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Legal Separation in Oregon
While the decision to divorce is clear-cut for some people, the complexity of emotional, financial and parenting needs associated with a marriage motivates some spouses to consider other, non-divorce options to restructure their marriage. These may include a trial physical separation (moving out), separating finances while continuing to cohabitate, and the most comprehensive alternative, legal separation.
The Similarities of Divorce and Legal Separation
Before looking at the differences, let’s consider the similarities between legal separation and divorce. Most notably, the steps you go through, the decisions you need to make, and the overall expense of legal separation in Oregon is practically the same as a divorce in Oregon. As with divorce, spouses going through a legal separation develop a legally binding settlement agreement regarding custody, child and spousal support, division of property, asset and debt distribution, and retirement accounts. The challenge and impacts of these decisions usually necessitate that the spouses obtain support from a divorce mediator or family law attorneys, and spouses have the same options as they would in a standard divorce.
Why Obtain a Legal Separation?
The reasons people may elect a legal separation over a divorce are related to the primary difference; with a legal separation you are still married. The main reasons are:
Legal Separation vs. Divorce in Oregon
A legal separation in Oregon is different than a divorce in that many of the terms of the separation are considered temporary, a bit more like a working agreement until later modification. What may not be considered temporary, depending on the terms, are the core property, asset/debt and retirement distribution agreements. In Oregon, you can easily convert your legal separation into a legal divorce (dissolution of marriage), thereby making all the terms of your legal separation final, within two years of the legal separation simply by filing a form (and incurring no additional fees.)
If it has been more than two years since your legal separation and you want to alter your legal separation agreement or file for divorce, you will need to file anew with the court (and pay the filing fees).
And the Decision Is . . .
After learning that the process and costs for a legal separation in Oregon are the same as a divorce, and evaluating the actual financial benefits of remaining legally married, many of my clients over the years who were considering legal separation have ended up making the decision to get a divorce. In the words of one client who wrestled with this decision, “We can still work on our relationship, go on dates and go to counseling or even move back in together if we are no longer married.” By clarifying the similarities and differences between divorce and legal separation in Oregon, I hope you are better able to choose which path is right for you.
In determining the amount of alimony, the Oregon court considers the duration of the marriage, the recipient's education, current skills and previous employment experience, the financial needs and resources available for each party, the tax consequences of paying or receiving alimony, and the financial responsibility for children. The court may consider other factors deemed relevant to make a ruling on support that it considers just and equitable.
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