The decision to separate from a spouse or domestic partner is never an easy one. Besides the emotional toll it takes, there is a seemingly endless number of legal hoops to jump through.
The actual process for seeking a legal separation or a divorce varies by state. If you are seeking a legal separation in Oregon, the process differs depending on whether or not you have children. A legal separation with children is slightly more complicated since there are issues of custody and child support to work out, along with ensuring the wellbeing of your children.
What Does Legal Separation Mean in Oregon?
The process for legal separation in Oregon is similar to that of a divorce in Oregon. For both, you must obtain a court order stipulating who gets what property (such as houses and cars), who gets custody of the children and who pays necessary child support and any spousal support.
For both, you must fill out the required forms to submit to the court. The forms vary based on the action you seek and if you have children.
You may have to get a legal separation in Oregon instead of a divorce if you don’t meet the requirements for divorcing in the state. If you did not get married in Oregon but in another state, you or your spouse or domestic partner must be a resident of the state for at least six months in order to get a divorce. To get a legal separation under Oregon separation laws, you must simply live in the state at the time you file the paperwork.
If you don't want to get a divorce for religious or other reasons, you can also opt for legal separation. If you and your spouse or domestic partner ultimately decide to stay together after a legal separation, you are still technically married or engaged in a domestic partnership.
You can request a limited legal separation for a certain period of time or one that is unlimited. If you opt for a limited legal separation in Oregon, your marriage or domestic partnership status reverts on the day stipulated in the judgment.
Legal Separation vs. Divorce in Oregon
Legal separation in Oregon differs from divorce in Oregon in one significant way. When you get a legal separation in Oregon, you remain married. That means you may still have a legal right to any property that was acquired during your marriage.
If you are legally separated, you can later file for a divorce in Oregon. Under Oregon separation laws, you can convert your legal separation into a divorce within two years of your judgment of separation. Keep in mind that this requires more court filings, fees and court appearances. Once you get a divorce, you are no longer legally married and have no right to inherit property from your spouse.
Filing for Separation in Oregon
To file for legal separation or divorce in Oregon, you must establish only that you and your spouse or domestic partner have problems you cannot work out (known as irreconcilable differences), rather than proving that someone was at fault. You must follow the procedure laid out in Oregon separation laws to properly and legally separate from your spouse or domestic partner.
To file for separation in Oregon, you must fill out and submit to the court a variety of forms. These include a Petition for Separation that tells the court what you want and all pertinent information. You must also submit a statutory restraining order that prevents either party from disposing of real or personal property, making unauthorized changes to insurance policies, and making exceedingly expensive purchases.
If you have children under the age of 18, you must submit forms that pertain to child support proceedings. These include child support worksheets, a parenting plan and a parenting class completion certificate. If you have children between the ages of 18 and 21 who are in school, you must fill out a Separation with Adult Children only form.
These forms are all available online and must be filed in the county where you or your spouse or registered partner live.
Once you fill out the necessary paperwork, you must notify your spouse or registered partner by serving him the forms. You must also notify the court that you served the forms on your spouse indicating that everyone has knowledge of the proceedings.
The final step in filing a legal separation is to get a judgment from the court. A judge reviews your forms and takes all necessary information into account before issuing a final judgment. Once the judge does this, you receive a document finalizing your case and laying out your rights and responsibilities.
With a final judgment in hand, you are considered legally separated and must comply with all of the court orders.
How Much Does a Legal Separation Cost?
The process of legal separation and divorce in Oregon costs roughly the same. Regardless of which you file, you must pay court fees, filing fees and any other associated fees, such as attorneys' fees.
If you opt to not hire an attorney and do the legal separation on your own, you will save on attorney costs. However, if you and your spouse or domestic partner don’t agree on things such as custody and support, you are wise to work with an attorney who can get those issues settled for you. That will save you money in the long-term.
An attorney can also help you determine whether legal separation or divorce makes the most sense for you. Given the time, money and impact on your family, it is a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of both before making a decision, especially if children are involved.
Paying Child Support if You Have Joint Custody
Oregon courts award joint custody only when both parents agree to all aspects of the parenting and custody plan. Child support is mandatory in Oregon, even if you have joint custody.
While it may seem as though child support is unnecessary if both parents have custody, there is likely to be an imbalance in income between the parents. The parent who earns more or who has less time with the child is likely going to have to pay the child support calculated by the Oregon state child support guidelines.
To determine how much to pay in child support, the court typically takes into account the age of the child, how many children there are and the costs of living, schooling and health insurance. The court wants to make sure that any children are sufficiently provided for, no matter which parent they live with.
If you work with an attorney, she can help you determine how much child support you may have to pay or will receive, based on your parenting and custody plans and income. If you do not work with an attorney on your legal separation documents, you can use the state’s child support calculator as a guide.
As with everything in a final judgment for legal separation, any child support that the judge deems necessary must be followed. Neglecting to pay child support, even if you have joint custody, can be a serious and punishable offense.