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Paths to Divorce in Oregon

No one who walks down the aisle wants to imagine that their love story will end in divorce. Weddings are a time of optimism and excitement, of bold plans for the future of your union. But over time, that optimism and excitement fades, and the bold plans are replaced by the realities of daily life and raising a family.

One day, you look at your spouse and realize that you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with them. This doesn’t mean you don’t love them, just that you are no longer in love with them.

If you have come to the conclusion that you are no longer in love with your spouse, the idea of divorce can be scary. This article will walk you through several options for divorce, as each carries with it different considerations and different levels of emotional investment.

No Fault Divorce – what it is, why it matters

Many states, including Oregon, provide married couples with a “no fault” grounds for divorce. This means that the spouse seeking the divorce does not have to prove that the other party violated the marriage contract.

This is important because it allows for the option of a relatively peaceful divorce proceeding, assuming both parties are agreeable to ending the marriage. You aren’t required to prove emotional distress or infidelity; you can simply fall out of love.

What if your spouse doesn’t want to get divorced? In Oregon, one party can proceed with a divorce even if the other party does not participate in the process. Your spouse does not have the power to stop the divorce simply by refusing to sign divorce papers. After 30 days, the judge can issue a default judgment for marriage dissolution with the signature of only one spouse.

Three paths to divorce – from easiest to hardest

1. The easiest way to dissolve a marriage in a “no fault” state like Oregon is to fill out a form requesting a summary dissolution of marriage.

In Oregon these can be found online or at any courthouse. This type of dissolution is for couples married less than 10 years, without dependent children or contested assets.

If you choose to move forward with a summary dissolution, you will be able to finalize the divorce without a court hearing. You also won’t need a lawyer, although you may still choose to engage one.

If you have children or large assets to divide, you can still choose an easy path to dissolution. There are a few more forms to fill out, but if both parties agree to a parenting plan and division of assets, you can sign your names and submit your dissolution paperwork to the court for approval.

2. If your divorce is contested, you will need a lawyer on your side. Contested divorce can be as simple as a small disagreement about joint custody or as complicated as a years-long court battle.

For small disagreements, one option to explore is mediation. Some Oregon courts will require couples attend mediation prior to a divorce hearing. You will want to check your local courts rules to see if that is the case.

In mediation, an impartial, trained, third-party sits down with the spouses (this can be separately or together) to help you resolve any disagreements. The mediator is not a judge and does not have the ability to make any decisions about the resolution of your case. They are simply there to help you talk through any issues.

3. If you and your spouse are arguing about how to divide your assets and the judge feels it would be beneficial, they may decide to turn your case over to an arbitrator.

This may sound similar to mediation, but actually they have very different outcomes.

An arbitrator is typically a lawyer with experience in these kinds of cases. As with mediation, the arbitrator is a neutral third party who can help the couple work through disagreements. Unlike a mediator, the arbitrator can make decisions based on the information gathered during arbitration and those decisions are legally binding.

The couple is typically responsible for the arbitration fee, which can be pricey. As always, finding a way to come to an agreement on your own will always be the easiest, and cheapest, option.

4. The most complicated option for divorce is an acrimonious contested divorce. As the name implies, this type of proceeding can be long, emotionally charged, and expensive.

In this type of divorce, you will need a lawyer to advocate for you and make sure that any division of assets or child custody arrangements end up in your favor.

The process for starting the dissolution is the same, but the path to the end can be filled with twists and turns, with finger-pointing, shouting and accusations. This type of divorce usually requires numerous court appearances and dozens of motions and answers filed by attorneys. You will need to be prepared to testify about your side of the issues in dispute and be cross examined by your spouse’s attorney.

In the end, no matter how you choose to end your marriage, it is important to remember that you are not ending your relationship with your spouse, you are merely moving to another phase of your relationship. Especially if you have children, your spouse will forever be a part of your past and, to some extent, will play a role in your future. The divorce process and how you both choose to proceed through it, can set the tone for this future relationship for years to come