may be changes in the near future to forms and procedures. If you are seeking information about this area of law, check the website for updates and speak to a lawyer.
In almost all cases, either you or your spouse or partner must have lived in Oregon for six months before filing the dissolution. You must file in a county where you or your spouse or partner currently lives. If only one spouse or partner lives in Oregon, the Oregon court can dissolve the marriage, but may not be able to order the non-resident party to pay money or to divide his or her property.
Note: If you are filing a dissolution of a registered domestic partnership (RDP), you must file in a county where either you or your partner lives. If neither you or your parner still live in Oregon, but your RDP was registered here, you can file in the county in Oregon where either of you last lived.
You and your spouse or partner can file for divorce together. This is called co-petitioning. If you are co-petitioners, you and your spouse must agree to all terms and conditions in the divorce and both sign the paperwork before it is sumbitted to the court.
If the parties are not co-petitioners, after the petition is filed, the petitioner must arrange for the respondent to be "served" with a copy of the petition and other court papers and information. This means that the respondent is given a copy of the petition that was filed with the court and a summons. The respondent can agree to sign an "Acceptance of Service" that says he or she has received the petition. Otherwise, the sheriff or another adult who meets the legal requirements must give the respondent copies of the papers. If the petitioner, or the sheriff, or process server cannot find the respondent, the petitioner may ask the court to allow the respondent to be served by publishing a notice in a newspaper or posting at the courthouse or another means of alternate service.
Oregon law gives a respondent 30 days after service or the petition to file a response with the court. If the respondent does not file a response, the petitioner may be granted everything he or she asked for in the petition. If the respondent files a response the court may set the case for trial, mediation, or a settlement conference. This can depend on the court's procedures.
Oregon is a "no-fault" divorce state. This means that a spouse or partner who is asking for the divorce does not have to prove the other spouse or partner did something wrong. The only reason needed for dissolution of marriage is that the spouses or partners cannot get along and there is no way to fix the problems. The law call this "irreconcilable diferences that have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage." A spouse or partner does not need permission or participation of the other spouse or partner to divorce.
A judgment of dissolution of marriage or RDP, signed by a judge, is the final document that ends a marriage or partnership. It is effective immediately. The judgment will include all of the judge's rulings and may state:
That the marriage or partnership is over;
Which parent gets custody of the children;
The parents' parenting time;
Which parent pays child support, how much and when;
Which parent provides or pays for health insurance for the children;
How the bills will be divide;
How property, including retirement benefits and a home, will be divided;
Whether one spouse or partner will pay spousal support (alimony) to the other;
That a party's former name will be restored; and
How the court costs and fees will be divided.
Oregon law creates a summary dissolution proceeding for people with simple dissolution cases. If a couple meets the requirements for summary dissolution, they may pick up forms at the courthouse or access them online.
Self-help forms for more complex dissolutions also are available. Many Oregon counties have family court facilitators available at the courthouse to help explain the different types of forms. Facilitators are not practicing lawyers and cannot give legal advice.
The court charges a fee for filing dissolution petitions and responses. There are additional fees for service, settlement conferences, and trial. A party to a case may ask for a fee waiver or deferral if they cannot afford to pay the court or service fees.
Lawyers usually charge money to represent a person in a dissolution case. The more complicated the dissolution, the more the lawyer fees will be. Lawyers will explain their fees and billing procedurese to clients. You may call the Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service for help finding a lawyer who offeres payment plans. The number to call is (503) 684-3763 from the Portland area, or (800) 452-7636 from elsewhere in Oregon. An online referral request form also is available at www.osbar.org/public.
The length of time it takes to get a judgment of dissolution depends on the complexity of the case and the court's timelines. A dissolution case moves quickly if the parties file as co-petitioners and agree on everything before they file. If a judge has to make decisions, the case will take longer.
The respondent has 30 days after being served to file a response. A party may have 10 to 30 days to file a response to a request for temporary orders (this time period depends on local court rules).
Each court may have additional timelines for mediation, parenting classes, and other requirements. You should check local court rules for these requirements.
