For many decades, the arguments surrounding the institution of marriage has been upheld as a constitutional right of the freedom to marry. Courts have held that marriage is a personal and basic civil right afforded to people. However, for many years, the ability to enter into a legal marriage was reserved only to opposite sex couples.
In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act was enacted to allow states to not recognize same-sex marriage for other states. One provision of the Act defined marriage as a legal union between a man and woman as husband and wife. It further states that a spouse is a person of the opposite sex of the other spouse.
Until 2014, Oregon constitution did not recognize same-sex marriages. However, in 2008, the Oregon Family Fairness Act was enacted to comply with the state public policy against discrimination. Under the Act, Oregon established domestic partnerships as remedy for the fact that same-sex couples could not marry in the state but without violating the state constitution’s ban against same-sex marriage. State law defines an Oregon domestic partnerships as a civil contract between individuals of the same sex who are both at least eighteen years old and legally able to contract. One of the prospective partners must be a resident of Oregon.
The domestic partnerships defined and established under Oregon law are registered domestic partnerships. In these domestic partnerships, the partners have the same rights, responsibilities, obligations, penalties, and remedies as opposite-sex married couples. Most of the domestic relations laws that apply to heterosexual couples also apply to registered domestic partnerships. This is includes a formal process of dissolution of the relationship.
For married couples in Oregon, they must file a dissolution of marriage (divorce) to end the marriage. For registered domestic partnerships in Oregon, domestic partners must file a dissolution of domestic partnership to terminate the partnership. The steps of a dissolution of domestic partnership are comparable to the divorce process.
To begin the process of ending a domestic partnerships in Oregon, one of the partners must file a Petition for Dissolution of Registered Domestic Partnership with the clerk of court in the county of where one or both spouse lives at the time of filing. If neither partner lives in Oregon at the time of filing but the partnerships is registered in the State, the partner can file the form in the county were the partnership was registered. Upon filing the petition, an automatic Statutory Restraining Order Preventing the Dissipation of Assets in Domestic Relations Actions goes into effect. The restraining order prevent the parties from getting rid of property, making changes to insurance policies, and making unnecessary excessive expenditures.
Like in a divorce, property division and distribution occur in a dissolution of a domestic partnerships. The partners agree on how they want to divide and distribute the property between them. However, if the partners cannot reach an agreement, they can ask the court for equitable relief. This means that the judge decides how the property will be divided. To aid in the judge’s determination of equitable distribution, the partners must submit a Statement of Assets and Liabilities form that list the assets and debts of both partners.
Registered domestic partners may seek partner support. This remedy is available to either partner. Oregon has three forms of partner support – transitional, compensatory, and maintenance. Transitional partner support provides support to a partner for work-related education or training. A partner may be ordered to pay compensatory partner support the other partner significantly contributed to the paying partner’s education, career, or earning capacity by making noneconomical contribution such as, staying at home with the children. Maintenance partner support is awarded to a partner for general support.
The resolution of matter of a dissolution of domestic partnership may occur by agreement between domestic partners, mediation, arbitration, default if the responding spouse fails to answer the petition, or by trial. To finalize the dissolution, a judge must sign a General Judgment of Dissolution of Registered Domestic Partnership. The judgment contain the resolution of all issue brought up in the filing and possibly trial of the dissolution case.
The judgment of dissolution terminated the registered domestic partnerships. The partners are no longer legally bound to each other. They are both free to marry or register a domestic partnership with other people.