DIVORCE: THE BASICS
Simply put, divorce (also referred to as "marital dissolution") is the legal process of dissolving a marriage between two people. There are no legal differences between men and women when considering divorce rights. A divorce can encompass many of the practice areas involved in family law, including asset and debt division, child custody, parenting time, spousal support, and child support. For that reason, it’s imperative that a divorce be handled professionally. We understand that meeting with a divorce attorney for the first time can be an overwhelming first step but we're here to hold your hand and demystify the process. Without an intricate knowledge about the Oregon family law landscape, it is almost impossible to know whether a settlement offer is fair or not. We want to make sure that any settlement offer is fair, and in the event that an amicable agreement cannot be reached, we will vigorously defend your rights and litigate on your behalf in court.
Beginning the Divorce Proceedings (Marital Dissolution)
To begin divorce proceedings, a petition for dissolution of marriage must be filed with the court in the county where the spouses live. The spouse who files for divorce first is known as the Petitioner. To file for divorce in Oregon, at least one of the spouses has to have been living in Oregon continuously for at least six months, including at the time of filing. The other spouse is known as the Respondent. The Petitioner and Respondent are also referred to as the “parties” involved in the case. In certain circumstances there may be some benefit to filing first (talk to your attorney about when), but often times it does not. After the petition is filed, the Respondent must be officially notified of the proceedings by being served with a copy of the paperwork that was filed with the court. The Respondent then has a deadline within which he or she must file a response to the petition.
Separation of Assets
In Oregon, there is a presumption that each spouse contributed equally to the assets acquired during the marriage. This means that, absent evidence to the contrary, each spouse will receive an equal share of the assets. A party may present evidence challenging the presumption of equal contribution by proving that specific assets were received by only one spouse as a gift or inheritance, or without any contribution from the other spouse, or was obtained prior to the marriage.
Division of Liabilities
Typically a final General Judgment details what will happen with the parties' different debts. The divorce judgment will indicate who is responsible for each debt. Joint debts may be divided equitably as part of the property division, or may be assigned to one spouse or the other. Debts incurred by one spouse alone are treated as their separate responsibility, except where the debts were incurred for “family expenses.” These include things such as medical bills, household goods, educational expenses, etc. The rationale behind this rule is that the entire family benefitted (not only the debtor spouse) and should share in the responsibility for the debt. Debts incurred after physical separation, i.e. after a party moves out, are generally the responsibility of the person who incurred them, unless the debts are related to the parties’ children or incurred as a family expense. In these situations, a court may extend liability to both spouses.
The court does not have authority over the person to whom the money is owed, e.g. the credit card company. The best course is to close all unsecured joint accounts after a divorce.
Finalization of a Divorce
A divorce becomes final when all issues, including child custody, parenting time, and child support, property division, and spousal support, are settled by either the agreement (stipulation) of the parties or at the conclusion of a trial. A divorce that is granted without being resolved in court at a trial is known as an “uncontested divorce.” The final document which contains the terms of the resolution of all of the issues, and which is signed by a circuit court judge, is known as the General Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
Our divorce and family law practice includes full representation in divorces and legal separations that involve low to high conflict custody and parenting time disputes, child support, spousal support, property distributions, and restraining orders. We can help with simple and complex cases, and all aspects of family law, from consultation and planning through mediation and settlement or trial.
We provide seasoned counsel and guidance through the complex, emotional experience of divorce. This transition is never easy, but hiring competent legal counsel to guide you through the legal landscape give you the greatest chance at achieving an outcome that is fair and reasonable. You will be fully educated by our firm about expectations in the event that your case were brought to trial. With that information you are empowered to make an informed decision about any potential settlement agreements.