What is the process for a divorce?

One of the most common questions among those considering divorce is what the Oregon divorce process looks like. While there is a general process that most divorces follow, every divorce is different, and there are many factors that control how the process will go.

The legal term for divorce in Oregon is “dissolution of marriage.” Oregon is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce, so either spouse can obtain a divorce for any reason. The actual dissolving of the marriage is the last step in the process. Before a court dissolves a marriage, it must go through several steps. Notably, if the parties can agree on the issues, many of these steps can be made significantly easier or skipped altogether.

To begin the divorce process, a party must file several documents. The most important of these is called the“petition for dissolution of marriage.”By filing this document, the filing party is formally requesting that court issue a judgment of divorce.There are typically court fees associated with filing a divorce petition, however, these fees can be waived for certain low-income individuals.

The spouse that filed the petition must then serve a copy of the petition packet on the other party. Service is usually performed by a paid process server who is hired by the filing party’s attorney, but this step can be waived by a written agreement prepared by an attorney. Once the petition is served, the other party will have formal notice of the divorce proceeding.

Once the petition for dissolution of marriage is filed and served, the case will be scheduled for at trial and eventually assigned to a judge. If a trial is necessary, the judge overseeing the divorce proceeding must decide the following issues:

Many couples attempt mediation even before the divorce filing occurs. Mediation is similar to a private counseling session where a neutral third party works with both parties to come up with agreed upon terms. In Oregon, it is usually mandatory for the spouses to attend mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) before they are allowed to have a trial. Most courts offer free or discounted services for mediation on the issues of child custody and parenting time. The mediation process is private and confidential. If either party is not satisfied with the mediator’s recommendations or process, they do not need to agree to anything. If some or all issues can be worked out, the mediator will usually type up a summary of the agreements which the parties and attorney can sign after review.

The judge overseeing the divorce will almost always honor the couple’s agreements, however, the judge is permitted to scrutinize the terms if they seem overly unfair to one party or if they seem contrary to the minor children’s best interests. With respect to custody and parenting time, the judge is guided not by what is fair or what the parties agree to, but what is in the best interest of the children.

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