Chronology of a Divorce
Beaverton Family Law Terminology And Chronology Of A Divorce
A major part of the emotional stress a divorce puts on a person is being involved in a process that you do not understand. A potential divorce unleashes a variety of fears and concerns that may result in an inability to think clearly about financial settlements, personal needs, and the needs of your children.
I am attorney Shelley L. Fuller, and I have walked clients throughout Oregon through this process, providing step-by-step representation. At each point in the process, I am there to staunchly advocate for your rights and provide you with the confidence you need to ensure you and your children’s futures are protected.
Call my offices today at 503-626-1808 to schedule an initial consultation to learn how I can help you through a divorce.
Portland 'No Fault' Divorce Lawyer
I have prepared this primer as a brief overview on Oregon family law terminology and divorce chronology to help clarify, explain and interpret the steps that you must go through in this process. This terminology and chronology are provided as a general tool for informing yourself about the process and terms your attorney and the courts will use during the pendency of your case. It should not be used as a substitute for meeting with an attorney to obtain accurate and complete legal advice regarding your questions.
1. Grounds. Oregon has adopted the concept of "no fault" divorce. It is not necessary to prove cruelty, adultery, abandonment or any other fault on the part of your spouse for the court to grant a divorce. A simple statement that you and your spouse have developed "irreconcilable differences" is all that is required. "Irreconcilable differences" is the legal phrase used to say that you and your spouse are no longer getting along. Either party can request a divorce without the other's permission or agreement. You cannot stop the divorce from happening if your spouse wants one.
2. Residency requirement. You must have lived in Oregon for six months prior to filing for divorce. In addition, your divorce must be filed in the county in which either you or your spouse live.
3. Filing a divorce. The first step is the preparation and filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The petition recites the names, ages and addresses of the husband, wife and all children born or adopted during the marriage; when and where you married and when you separated; that the residency requirement has been satisfied; and that your marriage should be dissolved. I often call the Petition a “wish list” of those items that need to be covered through the process and determined by the end of the case. Most clients expect the petition to set forth specific provisions for support, custody, a parenting plan (visitation), property division, etc. While we can create such a detailed petition, it is almost always more cost-effective to file a more generic document that is drafted with the expectation that the specific details of your divorce will be settled by agreement while the statutory waiting periods are running.
4. Who should file? The person who files first is the petitioner. The other party is the respondent. There is no legal significance in who files first, although there may be procedural and tactical advantages for being the petitioner or the responding party called the “respondent.” Pride is a consideration. Talk it over with us and with your spouse so that we can avoid a race to the courthouse and further hurt feelings over this small item. Filing first is important if child custody will be an issue.
5. Order freezing assets. The filing of a divorce petition puts in place an automatic and immediate order freezing certain accounts, preventing cancellation of policies of insurance, and prohibiting the changing of beneficiaries named in retirement accounts. If you believe your spouse will attempt to cancel or modify insurance coverage or sell off assets after being served with a petition for divorce, please let us know at the consultation so we can advise appropriately.
6. Service or acceptance. Your divorce begins when the petitioner serves the respondent with a copy of the petition. There are two ways to deliver this document to your spouse. The first is to have either the sheriff or a private process server hand deliver it. This can cause embarrassment and angry feelings. For this reason, I will likely recommend that we never do service at a person’s work unless we are left with no other alternative. An alternative is to have your spouse come into our office to pick up a copy and sign an Acceptance of Service that acknowledges receipt. We will use a private process server unless you tell us otherwise.
7. Waiting period. Oregon previously had a statutory 90-day waiting period before a divorce could be finalized. This waiting period was eliminated by the legislature in ____. There is no longer a waiting period for finalizing a divorce in Oregon. Uncontested can relatively fast if the parties agree to the terms of divorce. We have successfully finalized divorced in less than 60 days. Contested divorces may take up to 12 months to finish depending on the issues involved and the parties’ willingness to compromise. Our goal is to try to help you work out the details of custody, parenting time (visitation), support and property division as soon as possible to reduce the strain on you and your family and the costs for legal services.
8. Temporary relief. A spouse cannot be forced to pay money or to take other desired action unless there is a court case pending. This means that a divorce case must be filed to obtain court-ordered temporary relief. We can ask the court to order support for you and/or the children, award you exclusive use of your vehicle and home, or provide various other forms of relief all while the case is pending. Keep in mind that the first step is to ask. Your spouse has an opportunity to object to your requests. A hearing will be held in the event that you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement about how to handle issues while the divorce is pending. The court will then hear your evidence and make its decision on the temporary matters. These hearings typically occur approximately 45 to 60 days (depending on which county your case is filed in) after you have filed your motion asking for relief.
