What Is A “No-Fault” Divorce in Oregon?

Oregon’s divorce laws allow for a “no-fault” divorce. In Oregon, a divorcing couple will need to show that their differences have caused a rift so vast that it can’t be repaired. The spouses don’t even have to tell the court what those differences are – only that they exist. 

No-fault divorce makes some aspects of divorce easier. Yet, a no-fault divorce still requires work from both spouses. In addition to dividing property, arranging child custody, and addressing other issues, each spouse must also face the emotional weight of the divorce decision. 

An experienced Oregon divorce lawyer can help you manage the tasks of divorce to focus on health and well-being – both for yourself and your family. 

Before No-Fault Became The Norm

Before 1971, spouses seeking a divorce in Oregon faced a legal and emotional challenge: One spouse had to prove that the other was somehow at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. This requirement, known as an “at-fault” divorce, was the norm in all U.S. states until the middle of the 20th century. 

Grounds for an at-fault divorce varied by state but included acts like adultery, abuse, and cruelty. They also had conditions like addiction and incurable mental illness. One spouse could often obtain an at-fault divorce by showing that the marriage itself was suspect – for example, the other spouse was already legally wed to someone else. 

At-fault divorce puts a great deal of pressure on divorcing spouses. It required one spouse to accuse the other of wrongdoing and the other spouse to take the blame. The spouses were expected to air their pain and grief with one another publicly. Divorce was not an option for spouses whose marriages had broken down due to other causes. 

What Divorcing Spouses Must Do In a No-Fault Divorce

The switch to no-fault divorce eliminated the need for spouses to share the most painful parts of their marriage in public. In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse has to accuse the other of any particular wrongdoing. The spouses are not required to explain why the marriage has broken down beyond repair – only that the breakdown has occurred. 

No-fault divorce does require work from both spouses. Questions the spouses may need to address are:

  • Property division. Oregon is an equitable distribution state. The state’s divorce laws require a “just and fair” distribution of marital property. 
  • Child custody and visitation. Custody is a two-part question. First, where will the child live, and which parent will have responsibility for meeting their physical needs? Second, which parent will be responsible for making medical, educational, and other important decisions for the child? Answers to custody and visitation questions must be made in the child’s best interests. 
  • Support. Child support focuses on providing for the needs of a child or children. Spousal support allows one former spouse to survive, preserve their lifestyle, or work toward self sufficiently. Neither form of support is an issue in all Oregon divorces, but when the support question arises, spouses must work to address it.
  • Pre- and post-nuptial agreements. If the spouses have a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement, they will need to examine its terms during the divorce. 

Divorcing couples have several options for addressing these and other issues. They may work together to create a property division or child custody and visitation arrangement. They may seek the help of a professional third party, such as a mediator with family law experience. If the spouses cannot agree on an issue, a court will decide for them. 

Each spouse may work with a lawyer of their choice throughout the process. Choosing a lawyer you trust is essential. Your attorney can help you protect your rights, avoid costly mistakes, and lay the groundwork for a brighter future. 

If You’re Considering Divorce In Oregon

If you’re considering a divorce or if you’ve decided divorce is the way forward:

  • Ask questions about life after divorce. Will you need to find a job or seek better-paying employment? How will you handle your share of the marital debt? Write down these and other questions as you think of them. 
  • Keep your focus on the future. It’s easy to get bogged down in old resentments, but blaming your spouse won’t help you build the life you want and deserve. Instead, try to stay focused on the problems you’ll need to solve and the life you want to live. 
  • Work with an experienced lawyer. Oregon’s divorce laws can be complex. A mistake now can cost you additional money and stress later. Your lawyer will help you avoid future problems by addressing issues the right way now. 

At Gearing Rackner & McGrath, we’re dedicated to helping our clients navigate divorce. We’ll put your interests first, helping you build a solid foundation for yourself and your family. To learn more, contact us today

To schedule a consultation with one of our divorce attorneys in Oregon or SW Washington, call us now at 503.222.9116 or write us.

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