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Oregon Divorce Process
Preparing the Divorce Papers
In Oregon the petitioner chooses from one of two types of dissolution, depending on the complexity of the on the case.
When a marriage or domestic partnership contains limited issues, a party can file for a Summary Divorce, which ends the union without the cost and delay of a court hearing. To qualify for summary dissolution, which the couple may seek jointly, the parties must:
For a summary action, the petitioner must file Instructions, Petition for Summary Dissolution, Summons, Acceptance of Service (if the spouse waives service), Declaration of Service, and Record of Dissolution of Marriage, Annulment, or Registered Domestic Partnership.
When a childless couple cannot avail themselves of a summary action, Oregon requires the filing of the following: Instructions, Petition, Petitioner's Affidavit Supporting Judgment of Dissolution, General Judgment of Dissolution and Money Award, Summons: Domestic Relations Suit, Acknowledgment, Affidavit of Service, Acceptance of Service, and Record of Dissolution of Marriage, Annulment, or Registered Domestic Partnership.
If the couple have biological or adopted minor children together, the following forms, additional to the standard dissolution forms, must be filed: Supplement to Petition, Certificate re: Pending Child support Proceedings and/or Existing Child Support Orders/Judgments, Petitioner's Certificate of Mailing to DCS (Division of Child Support), Record of Dissolution of Marriage, Annulment, or Registered Domestic Partnership.
Filing the Paperwork with the Court
The completed forms must be filed with the clerk of Circuit Court of the county where the petitioner or the respondent lives.
Serving the Documents
Unless the spouses file as co-petitioners, the petitioner must serve the respondent with copies of the divorce papers. Oregon allows the non-filing spouse to waive the service of process requirement by signing an Acceptance of Service form. As its name suggests, this form simply states that the Respondent received the documents. The petitioner returns the signed acceptance with the court. The respondent must file a response within 30 days after being served.
If the spouse refuses to sign the acceptance form, the petitioner achieves service by hiring a private process server or paying a fee for the sheriff to deliver the papers. When the respondent cannot be found, the court also allows parties to perform service by publication.
Disclosing Financial Information
Both parties in an Oregon divorce make a complete disclosure of all their assets and debts. Failure to cooperate with state disclosure rules can cause the court to assess fines. The court might also require the non-complying party to pay the other side's attorney's fees.
After the respondent files an appearance, the spouses exchange financial information in a legal process called "discovery." Fair settlements and court orders are only possible when each spouse has the same information and financial details are not hidden. Examples of information that they must exchange include tax returns, wage & income records, credit card balances, automobile titles, pension and retirement plans, investment information, bank accounts, and the like. The court could require spouses who do not properly exchange information to pay the other spouse's legal fees.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
If the respondent fails to appear after being served, the case is decided by default, which means it is decided in the absence of the respondent spouse. A judge signs final documents submitted by the petitioner and both sides are bound by the signed Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
If the respondent files an appearance, however, and if either spouse contests any matters (such as custody, visitation, support, alimony, property, or debts), the wait for a hearing date (trial) can be long. Many cases require temporary relief during this time, such as orders for temporary child support or alimony, protective orders concerning children, orders for use or preservation of assets, orders compelling mortgage payments or restricting additions to joint debts, and certain other "status quo" orders. After a brief hearing, the court may enter temporary orders, which usually remain in effect until they are modified or until the final judgment for dissolution of marriage is entered.
If either partner disputes custody or visitation, the court may order the parties to mediation and/or for evaluation by custody experts (some counties have social workers on staff or a Family Court Service for this purpose). The parents may also seek evaluation of the children and of each other by their own partisan experts. They may also hire experts to appraise property and businesses. The judge has discretion whether or not to interview the children in camera (in chambers), and will hold hearings or a trial at which both parties present testimony and other evidence.
Pretrial settlement conferences with a judge are becoming more common. The few cases that do not settle go to trial (usually before a different judge), and all rules of procedure and evidence applicable in any civil lawsuit will be applied.
Finalizing the Divorce
The divorce case ends in Oregon when the judge signs a judgment of dissolution of marriage, and the marriage relationship is legally terminated
The length of time it will take to get a divorce depends mostly on the complexity of the case. If a party files for temporary orders, such as custody and child support, or if the spouses dispute the issues in the divorce, they may need to have court hearings. Court timelines can affect how long it takes to get the final divorce judgment.
Oregon Courts decide child custody when the parents cannot. The court considers the best interests of the child when making a ruling. Child support payments are based on an income shares model. Each parent is required to contribute financially to their child's upbringing and each person's share is calculated in proportion to their income. Each parent must provide copies of his or her W-2s to verify income. Along with the income statements, the court considers each parent's ability to borrow funds, earning capacity, and the child's needs. The court may order the parent paying child support to buy a life insurance policy and keep it in force so that the child will still be supported if the parent dies before he or she reaches the age of majority.
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