The Process Divorce or “dissolution of marriage” is the legal process by which you change your legal status, divide your property/debt and provide for the ongoing care of your children. During your divorce, it is necessary to consider and properly address all your marital rights and responsibilities either through agreement with your spouse or by order of the Court. The process begins by filing a “Petition” with the court that allege the basis for the divorce. Oregon is a “no‑fault” state which does not require claims or proof of fault by any party – allegations of adultery, cruelty, abandonment need not be made. Instead, you or your spouse need only claim that “irreconcilable differences” (the legal term that you no longer get along) have developed. The Petition must recite certain facts and requests for relief from the court. The level of factual detail and specificity of the requests. However, in order to file in Oregon, you must have lived in Oregon for six months prior to filing and must go to court in the county in which you or your spouse lives. The Petition must be delivered or “served” on the other spouse (which can be done in several ways). The next steps will vary depending on whether the divorce is “contested” or not.
The Difference Between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce In a contested divorce, the parties disagree over the way in which one or more legal right and responsibility should be addressed. After the Petition is filed, the other spouse will file a “Response,” in which s/he will request alternative relief. Contested divorces generally take longer for this reason and to allow each side to gather information upon which to build their case. This process, known as discovery, is accomplished through differing methods, the choice of which will vary by case. When discovery is done, the case will go to trial if it has not settled in the mean time. Often however, even contested cases will settle once everyone’s “cards are on the table” as a result of discovery.
Settlements Because most divorces are ultimately resolved out of court in a settlement agreement, it is always wise to consider non-adversarial outcomes. For this reason, I work closely with you to develop a detailed picture of your (and your children’s) needs, your family finances, your lifestyle and your personal goals. By analyzing your case in this way, I can formulate innovative solutions and firmly negotiate a resolution that will protect your interests. Even an uncontested divorce in which the parties agree on all issues (division of property and debt, support payments and/or child time-sharing, attorneys’ fees and court costs) will benefit from a thorough assessment and thoughtful analysis to ensure the agreement actually accomplishes the desired goals.
Trial At trial each side presents information to the court for its consideration and argues for the relief requested. Such information or “evidence” includes documents, tangible items, and witness testimony. When the court has heard all evidence, it gives its decision in a document known as a judgment or final order. Should your case require a trial, our careful case preparation and my wealth of courtroom experience will be on your side.
Timelines As mentioned, contested divorces take longer than uncontested divorces in order for the parties to finish their discovery and prepare for trial. It is not unusual for such cases to take up to a year. Even in an uncontested divorce, the parties still must wait 90 days from the day the Petition is “served” unless that period is “waived.” However, when the divorce is uncontested, we can take steps to “waive” that period so that it is possible your divorce can be finalized the same day that we file it.
Next Steps When the court signs or “enters” the General Judgment (Dissolution of Marriage) after you have resolved your issues through agreement, or concluded a trial, you will be legally single. You will be entitled to receive any property or money awarded you by the judgment on the day that it is signed. However, additional steps are often required to give effect to the court’s ruling as to certain items, such as the preparation of a qualified domestic relations order, or “QDRO.” At times, it is simply wise to take or avoid certain actions to better secure your rights. After your divorce, I will work with you to ensure you are aware of the steps to take to start this next chapter of life smoothly.
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Contact me to find out more about divorce in Oregon and how I can assist you.