Married couples in Oregon may decide to get a divorce. Under state law, the divorce process begins once a spouse files a petition for the dissolution of the marriage. The spouse filing for divorce is called the petitioner, whereas the other spouse is called the respondent. The petitioner is responsible for filing the petition in the county where either spouse lives.
Parties to the case must also meet resident requirements. If a marriage took place in Oregon and at least one party resides in the state at the time of filing, the case can continue in the Oregon court. However, for spouses who did not marry in the state, at least one must reside in Oregon when filing the petition and continuously lived in the state for the prior six months.
It is common to find that divorcing spouses have children together. They must list the names of all children born, adopted, or conceived during the marriage and born before the union. Adult children aged 18, 19, and 20 are essential parties to a case, and their names appear in the title of the divorce case. The adult children can formally ask the court to remove them as parties to the case after the petitioner serves them with the petition.
In the dissolution of a marriage, the court will resolve issues concerning child custody, child support, and child visitation. The parents can agree on such matters and submit the agreement to the court for approval. If they do not agree or the terms do not benefit the child, the judge determines custody, support, and visitation.
One or both parents may have legal custody of their child. The court determines child custody by considering factors such as:
- The emotional bonds between the child and other family members,
- The primary caregiver of the child,
- Desire to continue an existing relationship,
- Abuse of one parent by the other parent; and
- Parent’s willingness to encourage and maintain the relationship between the child and the other parent.
The court can only order joint custody if both parents agree to it. In a cooperative custody agreement, the parents share the rights and responsibilities of their child. However, a court order may designate which home the child’s primary residence will be or allow one parent to have power over making decisions on specific matters.
Sole custody arrangements give one parent legal custody of the child. The non-custodial parent receives visitation and pays child support. In Oregon, parenting time is visitation between the child and non-custodial parent. The terms of parenting time may list:
- Minimum time for visitation;
- Holidays, birthdays, and vacations;
- Weekends schedule; and
- Access and communication with the non-custodial parent.
Child support is financial support that one parent provides to the other parent. The non-custodial parent typically pays a court-ordered amount each month to the custodial parent. Child support also includes benefits such as providing health insurance coverage for the child. The financial obligation is to provide for minor children until the age of eighteen. The child support order may extend until the children reach 21 years old if they are unmarried and attend school.
Once the court resolves the divorce issues, the judge enters a judgment of dissolution, which then ends the marriage. The judgment is a court order that outlines child custody, child support, and parenting time. Both spouses must comply with the order. If a parent wants to change the provision of child custody, child support, or parenting time after the final judgment, they must file a motion with the court for a modification.
After the final dissolution of a marriage judgment, the former spouses may have an increase or decrease in their wages, health issues, or changes in their schedule or availability. In such circumstances, one or both parents may require a modification to the parenting time. The court can modify the order by agreement between the parents. Both parents must sign a notarized agreement and submit it to the court. They must also submit a form requesting the agreed modification.
A custodial or non-custodial parent may seek a modification to the child support order. The request may be for an increase or decrease of the monthly amount. The standard for an Oregon court to consider modifying child support is a substantial change in a party’s economic circumstances.
Modification of child custody may occur if the court finds that the current arrangement is not in the child’s best interest. The court looks at both parents’ conduct, income, lifestyle, and environment to determine if the child is at risk of emotional or physical harm.