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Oregon Domestic Partnership
Rights in Cohabitation & Domestic Partnerships
If you have lived with someone intimately for a substantial period of time, you may have rights which can be enforced in a court of law. In a divorce of a married couple, the division of assets and debts is presumed to be equal. In a domestic partnership, the court tries to divide assets and debts based on the intent of the two people involved. Determining intent can be difficult. The court will look to an written agreements and if there are none, then to the couples' oral statements and conduct over time. If a court can establish that you and your partner intended to share property, the court can exercise authority over the division of the property to reach a fair and equitable result. Each case is different and decided upon its own facts. Oregon courts have applied these principles, whether or not the parties were of the same or opposite sex. No alimony or spousal support is allowed in domestic partnerships unless specifically provided for in a written agreement.
Domestic Partnership Agreements
If you and your partner are living together on an intimate or prolonged basis, and if you share your assets, you can put your agreement in writing. A domestic partnership agreement allows you to define how your assets will be shared during your relationship, and how your assets will be divided if the relationship ends or if one of you dies. You can agree to mix your assets in any way you choose. Your agreement is governed by general contract law. You can hold all of your property and assets jointly, separately, or any combination of jointly and separately. You can make provisions for support and what will happen if your relationship ends.
A domestic partnership agreement may involve significant property issues and may have serious tax consequences. Additionally, the laws on domestic partnership vary significantly from state to state. You and your partner are encouraged to obtain professional legal advice if you intend to enter into a domestic partnership agreement.
Dissolving a Domestic Partnership
Ending a relationship is always difficult. If you and your partner are not married, there may be significant issues about assets and debts you need to resolve. You can file for a dissolution of domestic partnership in civil court. If a domestic partnership agreement exists, you or your partner can seek to enforce the agreement. Even if you have an agreement, if conduct during the relationship has contradicted the agreement, you may be able to argue to a court that the agreement should be modified or canceled. If no agreement exists, a court will determine how you and your partner intended to share your assets and property.
All assets and property may be considered in a domestic partnership dissolution, if you or your partner are able to establish that your intent was to share the assets or property.
There are several ways to settle property issues. You can settle the matter between yourselves informally. If you do, you should consider putting your agreement in writing and obtain professional legal advice to help in drafting a final settlement agreement. You can mediate your disputes with the help of a neutral third-party. Or, you can file for a dissolution of domestic partnership, which may give you an advantage if your former partner is not cooperating, and may give you access to evidence you may not have.
Children of Unmarried Couples
Unmarried couples with children may or may not have legal rights, depending on the circumstances. If you and the other person are established as the child's legal parents, then custody, visitation and support issues are handled like a divorce. If paternity of the child is not established, either the mother or alleged father can file a legal action to establish paternity and then determine custody, support, and visitation. If you are not biologically related to the child and there has been no legal relationship established by the other person, you may qualify as a psychological parent under Oregon law. Psychological parent status may allow you to have visitation with the child, if a court finds that it would be in the child's best interests. However, unless the circumstances are compelling, a psychological parent will not be awarded custody over a biological parent.
The Oregon court grants a no-fault divorce, or one person can allege fault to end the marriage. A couple must either agree to the reason for the divorce, such as the marriage has irretrievably broken down due to irreconcilable differences, or prove to the court that the divorce should be granted because one party was under-age or lacked the mental capacity to understand marriage, or consent was obtained either by force or fraud.
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