Legal Separations and Annulments in Oregon
Divorce is not the only option for those who are considering ending a marriage. Under state law, an Oregon separation or annulment may also be an available option, depending on the circumstances. Both legal separations and annulments are used far less often than divorces; however, each has its distinct purpose. At Gearing, Rackner & McGrath, LLP, we help former partners through the Oregon annulments and separations by providing them with effective advocacy and unwavering support through each step of the process.
What Is a Legal Separation in Oregon?
An Oregon legal separation is very similar to a divorce in that upon entry of a judgment of separation, a judge will divide the couple’s debts and assets, make child custody and parenting time decisions, and determine whether spousal support is necessary. The major difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that, after a legal separation, the couple is technically still married. As a result, neither spouse can remarry unless one spouse changes the separation to a divorce
Couples may seek a judgment of separation upon discovering irreconcilable differences that are not likely to – but could – improve. Legal separations can be temporary or indefinite. If one party to a legal separation later decides to convert the separation into a divorce, they can do so. Similarly, a legal separation can be set aside so that it is no longer in effect.
Unlike with a divorce, there are no residency requirements to file for a legal separation in Oregon. Either spouse can file the petition in the county where either spouse lives. Once a legal separation is filed, and the other spouse served, the court will impose a restraining order prohibiting either spouse from disposing of or diminishing marital assets. Under this order, spouses can only spend money on necessities, including food, shelter and medical treatment.
In Oregon, legal separations have a limited purpose. However, below are a few reasons why a couple may choose to file for a separation over a divorce:
- Neither party meets the residency requirement to obtain a divorce in Oregon
- One or both of the parties have a religious or moral objection to getting a divorce
- In a legal separation, a spouse may be able to stay on the other spouse’s insurance policy
- The parties do not desire the finality of a divorce, but want a court to divide the couple’s property, make custody decisions and award spousal support.
Legal separations are also useful for parties who intend on divorcing, and want to get the process started, but for one reason or another, do not want to rush into the divorce process. For example, if one spouse was a homemaker, filing for separation before divorce may give that spouse time to get in a better financial position before initiating the divorce proceeding. Legal separations are also commonly used to allow children to finish out a school year before starting the divorce process.
Those considering a legal separation should meet with a dedicated Portland family law attorney to determine whether a legal separation is a suitable solution, and discuss other available options.
What Is an Oregon Annulment?
An annulment is similar to a divorce in that it ends a marriage. However, an annulment goes further in that it declares a marriage or domestic partnership agreement legally invalid or void. Annulments are not widely used, but have a very specific purpose.
To obtain a marriage annulment, either spouse must be able to prove that the marriage was either void or voidable. Void marriages are those that are prohibited by law in Oregon and, thus, were never legal. Two situations can make a marriage void:
- Marriage to a first cousin or closer relative; or
- Bigamy or polygamy
Notably, if either of these situations is present at the time the marriage was formed, the marriage is void. Thus, a void marriage is void at its inception, and nothing either spouse does during the marriage can ratify the marriage, or make it valid. If a marriage is deemed to have been void, it is as though the marriage never took place.
Voidable marriages are those that are not prohibited by law, but may be declared void under certain circumstances. One significant difference between void and voidable marriages is that a spouse can ratify a voidable marriage by continuing to cohabitate, or live with, the other spouse after discovering the fact that made the marriage voidable. Voidable marriages include:
- Those in which one or both spouses are under the age of 18;
- Those involving a spouse who was incapable of consenting to the marriage due to mental incapacity or incompetence; or
- Those involving one spouse’s consent that was obtained through force or fraud.
Voidable marriages are also made voidable by a fact or scenario that was present at the time the marriage was entered into. In this way, both void and voidable marriages are focused on the time at which the marriage was formed, and not the parties’ conduct after they were married. The exception to this is when a spouse learns that a marriage was voidable, their decision to continue to cohabitate with their spouse may waive and claim that the marriage was voidable, and the marriage can no longer be annulled.
The Legal Effects of an Oregon Annulment
In the event of an annulment, the court must go through the process of dividing the couple’s debts and assets, determining whether either party is entitled to spousal support and resolving child custody and parenting time issues. In this way, an annulment is similar to a divorce.
An annulment does not affect child custody or child support matters. However, a presumption of paternity is established if a child was born when the couple was married. Notably, the fact that a marriage is declared void does nothing to affect the legitimacy of children that were born during the marriage. Under Oregon family law, children who are born during a marriage are considered legitimate, even if the marriage is subsequently annulled or declared void. For obvious reasons, this includes a child who is born within six months of the date that the marriage was annulled.
Schedule a Consultation With an Oregon Family Law Attorney
IIf you are considering filing for a legal separation or annulment, contact one of the dedicated family law attorneys at Gearing, Rackner & McGrath, LLP. As dedicated Oregon divorce lawyers, we have extensive experience handling both Oregon annulments and legal separations, as well as the issues that frequently arise when ending a marriage, including child custody and child support issues. Our team of experienced Portland family law attorneys can help discuss the differences between a divorce, annulment and legal separation, and help you come to the solution that best fits your needs. 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.