Ending an Oregon Domestic Partnership Agreement
Ending a relationship is never easy, and same-sex registered domestic partnerships are no exception. Oregon’s domestic partnership law creates a relationship much like a marriage, and the process of ending the partnership is similar to a divorce. At Gearing, Rackner & McGrath, LLP, we help former domestic partners through this challenging time by providing them with effective advocacy and unwavering support through each step of the process.
In May 2014, Oregon began to allow same-sex marriages. Shortly after that, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion recognizing the right of all couples to enter into legal marriages anywhere in the United States and to have those marriages recognized by every state. However, prior to same-sex marriage being permitted, since 2007, Oregon law provided for same-sex couples to enter into a registered domestic partnership agreement, which provides them with the same rights as a married couple. Notably, today there are fewer couples entering domestic partnerships, because many same-sex couples opt to get married. However, when same-sex marriage became permitted, it did not invalidate existing domestic partnerships.
A registered domestic partnership is a civil contract entered into between two individuals of the same sex. The rights and responsibilities that are created in a registered domestic partnership are equivalent to those produced by marriage. For example, a person cannot legally get married if they are still in a registered domestic relationship. This can create confusion, especially for couples who entered into a registered domestic relationship before 2014 and have subsequently ended that relationship.
An Oregon domestic partnership creates a legal relationship, much like a marriage. Thus, when the relationship ends, the couple must go through a legal process to dissolve the partnership agreement. Although this process is not technically referred to as a “divorce,” the process is similar.
Procedurally, because Oregon’s domestic partnership agreement law is unique to the state, even if both partners to the agreement have moved out of the state, the dissolution action must be filed in an Oregon court. In this case, the petition should be filed in the county where either of the partners last lived. If one or both of the partners still live in Oregon, then the petition must be filed in a county where one of the partners resides.
The term for the legal process that ends an Oregon domestic partnership is a “General Judgment of Dissolution of Registered Domestic Partnership,” or a dissolution action, for short. A dissolution action is very similar to a divorce in that the court must address the following issues:
- The court must divide the couple’s jointly acquired assets and debts;
- The court must determine if any of either party’s property that was obtained prior to the partnership agreement is subject to division;
- The court must determine if either spouse is entitled to partner support, which is equivalent to alimony or spousal support;
- The court must resolve child custody and parenting time issues;
- The court must determine whether either partner is responsible for the payment of child support.
Of course, if the parties can come to an agreement that is fair to both sides, the court will most often honor that agreement. In this way, working toward a collaborative dissolution may be preferable, if possible. Notably, however, agreements related to child custody and child support are more likely to be overridden by the court, as the court must determine, on its own, what is in the best interest of the child or children involved.
Tax Implications for Oregon Domestic Partners
One of the most often overlooked aspects of an Oregon domestic partnership agreement are the potential tax implications that may arise as a result of the legal relationship that is created by the agreement. Part of the complication stems from the fact that the federal government does not recognize Oregon registered domestic partnerships for tax purposes. Thus, domestic partners must file a federal return by using a “single” or “head of household” status. For state returns, taxpayers can fill out a dummy federal return “as if” they were married, and then use that return to complete their Oregon tax return.
When ending a domestic partnership agreement, the tax complications are compounded. For example, the tax implications of transferring property or paying spousal or child support to a domestic partner can be quite complex. An experienced Portland same-sex marriage attorney can assist clients in understanding these implications.
Partners Ending Informal Relationships
Oregon courts realize that the state’s marriage laws were not always fair to same-sex couples. As a result, courts provide limited protections and relief to the partners in informal “marriage-like” relationships. For example, a partner’s past statements and conduct may be examined to best determine their intent related to property and debts acquired during the relationship. Thus, if certain promises or representations were made, an aggrieved partner may be able to hold a former partner to those commitments, even if the relationship was not a domestic partnership or marriage. Of course, if there are children involved, a separate legal proceeding may be necessary to address what the best interest of the children are, and how to award custody.
Issues Involving Adoptive Children of a Same-Sex Couple
When a couple adopts a child, the parental rights of the child’s birth parents are terminated, and the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents. If a same-sex couple adopts one or more children and then later decides to end their relationship, the custody, parenting time and child support aspects of the proceeding will be very similar to those of a divorce involving naturally born children. It is essential for former spouses to have a dedicated Portland family law attorney representing their interests through this process to ensure that they are treated fairly.
Schedule a Consultation with an Oregon Divorce Attorney
If you are considering filing for dissolution of a registered domestic partnership, or believe that your spouse is contemplating the same, contact one of the dedicated family law attorneys at Gearing, Rackner & McGrath, LLP. As committed Oregon divorce lawyers, we have extensive experience handling dissolution cases as well as the related issues that frequently come up when ending a formal same-sex relationship, including child custody and child support issues. We also have experience helping adoptive parents through the dissolution process, and can answer any questions that you have regarding the process. To learn more about how our award-winning attorneys can help you, call us at 503-222-9116 or contact us through our online form to learn more about how we can help.