A judgment of separation may be issued when irreconcilable differences between the parties have caused the temporary or unlimited breakdown of the marriage. The main difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that spouses are still married after a legal sparation. Like a divorce, a legal separation judgment can establish custody, parenting time, and child support. The judgment can also divide property and debts and establish spousal or partner support. The court costs, timelines, and requirements for mediation and parenting classes are generally the same as with a divorce.
A legal separation may be for a limited or unlimited duration of time. You cannot marry someone else if you are legally separated and not yet divorced. A legal separation proceeding may be changed to a divorce proceeding at a later date. A legal separation judgment can also be vacated (set aside so it is no longer in effect).
A spouse may be able to stay on the other spouse's insurance policy.
The parties may have moral or religious objections to divorce.
Neither party has lived in Oregon for six months.
The parties don't want a divorce, but want a court order to divide property and debts, establish support, or a parenting plan.
An annulment is a voiding of the marriage or registered domestic partnership. If you get a judgment for an annulment your marital status will return to "unmarried," and it will be as if legally you were never married. You can only annul your marriage if your marriage qualifies as either a void or voidable marriage.
A marriage that has been annulled for one of these reasons is void as of the time the judgment is signed. In a few cases, such as when a party to a marriage was married to someone else at the time of the marriage, the marriage is treated as if it never happened. For more information, visit OregonLawHelp.org.
A void marriage is one which the court does not recognize to have ever existed. For example, a marriage is void if either party had a living spouse at the time the parties were married, or if the parties are first cousins or more closely related.
A voidable marriage is when a party was incapable of entering into or consenting to marriage. This may be because he or she was not of legal age, lacked sufficient understanding, or a party's consent to the marriage was obtained by force or fraud.
A “divorce” means the same thing as “dissolution.” Regardless of whether the court is dissolving a marriage or a domestic partnership, the term “dissolution” is used to accomplish this goal.
A divorce case has a filing fee. The facilitator or clerk can provide you with a fee schedule. If you can’t afford the fee, you may ask the court to waive or defer the cost. You can get an Application for Waiver or Deferral of Fees from the facilitator, the court clerk, or by downloading one from the court’s website.
If the parties are in agreement with everything it can be a month or less. If there are children involved it often can be as fast as it takes you to complete the required Parent Education class so long as you both agree. Many co-petition cases can be completed in one day. Most commonly it takes one to three months but if you cannot agree, it could take up to a year.
You can still file for a dissolution even if you don’t know where your spouse or partner is. After filing the dissolution petition you must make a reasonable effort to find your spouse or partner to have him or her served with dissolution papers using one of the standard methods of service. If you are unable to successfully find and serve your spouse or partner, you may ask a judge’s permission to use an alternative method of service, most commonly, publishing the summons in the newspaper. You must pay the newspaper to do this which can be very expensive.
It does not generally matter who is the first to file dissolution papers. The court does not give any preference to the first person to file (the petitioner), or any disadvantage to the person who is the respondent. The filing fees are the same for both the petitioner and the respondent. Both parties can ask for temporary relief while the case is pending.
In almost all cases, either you or your spouse or partner must have lived in Oregon for six months before filing the dissolution. You must file in a county where you or your spouse or partner currently lives. If you are filing a dissolution of a registered domestic partnership (RDP), you must file in a county where either you or your partner lives. If neither of you live in Oregon but your RDP was registered here, you can file in the county in Oregon where either of you last lived.
There are many reasons the court might reject your paperwork. If this happens, you may want to contact the Family Facilitation Program at your court or a lawyer for assistance. Some of the most common reasons are as follows:
You are missing a required form. You forgot or missed a signature. Your forms are incomplete. The respondent wasn't served properly. Child support was ordered in the judgment and you didn't attach child support worksheets. The Judgment includes property, debts, or other issues that were not listed in your Petition.
Oregon is called a “no fault” state. This means the spouse or partner who is asking for dissolution does not have to prove the other spouse or partner did something wrong. The only reason needed for dissolution is that the spouses/partners cannot get along and there is no way to fix the problems. The law calls this “irreconcilable differences that have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage” and is the typical basis for the dissolution.
