Step-by-Step Divorce Process in Oregon

by Heather Frances Google

Oregon offers a summary divorce, but the summary process is limited to couples with certain qualifications, so most Oregon couples use the standard divorce process. Oregon divorce begins when one spouse files for divorce in the appropriate court and proceeds through an information gathering phase to a final trial or hearing. Then, the court grants a divorce decree, concluding the process.

Filing for Divorce

Oregon divorce cases begin when one spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Summons. The petition must include certain items, including basic information about the marriage and a proposed arrangement for splitting property, dividing custody and any other terms the filing spouse wants included in the divorce. The filing spouse, called the plaintiff, must serve a copy of these documents on the other spouse, called the respondent. If the spouses have a settlement agreement in place or pending, they can file a joint petition. Otherwise, the respondent must file an answer to the plaintiff’s petition.

Initial Steps

If either spouse needs temporary orders to govern the couple's conduct until the divorce is final, she can ask for those orders once the case is filed. Temporary orders may address a variety of marital issues, such as child custody or alimony, and requests for these orders are typically filed early in the proceedings. Both spouses can initiate discovery, information gathering between spouses, during the early stages of the proceeding. This allows each spouse to have full information about the other spouse’s circumstances through fact-finding tools, such as depositions, written lists of questions, document requests, appraisals of marital property and expert evaluations. If the couple has children, Oregon also requires both parents to attend a parenting education class.

Settlement

Once the discovery period is complete, spouses may enter into negotiations in an attempt to reach a settlement on some or all of the terms of their divorce. Even if spouses reach a settlement on all terms, Oregon has a 90-day waiting period for divorce, beginning from the date the petition was served on the respondent spouse. The divorce cannot be finalized until the waiting period has expired.

Trial

If spouses do not reach agreement on all issues, they must proceed to trial and allow a judge to decide the issues on which they do not agree. Leading up to trial, status conferences, where the lawyers for both sides discuss scheduling and other procedural issues, as well as pretrial hearings often take place. At the trial itself, both sides present their case. After the judge hears all evidence, he will make a decision on all remaining contested issues.