The Cost of Divorce in Oregon
The cost to get a divorce in Oregon varies from case to case. Factors including court costs, attorney fees and dispute resolution fees can affect the total monetary amount of the divorce. The final expense of the dissolution of marriage may differ between the spouse who files for divorce and the other spouse. To begin the dissolution process, one or both spouses must meet the residency requirements to file in Oregon. The filing spouse also must file the suit in the county where either spouse resides.
One of the first costs incurred in a dissolution of marriage case is the initial fee to begin the process. In Oregon, the court fee for filing the divorce is $301, which the filing spouse pays when they submit the petition for dissolution of marriage. Oregon provides all residents of all financial backgrounds with the access and ability to seek a dissolution of marriage. If a spouse who files for dissolution, known as the petitioner, cannot pay the fees and court costs, a judge may waive the fees. After the initial filing fee, additional court costs may arise during the dissolution case. The court may waive such fees throughout the suit if a party’s inability to pay continues.
Although spouses can represent themselves in a divorce, they may find it helpful to hire an attorney. Divorce cases can be time-consuming and complex, and they require an understanding of legal concepts, court procedures and deadlines. If spouses retain an attorney for legal representation in the dissolution process, the cost of the divorce increases. Attorneys are allowed to charge reasonable fees for their legal services based on factors such as:
• Time and labor involved in the case;
• The legal services fees are comparable for the locality;
• The difficulty of the case and skill needed to provide proper legal representation; and
• The attorney’s experience, reputation, ability to perform the legal services.
Attorney fees can be a flat rate or hourly. In a flat rate attorney fee arrangement, the attorney sets an amount intended to cover the client’s legal representation until the matter resolves. In an uncontested or straightforward divorce, flat rate fees may be ideal. However, the most common legal fee for a divorce attorney is an hourly rate that accrues until the court dissolves the marriage occurs or the legal representation ends.
Options for Low-Income Spouses
For spouses who are low-income and seek a divorce, Oregon’s Modest Means Program provides a referral list of lawyers who agree to provide legal services and representation at reduced rates. The program caps the amount the attorneys in the program can charge for an initial consultation and legal representation.
In a dissolution of marriage, dispute resolution is an alternative method for resolving conflicts and contested issues between the spouses. A judge may order dispute resolution to save the cost and time of a trial. Spouses may resolve issues of child custody, parenting time and distribution of property. Also known as alternative dispute resolution or ADR, two common forms a court may order are mediation and arbitration.
Mediation is a conference between adverse parties in a dispute or case where a mediator helps the parties reach an agreement. Mediators usually charge an hourly rate to conduct the mediation. Each party may be responsible for paying an equal share of the mediation cost. Spouses may agree to a solution regarding the divorce issues; however, there is no requirement to resolve the disputed matters at the mediation. When spouses do not reach an agreement at the mediation, the judge decides on those matters.
Mediators in the dissolution of marriage cases are neutral third parties who propose solutions to contested issues. The resolutions the mediator provides are not binding. Therefore, the spouses do not have to agree to the mediator’s suggestions for resolving the issue. Should they reach an agreement at the mediation, the parties may submit the resolution to the court for approval by the judge.
At arbitration, the arbitrator decides the results of the contested issues after hearing evidence from each party. Much like a trial judge, the arbitrator can make rulings, control the order of the procedure and decide the outcome of the arbitration. A judge may order arbitration in a divorce case when spouses cannot agree on property distribution. The decision of the arbitration can be binding on the parties, which makes the decision final. However, the parties may still be able to appeal the decision.
Unlike mediators who do not need licensing or certification, Oregon arbitrators are licensed attorneys. The parties to the suit or the judge may choose the arbitrator. Like mediation, the cost of arbitration is an hourly rate that the spouses usually split equally.
Gearing, Rackner & McGrath Can Help
The cost of a divorce is not a simple calculation. Many factors determine the amount either party may pay throughout and during the dissolution of the marriage. Several options are available to keep the cost of a divorce low. However, contested issues may also increase the costs due to delay and other required services for resolution.
If you are considering filing for divorce or believe that your spouse is contemplating a divorce, contact one of the dedicated divorce and family law attorneys at Gearing, Rackner & McGrath, LLP. To learn more about how our award-winning attorneys can help you, call us at 503-222-9116 to schedule a consultation with one of our divorce attorneys in Oregon or SW Washington.