What Should You Not Do During Separation?
In Oregon, thousands of divorces occur each year. In the first six months of 2021, the state’s Center for Health Statistics reported over 5,000 divorces. Some married couples decide to separate before they file for divorce. Other spouses may file for a legal separation when they want to live apart but do not want to terminate the marriage.
A legal separation is a court-ordered arrangement in which spouses live separately but remain married. A spouse may file a petition which an Oregon court for a legal separation on irreconcilable differences. For a permanent break, the filing spouses must show that the differences caused a breakdown of the marriage that is beyond repair. A court also may order a legal separation for the following.
- The irreconcilable differences cause a temporary breakdown of the marriage;
- The spouses file an agreement
- With the court to suspend their obligation to live together. The suspension must be for at least one year; or
- The married couple has irreconcilable differences but has legal, financial, social, or religious reasons for staying married.
Some spouses may remain legally separated for several months or decades. Although their lives are entirely separate, they are still legally married. Therefore, neither spouse may marry another person during the separation. Either spouse commits bigamy if they marry or attempt to marry another person while separated. The criminal violation is a felony offense with imprisonment of up to five years.
In Oregon, the court decides child custody, child support, and parenting time in a legal separation case. The judge's ruling remains in effect unless and until spouses seek a modification or termination of the court order. During the separation, the custodial parent should not violate the parenting time terms by preventing or otherwise interfering with the children visiting with the noncustodial parent. The custodial parent’s behavior while legally separated may impact custody decisions if the couple decides to get a divorce. The noncustodial parent also should follow the parenting time plan and not add dates and times without an agreement or court approval. Parents should behave in the child's best interest, and both are responsible for fostering the child's well-being.