Oregon law requires both Petitioner and Respondent to obey a restraining order preventing either party from dissipating (selling, destroying, removing, disposing of) real or personal property, making unilateral (without agreement of the other party) changes to insurance policies, and making extraordinary expenditures. Expenditures that are necessary for the safety or welfare of the children or the parties are not prohibited. By filing the petition, the petitioner agrees to be bound by the terms of the order. The order is effective on both the petitioner and respondent once notice has been served on the respondent.
You may qualify for a Family Abuse Prevention Act restraining order. This order is designed to protect you and your child from future abuse. In order to qualify for an order you must have cohabited with the person at some point in the last two years and you must have been abused by the person within the last 180 days. Even if you don’t qualify for restraining order, but have been a victim of abuse, it is important that you think about an adequate safety plan to protect yourself and your children throughout the dissolution process. There are resources available for you to devise a safety plan in your community: Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence
In Oregon, it is not necessary for both spouses or domestic partners to agree to the dissolution. Either spouse or domestic partner can decide to end the marriage or partnership. It is not necessary for the other spouse or partner to agree or “give you” a dissolution. The spouse or partner who does not want to get a dissolution cannot stop the process by refusing to participate in the case. He or she does not have to sign anything to agree to the dissolution. If your spouse or domestic partner does not participate in the dissolution case, you will still be able to get a default judgment and the dissolution will go through.
Once the other spouse or partner has been served, he or she has 30 days to file an appearance (this means filing a document called a response or an answer). If he or she fails to file, you can take a "default" against him or her, which means a judge can grant what you requested in your petition. This doesn’t happen automatically. You must prepare paperwork for a judge to sign. A Default Judgment is then entered against the other party.
Whether or not spousal/partner support is appropriate in your case is determined by a number of factors that the court takes into consideration, such as length of marriage or partnership, income of the parties, health of the parties, age, lifestyle etc. Spousal/partner support may be transitional, compensatory, or maintenance support. Spousal/partner support is not appropriate in every case and the court has discretion in determining, if appropriate, the amount and for how long such support would be paid.
You can take back a former name if you ask for it in the dissolution. You cannot change your name to a name you have never used before. A husband may not change the name of thier spouse back to maiden of their spouse name. The spouse must ask for this themself which can be done by stipulation in the final judgment.
There are several follow up pieces you might consider after your dissolution. Such as, if your dissolution involved changing property titles such as automobiles, boats, trailers, etc. you should contact DMV to arrange a transfer of title. If you changed your name you will need to contact Oregon DMV, the social security administration, and any other government agencies which have your name. You may need to fill out change of address forms at the post office and file your new address with the Internal Revenue Service.
Is it appropriate to notify your child’s school and medical providers of the change of custody? Did your dissolution divide retirement accounts or pension plans that must be accomplished by filing a QDRO?
A judgment of separation may be issued when irreconcilable differences between the parties have caused the temporary or unlimited breakdown of the marriage. The main difference between a legal separation and a dissolution is that spouses/partners are still married after a legal separation. Some reasons people may choose separation instead of dissolution are that a spouse or partner may be able to stay on the other spouse’s/partner’s insurance policy of the parties but this may vary depending on the insurance provider. Some parties may have moral objections to dissolution. Sometimes it is simply an issue that neither party has lived in Oregon for six months which is required for dissolution cases. It is possible to establish custody, divide assets and obtain a support order with a legal separation. A legal separation proceeding may be changed “converted” to a dissolution proceeding at a later date.
Annulment is a unique way of ending a marriage. A lawyer can help you find out if you can get an annulment. Court costs for an annulment are about the same as for a dissolution.
A marriage may be annulled when a party was incapable of entering into or consenting to marriage because he or she was not of legal age or lacked sufficient understanding or a party’s consent to the marriage was obtained by force or fraud. A marriage that has been annulled for one of these reasons is void as of the time the judgment is signed and is treated as if it never happened.