When your marriage is over but divorce is impossible or undesirable, a legal separation may be a viable option. In Oregon, you need only establish irreconcilable differences to qualify for legal separation; you need not explain why you're choosing not to divorce. Couples often elect legal separation if they have religious or personal objections to a divorce, receive essential medical insurance that would end with a divorce, or have not lived in Oregon for the six months required to file for divorce. A court order for legal separation divides assets and establishes child support and custody orders, just like a judgment of divorce.
Visit the family law facilitator's office or clerk of court in your local county courthouse. Ask for the legal separation packet, which will contain all the forms you need to file. Obtain the "Legal Separation With Children" packet, if you have children. You can also obtain the forms and instructions from an online legal document provider, which can also prepare and file your legal forms. The forms are no longer available on the Oregon courts Internet site.
Conduct online research or consult with an attorney to determine what each party is entitled to receive under Oregon law. Your rights are the same in a legal separation as in a divorce. Draft a proposal for the division of marital assets and debts and an agreement regarding child support, custody and visitation, if you have children.
Discuss your proposal with your spouse and negotiate the terms. Determine whether agreement between the two of you is possible. If so, finalize your mutual agreement. If not, participation in mediation may be useful. The Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service has information on mediation programs and professional mediators throughout Oregon. You may also want to consider hiring an attorney to litigate the contested issues.
Arrange for a notary to witness and attest to the signing of your legal separation agreement. Sign the agreement in the presence of your spouse and have him do the same. Fill in the petition for legal separation forms. File them with the appropriate court, appending a copy of your signed separation agreement. Pay the current filing fee and note the court date the clerk assigns.
Although a legal separation has many of the same consequences as a divorce, it does not alter a spouse's status or inheritance rights. Thus, if a legally separated spouse dies without a will, the other spouse will inherit.