Filing for divorce sounds like a harrowing, dramatic undertaking. Most people think of ending a marriage as a long, drawn-out process full of courtroom appearances and custody battles. Though it certainly can resemble a movie or TV show, that isn’t always the case. On a basic level, however, how to file for divorce in Oregon isn’t nearly as complicated as many assume.
There’s a definite process to follow, but in reality, the steps to divorce are pretty easy and direct. It’s when people get involved where things often get messy and contentious. From a mechanical standpoint, the progression makes sense. But it never hurts to be aware of what you’re getting into ahead of time, so here’s what you need to know to file for divorce in Oregon.
Fill Out The Divorce Forms
The underlying reasons behind ending your marriage are likely complicated and painful. After all, most people don’t file for divorce when everything is going great. But as intricate as the motivation is, the first actual step to divorce is relatively easy. All you have to do is fill out a few divorce forms and the process is underway.
Five pages long, the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage is where you lay out all the pertinent facts about the case. This includes your name and contact information, as well as that of your spouse. You can request spousal support and you need to simply state that property and debt should be divided in an equitable manner. Oregon is a no-fault divorce state, so there’s no need or space to assign blame for the end of the marriage.
If the case involves children, the filing party—also known as the petitioner—must fill out a different form. Here’s where you deal with everything from listing the names and ages of the kids to requesting custody, child support, visitation, and more. However, it’s not necessary to outline any details. As it requires more information, this version is significantly longer, ten pages instead of five.
File The Divorce Forms
When you finish filling out the divorce forms, what’s the next step? Submitting them to the appropriate court, of course. In order to file for divorce in Oregon, you must meet the state’s residency requirement, which means you must live within its borders for a minimum of six months. If you married in the state and one spouse still lives there, you can also file for divorce in Oregon. However, the petitioning spouse must submit a certificate of residency confirming one of you still lives there.
When it comes to which county to submit to, you have two choices. You can file for divorce in the county in which you reside, or you can opt for the county where your spouse lives if they’re different. There’s no need to file in the county where you initially married.
When you file for divorce in Oregon, there will, of course, be fees. Make sure to pay those.
Serve Your Spouse
You also need to make a copy of the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage, because the next step to divorce is to serve your spouse. This is where you present the divorce papers to your soon-to-be-ex and declare your intention to end the marriage.
Unfortunately, you can’t just hand the forms over to your spouse yourself. Delivery is most often accomplished by hiring an outside process server and paying a fee to have this third party transport the papers.
In Oregon, it’s possible to avoid serving your spouse in the traditional sense. You can file as co-petitioners. In that case, there’s no need. The non-filing spouse can sign an Acceptance of Service form. This states that the papers were received. After service, it’s the responsibility of the petitioner to submit the signed acceptance to the court. The case can’t move forward until your spouse has all the paperwork in-hand.
Just like there is the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage, there is also a Response to the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage. If the person served—also known as the respondent—doesn’t agree with all of the requests on the Petition, that individual then files a response. This document lists all of the objections and any counter requests. As with the earlier form, there’s also one for cases with children and one for those without.
In Oregon, the courts require both parties to hand over complete financial disclosures. This means each must provide a comprehensive list of all assets, as well as all debts. Failure to follow these rules may result in substantial fines and other monetary penalties.
When it comes to the division of property, Oregon is an equitable distribution state. Where community property states view all assets and debts accumulated during a marriage as the equal property of both spouses, equitable distribution considers it as belonging to one or the other. No specific formula for divvying up property exists, but the court does its best to split any shared assets or obligations in a fair and equitable fashion.
Sign And File Final Documents
It’s after submitting the paperwork and serving your spouse where things get messy when you file for divorce in Oregon. By this point, you’ve actually accomplished filing for divorce, which is really just the start. Now you have to go through the divorce process.
In the case of uncontested divorces, things can and often do progress smoothly. Under ideal circumstances, when both sides agree on the issues, it may involve nothing more than signing and filing a handful of forms.
And signing and filing the final documents is precisely what it sounds like. There are forms to fill out regarding the division of property, child custody, child support, spousal support, visitation, and whatever other specifics your case involves. Once both sides reach a final agreement, the court examines the paperwork. If everything is in order, the judge signs off and your divorce becomes official.
When your spouse contests the divorce, that’s where things become more difficult. As friction increases, so do the complications. You may have to sit down and go through mediation or arbitration to reach an agreement. And if neither of those strategies work, you may be destined to go to trial and the court will decide for you.
All of these additional hurdles add time, stress, and money to the divorce process. Especially if things get heated and contentious, you may want to retain counsel. An experienced divorce attorney guides you through the legal system towards an optimal outcome.
If you have questions about how to file for divorce in Oregon, feel free to contact Goldberg Jones at our Portland office.