Oregon State Legal Divorce Terminology

by Heather Frances J.D. Google
Divorce is called dissolution of marriage in Oregon.

Divorce is called dissolution of marriage in Oregon.

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In Oregon, divorce is called “dissolution of marriage,” and the dissolution process begins when one spouse files a petition asking for dissolution. If you are the spouse who files, you are called the petitioner and your spouse is called the respondent. Oregon state laws and terminology guide this process, and the court will eventually end your marriage by issuing a divorce decree.

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A court must have reasons, or grounds, upon which to base your divorce. While some states recognize fault-based grounds, like adultery or abandonment, and no-fault grounds. Oregon is a pure no-fault divorce state; therefore, it does not recognize fault-based grounds at all. Oregon calls its no-fault grounds “irreconcilable differences,” which simply means you and your spouse have differences that cannot be resolved and have caused you to terminate your marriage.

Property Division

Oregon is an “equitable distribution” state, which means Oregon courts divide marital property equitably and fairly between the spouses, though not necessarily equally. The court considers such factors as the contributions of each spouse to the acquisition of marital property, whether spousal support is ordered, and any taxes or liens owed on property. Most assets and debts you acquire during your marriage are considered marital property. Assets you owned prior to the marriage and those you acquired by inheritance, gift or as part of a personal injury settlement are considered separate property. Separate property typically is not subject to division in your divorce. You and your spouse have the option to work out a marital settlement agreement, a contract that outlines the terms of your property division. If you can agree to these terms without the court’s intervention, your divorce may be quicker and less expensive; the judge can simply adopt your agreement as part of the divorce decree.

Custody and Child Support

Oregon dissolution cases address child support and child custody. Joint and sole custody refer to legal custody, which is the right to make important decisions about the life of the child, including where he goes to school and whether he attends religious services, and physical custody, where the child will live. Visitation, or how much time the noncustodial parent spends with the child, is called parenting time. Oregon courts seek to order a legal and physical custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child. Oregon determines how much child support the noncustodial parent pays using the income shares model, and also considers the costs of child care and number of children. This type of calculation is based on the idea that the child should receive the same share of parental income after his parents divorce as he would have received if they stayed together.


Oregon uses the term “spousal support” to describe money paid by one spouse to support the other. The money can be paid periodically or in a lump sum. Oregon allows three types of support: transitional, compensatory and maintenance. Transitional support is intended to help the recipient spouse obtain the training or education necessary to help support herself after the divorce. Compensatory support reimburses the recipient spouse for contributions she made to her spouse’s education or career. Maintenance provides money for the recipient spouse to maintain the lifestyle she enjoyed during the marriage.

Simplified Divorce

Oregon allows a simplified version of divorce called “summary dissolution,” but couples only qualify if they meet certain criteria, including being married for 10 years or less and having no minor children born from the marriage. Unlike traditional divorce, summary dissolutions do not require a court hearing. Instead, spouses simply file the required court forms and await the judge's approval.