Oregon Divorce Court 101

Let's Untie the Knot | Oregon Divorce Court 101

When a marriage ends, people are left with a number of key decisions, including the division of the assets and debts and child custody and support.  Even if you have an amicable divorce, you are taking one life and dividing it into two.  Spouses face a perfect storm of stressful events:  new living arrangements, parenting schedules and decisions about property and money.  Navigating your divorce will be easier if you understand some basic things.  The following is a crash course in Divorce Court 101:

  1.  File the Divorce Papers:

As soon as one party (or both parties) decide that divorce is the only solution, he or she will file the paperwork with the local court clerk.   In Oregon, you file several documents, including a petition for the dissolution of marriage, with the circuit court clerk’s office at the local county courthouse.  The petition tells the court and your spouse what you are looking for in a divorce.  The filing fee is $287 and the cost to serve your spouse usually starts at $40 and increases depending on what company you use and how difficult it is for them to find your spouse.

  1.  Temporary Divorce Orders:

Once your divorce is final, you and your spouse will have a detailed agreement outlining how to handle each aspect of your divorce.  This agreement will contain rules regarding child support payments, child custody and the division of assets.  However, the divorce process can last many months.  How are you supposed to handle these issues during the process?  Temporary family orders can help you and your spouse navigate any unclear areas of your divorce while the legal process continues.  For example, if one parent takes care of the children as his or her primary occupation, the court will need to issue an order giving parenting time to the other party.  The following types of family court decisions are commonly made in temporary order hearings:

  1.  Discovery:

 After one party has filed for a divorce but prior to your day in court, you and your spouse will engage in the discovery process.  Discovery is the phase of a divorce where your attorney and your spouse’s attorney gather important information about your situation.  It often includes finances and things that pertain to child custody and other issues.  You should gather all financial information relevant to your case.  Such information includes:  life insurance policies, joint bank statements, joint credit card statements, investment portfolios and retirement account information.  Your lawyer or your spouse’s lawyer may also subpoena witnesses to testify in court.

In addition to financial documents, you should gather all relevant emails or texts, phone records or any court orders that have a bearing on your case.  You can best help your attorney during the discovery process by providing her or him with all the paperwork they need in a timely manner.  The sooner you give your attorney the requested information, the sooner she can go through them and start solving the issues that you are facing.

  1. The Choice of Mediation or Divorce Court:

Some cases are well suited for mediation and some are destined for divorce court.  Mediation is preferable insofar as it saves the parties time and money and it is a more amicable process.  That said, in order to have a successful mediation, you and your spouse need to be able to agree on three things:  (1) both parties need to be willing to actively participate in mediation; (2) you and your spouse need to be comfortable in making your own decisions; (3) you and your spouse must be mentally capable of making your own decisions and (4) you and your spouse must be transparent and willing to engage in a good faith negotiation.  If one of the parties is not willing to compromise or work to find a middle-ground, mediation will not be successful.

If you have decided to go to trial there are several important things to know about “the big day.”  First, make sure you know how to get to the courthouse and through security.  Leave yourself plenty of time for traffic and parking.  When your case is called, you will move to the front of the courtroom.  Each side will make an opening statement and then the party that filed for divorce will begin by presenting the facts by calling a witness to testify.  The witness will then be cross-examined.  Both parties will call their respective witnesses.  The judge may also ask questions to the witnesses.  After the last document and final word of testimony is submitted, each side may present a closing argument.  The trial may last one day or several days.

  1.   Divorce Decree:

After a judge hears all of the evidence, he or she will issue a comprehensive final decree of divorce or separate orders on property, spousal support, custody and child support.  Pension orders may have to be prepared as well as continuing orders related to health insurance for children.   If the two attorneys disagree on the wording of the proposed order, they must return to the court to reach an agreement.  When an order is prepared that everyone accepts, the judge will enter the order.  Once the order is entered, you are divorced.

  1. Beginning your Post Divorce Life

Perhaps the hardest time comes following the entry of the divorce order—when you must execute all of the rulings.  You must follow through on your co-parenting schedule, dispose of the marital home, divide up all the debts and assets, etc.  You must take the life that you shared together and divide it into two separate lives, learning how to navigate through the emotions and practical difficulties that come with that transition.

Divorce is never an easy process.  However, by knowing what you can expect, preparing yourself (practically and emotionally) and remaining calm and level-headed, you can make the process less arduous.  Always remember the big picture of what you want for your post-divorce life and take deliberate and well thought out steps to get there.

Let's Untie the Knot | Postnup Primer

Postnup Primer

A post-nuptial agreement (also known as a “postnup”) is a formal, written consensus between two parties, entered into after the marriage occurs.  In order for...

Read More