Oregon averages nearly 14,000 divorces each year. Married couples decide to terminate their marriages for many reasons, which may cause them to end the relationships on amicable or contentious terms. Regardless of the nature of the divorce, both spouses must not do certain things during the divorce that violate the law or negatively affect the case.
An Oregon divorce, known as dissolution of marriage, begins when a spouse files a petition with the court in the county where either spouse resides. The spouse filing for divorce is the petitioner. The other spouse is the respondent. The spouses may divorce in Oregon court if they meet the following residence requirements:
- The marriage occurred in Oregon and either spouse is a resident of the state when the case begins; or
- If the marriage did not occur in Oregon, at least one spouse must be a resident of the state when the case begins and for the six consecutive months immediately before the filing
The petition states the grounds for the dissolution of marriage. Oregon is a no-fault divorce state. Therefore, the petitioner-spouse cannot seek to terminate the marriage for fault reasons, such as adultery, abandonment or cruelty. Under state law, the court may dissolve the marriage on the no-fault ground of irreconcilable differences. The petitioner must show that differences caused an irreparable breakdown of the relationship.
The spouse files the petition for dissolution of marriage. Next, the petitioner-spouse must serve a copy of the filing to the other spouse. Next, the respondent must receive notice of the pending divorce case. Once the petitioner has proof of serving the petition to the respondent, Oregon law automatically places a restraining order on both spouses until the final judgment or dismissal of the divorce suit.
The state law governing the automatic restraining order provides a list of actions the petitioner and respondent should not do during the divorce. State law prohibits either party from:
- Canceling, changing, lapsing by nonpayment a policy for insurance that one spouse owns that covers the other spouse or their minor children
- Changing beneficiaries on an insurance policy maintained for coverage of the other spouse or minor children
- Transferring, destroying, hiding, or disposing of property that the other spouse has an interest
- Spending an extraordinary amount of money without written notice and an accounting of the expenditures
- Acting as agent for the other spouse
The purpose of the restraining order is to make sure that all property and other legal arrangements remain the same throughout the divorce process. It also seeks to ensure that one party does not take advantage of or harm the other party for malicious or otherwise negative reasons.
Insurance policies for health, life, automobiles, homeowner, and renters may have one spouse as the policyholder with the other spouse and their children insured under the policy. During the divorce, the terms of the insurance policies remain unchanged to maintain coverage until the court makes a final judgment on the insurance.
In Oregon, the court divides marital property by equitable distribution. Marital property is property acquired during the marriage, whether titled in one or both spouses’ names. A spouse who violates the restraining order by concealing, disposing of or selling marital property may lose the asset to the other spouse. The spouse must have written consent or a court order to perform such actions with the property.
Money is also a form of property in a marriage. As such, it is subject to property division between the spouses. In some cases, one spouse is the higher earner than the other. However, neither spouse may spend the money without written notice. They must also provide an accounting of their purchases or payments.
When one spouse is ill or otherwise incapable of handling their own matters, the other may obtain a power of attorney or act as the healthcare representative. However, the automatic restraining order removes the ability of a spouse to exercise the authority to serve as the other spouse’s agent. Even when spouses agree on all of the divorce issues, they are still adverse parties. Therefore, removing the authority protects vulnerable spouses from potentially harmful decisions made by their spouses.
Failure of either spouse to comply with the automatic restraining order may result in sanctions by the court for contempt. The sanctions are punishment for disobeying the law or court order. The non-complying spouse may face penalties of confinement, fines, or compensation to the other spouse for the contempt.