Every state has its own rules and procedures for divorce. Here's what you need to know about how to get a divorce (also called a "dissolution of marriage") in Oregon.
As long as you follow the state's marriage license rules, you can get married in any state—even if you don't live there. The requirements for ending a marriage, though, are not as relaxed. Instead, you must meet a state's residency requirements before you can file for divorce in its courts.
If you were married in Oregon and either you or your spouse is a resident of Oregon at the time you file for divorce, you meet Oregon's residency requirements. However, if you weren't married in Oregon, at least one spouse must reside in Oregon for six continuous months before filing for divorce. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 107.075 (2021).) You must file in the county where one of you lives.
The purpose of state residency requirements is to prevent one spouse from moving to another state (or county) to "shop" for a court or judge that will view the case more favorably for that spouse. Residency requirements also prevent one spouse from filing in a location far from the other just to make it more difficult (and expensive) for the other spouse to respond and participate.
Oregon is a "no-fault" divorce state—meaning that the courts don't require one spouse to prove that the other's bad acts were the cause of the divorce. No-fault divorces reach resolution faster than fault-based divorces because the spouses don't have to argue about or prove who was responsible for the divorce. Also, with a no-fault divorce, you don't have to have your spouse's consent to end the marriage.
An Oregon court will grant a divorce when "irreconcilable differences" between the parties have caused the marriage to break down, and there is no hope that the couple will get back together. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 107.025 (2021).)
Generally, there are two types of divorce—contested and uncontested. An uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on all divorce-related matters, such as division of property, child custody, and spousal support. A contested divorce, on the other hand, is one where the spouses can't agree and must ask a court to decide the issues in their divorce.
Uncontested divorces are usually faster and less expensive than contested divorces because there's no fighting in court—all the judge must do is review and approve the spouses' marital settlement agreement and issue a divorce decree.
If you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce, the next step is to file the required paperwork in the circuit court clerk's office at your local court. You and your spouse can file together as "co-petitioners," but Oregon courts recommend contacting a lawyer if you choose this option. You'll need to file:
You might need to file additional forms depending on your situation. You can download all the forms and instructions from the Oregon Judicial Branch's website.
Uncontested divorces in Oregon usually take about three months after filing to finalize.
Couples who agree on all the issues in their divorce and who meet certain requirements may file for an expedited form of divorce called "short-form summary dissolution." This type of divorce allows couples to end their marriage without ever appearing in court. To qualify for a summary dissolution, the following must apply:
(Or. Rev. Stat. § 107.485 (2021).)
To start a contested divorce, you will file a petition for divorce with the court. Many of the documents you'll need for a contested divorce are the same as those required for an uncontested divorce. Whatever issues you and your spouse don't agree on will be decided by the judge. After your spouse responds to the petition, the court will likely schedule a conference hearing. If you and your spouse don't resolve your issues while the divorce is pending, the court will schedule your case for trial.
Although you can represent yourself in your divorce, many people involved in a contested divorce choose to hire a lawyer to help them navigate the court system and present their case to the judge.
It can take six months to two years to finalize a contested divorce in Oregon.
Like most legal proceedings, you must pay court filing fees to being your divorce. As of 2021, it costs $301 to file a dissolution of marriage in Oregon. Filing fees do change, though, so you'll want to confirm the fee with the clerk of the court where you'll be filing your petition. Most of the time, you pay the filing fee at the same time you file the petition.
If you can't afford to pay the filing fees, you can ask the judge to waive the fees. You can request a fee waiver by filing an Application for Deferral or Waiver of Fees & Declaration in Support. Oregon courts provide detailed instructions online.
Once you file the paperwork, you will need to provide notice to your spouse of the divorce. Oregon has two ways to give your spouse notice of the divorce.
Unlike some states, Oregon doesn't have a "waiting period" between when you file your divorce complaint and when the court can start processing it. Instead, an Oregon court can begin processing your case as soon as the time has passed for your spouse to file an answer or response (usually 30 days).
If your divorce is uncontested (or "by agreement"), the court might grand the divorce without holding a hearing.
If you've filed a contested divorce, most Oregon judges will schedule a "status," "pretrial," or "settlement" conference at the beginning of the case. Every judge handles this conference differently, but it usually involves a discussion of how the case will proceed and the setting of future court dates, including a trial date. The judge might also order you and your spouse to participate in arbitration or mediation.
Here are the issues you can expect a judge to address in a contested divorce:
Oregon is an equitable division state, which means the court will divide marital property fairly—but not necessarily equally. Courts in equitable division states consider both spouses to be equal owners of any property either spouse acquired during the marriage. Instead of a 50/50 split, Oregon courts will attempt to divide property in a "just and proper" manner. (Ore. Rev. Stat. § 107.105 (2021).)
In Oregon, if the only issue that the spouses disagree on is property division, the judge will order them to participate in arbitration. (Ore. Rev. Stat. § 36.405 (2021).)
See Oregon Divorce: Dividing Property for more details.
Like all states, Oregon courts begin with a presumption that a child should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a divorce. If possible, Oregon judges will try to arrange for joint custody, but will evaluate what's in the best interests of the child to determine the exact nature of custody and visitation. No preference is given to a parent based on the parent's status as "mother" or "father." (Ore. Rev. Stat. § 107.137 (2021).)
Oregon requires both parents to support their children after divorce. Oregon courts use the state's child support guidelines to evaluate how much support a parent must pay.
Under Oregon law, all judgments dealing with support or custody must include provisions addressing the issues of:
The order must also contain specific language about violation of the order. (Ore. Rev. Stat. § 107.106 (2021).)
For more details, see Child Support in Oregon.
Oregon judges can award spousal support ("alimony") for a period of time that is "just and equitable." Oregon judges do not consider adultery when awarding spousal support; rather, they have broad discretion to award spousal support based on specific factors outlined in Oregon law. (Ore. Rev. Stat. § 107.105 (2021).)
Not all divorces need to be drawn out battles in the courtroom. Instead of hurrying to the courthouse to file for divorce when you have unresolved issues, mediation might be a less contentious and cheaper way to divorce.
Divorcing spouses can choose to mediate on their own. Some states' laws require divorcing spouses to attempt mediation while a divorce is pending in court. This is known as "court-ordered mediation." Oregon judges have the discretion to order divorcing couples to attend mediation.
In mediation, both spouses meet with a trained and neutral third party called a "mediator." Mediation sessions are confidential, and each spouse will have the opportunity to list their issues and suggest resolutions. The mediator will not make any decisions in the case—rather, a mediator's job is to guide the negotiations in a way that will help the spouses settle their divorce without court intervention.
If you agree on some or all of the issues during the mediation, the mediator can draft a divorce settlement agreement for you to present to the court. Any remaining issues that you and your spouse can't agree on will be decided by the court. Even if you're able to agree on one or two issues, mediation is usually much less expensive than going through a complete divorce trial, and can help you and your spouse create a foundation for continuing communication after your divorce.
To finalize your divorce, the judge will sign a form called a "General Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage/RDP." The judge might fill out the judgment, or might ask you and your spouse to fill it out. Your divorce is final as of the date the judge signs the judgment. The court will send you a Notice of Entry of Judgment to let you know that the judge has signed and the court has entered the judgment.
To get a certified copy of your final divorce decree, contact the clerk of the court that granted the divorce. If you need a divorce certificate (to verify the facts of a dissolution), you can contact the Oregon Vital Records office.