Facts to know about Divorce in Oregon
Grounds for divorce
A long time ago, you used to have to show that there was a reason, such as infidelity, to get a divorce in Oregon. That is no longer the case. Oregon is what is known as a “no fault state”, which means that you can get divorced for any reason. You don’t need any specific grounds for divorce, other than you don’t want to be married to your spouse.
Eligibility for divorce in Oregon
Eligibility for divorce in Oregon is a 6 month residency requirement. If one or both spouses have resided in the state for at least 6 months you’re eligible for a divorce.
There are ways to get a divorce case going even if you don’t meet the residency requirements. You can file for a legal separation before a spouse has residency and that case can be converted to a dissolution later, once the 6 month threshold has been met. Chances are the case will take long enough that you will become eligible by the time you get to the end of that case.
Marriage law has undergone a lot of changes in the past decade, especially with the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same sex marriages. In a lot of states, including Oregon, it used to be that same sex couples had to get a domestic partnership instead of getting married. The benefits of the domestic partnerships and marriage are essentially the same, but now that marriage is available to everybody, we don’t see many domestic partnerships anymore.
However, there are two kinds of domestic partnerships that do still exist. One is a “registered domestic partnership” which is what same sex partners were doing before marriage was legal for them. The other type of domestic partnership that still exists is an “unregistered domestic partnership”.
Unregistered domestic partnerships are very similar to what people might understand as a “common law marriage”. There is no common law marriage in Oregon. Instead, we have an “unregistered domestic partnership”. This situation comes up when you have two people who have lived together for a long time and have co-mingled their assets, but they never got married. When they split up, it might be unfair for one person to keep all the assets just because the assets happened to be titled in one spouse’s name. The other spouse can sue for whats called dissolution of an unregistered domestic partnership and ask the court to divide the assets fairly.
Mediation in divorce
In almost all domestic relations cases, mediation is required to some extent. That varies from county to county. In Multnomah county, the court is going to require the parties to participate in mediation before they can get in front of a judge, in any domestic relations case. In fact, Multnomah county has an entire department dedicated to mediation and its free in many situations.
In most cases parties go to mediation without their lawyers. The mediation department folks can be sensitive to domestic violence concerns or make arrangements if it’s too unpleasant for the spouses to be in the same room together. For example, they can put the parties in separate rooms. Additionally, if one spouse lives far away, they can arrange for phone mediation. In any event, mandatory mediation is the reality of most domestic relations cases in Multnomah County.
Other counties less so. Some counties only require mediation when there is a child custody or parenting time dispute. These parties will meet with the mediator to try to figure out a parenting plan, including a custody arrangement. That again is often done without lawyers.
Mediation consists of meeting with an attorney or sometimes a retired judge with experience in helping people resolve disputes before they get to court. This person is supposed to be completely neutral and try to explain how divorce law works to both parties so they understand what might happen if they go to court. They are not supposed to pressure either party into doing something that they don’t want to do. A mediator will explain the risks and benefits of going to trial compared to a settlement. Hopefully in doing so, this will help the parties to find some common ground and resolve some, if not all of the issues that need to be resolved in a divorce case.
This is, by no means, a comprehensive list, nor is it intended to be. Divorce in Oregon can be very complex, and each case is unique. If you’re contemplating divorce, a top Portland divorce attorney, like Henry LeSueur, can help you understand the process, your rights, and how to protect yourself so you can make good decisions about your future.