We're About More Than Divorce

Long-Distance Divorce: How to Separate When You’re Apart (Video)

Divorce Challenges Oregonians Face When One Spouse Lives Out Of State

Getting a divorce is often the result of a long, drawn-out series of discussions with your partner. The process of choosing to end a marriage often includes a period of living apart from your partner. As a result, many divorces are simply legal processes finalizing the end of a relationship that’s been over for some time.

While taking some time to live apart is an important tool to ensure you’re confident in your decision, it can complicate the process of making a divorce official. Oregon law has some quirks that complicate any legal split between people living apart. If you or your spouse has left the state, it can amplify those quirks. Oregon’s laws are different from many nearby states, so you will need to proceed with care and anticipate some complications in the process.

Why Distance Matters

If you’re divorcing someone who now lives far away, the biggest complication comes from the concept of legal jurisdiction. Every county has its own court, which has jurisdiction over the people who live there. However, court systems do not generally have jurisdiction over people who live elsewhere, whether that’s the county next door or across the country. The only exception is in certain criminal trials, which does not include divorce.

If you or your spouse has moved away, then you are likely no longer under the jurisdiction of the same court system. If you’re now in different states, you may not even be subject to the same laws surrounding separations. This affects everything from how you file for divorce to how your property is divided to who gets custody over your children.

How Oregon’s Laws Are Different

Two significant laws set Oregon apart from neighboring states. First, Oregon is an equitable distribution state. This means that when two people divorce, the court is obliged to divide property equitably but not necessarily equally.

Meanwhile, three of the four states Oregon borders are community property states, which requires that all marital property is divided evenly between separating spouses. Regardless of whether you earned more than your spouse, these states split assets 50/50. If your former partner has moved to Nevada, Idaho, or California, then they are eligible to file for divorce under these laws and potentially affect your finances for life.

Another significant difference is how Oregon handles child custody. Oregon typically awards full custody to one parent, while allowing the other parent to have visitation. This simplifies the process of making legal decisions for the children in question, but it also removes one parent’s right to raise their children the way they feel is best. On the other hand, other states nearby are much more likely to award joint custody, where both parents have the right to house and make decisions for their children.

Regardless of which state issues a child custody order, it remains enforceable. Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have signed the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, ensuring that one and only one state can issue custody judgments for any given child. The state does not need to be the state in which the child lives, either. If your child no longer lives in the same state as you, this means that you can still get a child custody order put in place that is legally binding in the state to which they’ve been moved.

How to File for Long-Distance Divorce

Choose a Set of Laws by Which to Abide

If your spouse still lives in Oregon, this step is simple. While you may fall under different county jurisdiction, you’re still subject to the same state-wide laws.

On the other hand, if your partner lives in another state, you’re subject to separate sets of laws. Either state can order a divorce, because that only requires jurisdiction over one party. The division of assets, however, requires jurisdiction over both people. In this case, either you’ll both need to agree to follow one state’s set of laws, or you’ll face a “divisible divorce,” where your legal separation and the division of property take place as different proceedings.

File for Divorce in One Court System

Legal proceedings like separations can only be processed by one court system at a time. So, the place where you file for divorce or separation has some significant effects on the legal process. All legal proceedings will occur within your chosen court system, so if you need to attend hearings in person, you’ll benefit from having them happen in your local court. To ensure that the proceedings occur where you’d like, your best course of action is to file for separation at your municipal court before your spouse files elsewhere.

Present Your Spouse with Divorce Papers

Unless you feel comfortable traveling to your partner, you will need to have someone serve them with divorce papers. These documents must be hand-delivered in order to be valid. You can either contact a local sheriff or work with a private process server to handle this; just double-check that they have filed the correct proof of service to note that the papers were delivered. Once proof of service has been filed with your court system, the divorce has officially begun.

Long-Distance Marital Dissolution Doesn’t Have to be Hard

Divorcing when you’re not living with your spouse is complicated, but it may be the right choice for you. If you believe you’re going to have to take this step, then don’t hesitate to talk to a qualified local divorce attorney to prepare.

It will save you time and effort to file for divorce in your local court system, since you won’t have to travel to handle legal matters. Working with a local attorney also lets you meet with them one-on-one, giving you access to legal counsel when you need it. Most importantly, they will have the knowledge and experience you need to navigate different laws and obligations. Separating doesn’t need to be any more stressful than it already is; get in contact with an Oregon divorce attorney now to take the burden off your shoulders.