Voluntary support payments can set a precedent with both your spouse and the court. Talk to us about what is reasonable in your situation. Do not pay too much or accept too little and by your actions tell the judge that these temporary amounts are fair.
9. Mandatory parenting class. Oregon requires that both you and your spouse complete a parenting class early in the divorce process. The typical class lasts four hours and covers topics, including ways that parents can help their children adjust to divorce and how to make shared parenting time better for the children. The court will not allow your divorce to become final until both parents have completed the class and filed the appropriate certificates with the court. If your case is filed in Washington County, please note that the Mandatory Parenting Class is called "Kids' Turn" and is longer and costs more than the other counties. You may sign up for the class here
10. Mediation regarding children's issues. You and your spouse will be required to attend mediation regarding custody and parenting time issues. In some counties, mediation is available for other issues besides custody and parenting time and may including support issues and division of assets and debts. Mediation is a procedure in which both parents speak with a neutral third party hired by the court to help you reach an agreement on custody and to set a parenting schedule. The mediator will not discuss financial issues, give advice or provide therapy. Approximately 80 percent of our clients who enter mediation leave the process with an agreement regarding the children. Our success rate is high because our clients spend time with us preparing for mediation before entering the process. Please note, that lawyers are not present and do not participate in this court ordered mediation process.
11. "Uncontested divorce." Your divorce will be contested unless you and your spouse agree to all aspects of custody, parenting time, support, property division, payment of liabilities, attorneys' fees and court costs. You have a contested divorce, and a trial may be necessary, if your spouse disputes even one of these matters, regardless of whether or not the dispute is eventually settled without having to appear before a judge. Most contested cases are eventually settled by agreement (called a Stipulated Judgment) between the parties before either party appears in a courtroom.
12. Court costs. Court costs refer to charges that the court imposes before you are allowed to submit documents and before any hearing will be held. Parties are required to pay a filing fee for divorce in Oregon of $273 before the court will accept the party's papers for filing.
13. Change of wife's name. A wife's former name may be returned to her at any time either during or after the divorce without any court action. It is up to the Wife whether she wishes to retain her name or return it to some former name. Let us know before we prepare the Petition for Dissolution if you want such a change formally incorporated into a court judgment. A husband cannot force a wife to stop using his last name.
14. . Discovery Process. In order to determine what issues need to be resolved before the divorce can be file, both parties are required to share financial information and other relevant documents to one another. This generally includes documents on income, assets appraisals, debt statements, and bank statements. In order to avoid excessive cost in this process, it is really important that our client provide us with documents requested in a timely manner. The more complete and organized the documents are, the less cost you will incur for us to organize them and request additional documents. Transparency is expected in this process and neither party will be allowed to withhold documents without consequences from the court.
15. Negotiating the case. Our firm will attempt to negotiate with your spouse's attorney to reach an agreement as to how to resolve your case. This includes talking about custody issues, parenting time, support, and the division of your assets and debts. Frequently, the best result for you will be one in which you and your spouse reach an agreement as to how to resolve these issues. Sometimes, such a relationship does not exist and the only way to resolve it is through the attorneys or with the court's assistance.
It is perfectly acceptable for you to discuss support and property division with your spouse. In fact, we encourage you to do so. Just do not finalize anything without clearing it with us first. Remember, always be fair and take the high road if at all possible.
Divorce proceedings are very emotional, and parties sometimes use them to seek revenge. Occasionally, one parent will use the children in an attempt to punish the other parent. Prepare your children properly without poisoning their minds about your spouse. Don’t give them too much information, if any, about the proceedings. Let them be children and reassure them that both their parents love them and will do what’s best for them.
16. Finishing the case. It is common for a divorce case to extend over four to six months. That does not necessarily mean that something is happening each day. Many times, it is necessary for us to wait for information from other attorneys, the courts, other professionals or anyone else who may be involved in your case. The judge will sign a General Judgment (Dissolution of Marriage) once you have resolved your issues, reached an agreement or concluded a trial. You will be legally single in almost all respects and will receive any property or money awarded you by the judgment on the day that it is signed. Once the divorce is over, we will send you a letter outlining and again explaining all of the terms of your judgment. There may be some follow-up details that will have to be handled either by our firm or by you, depending on the circumstances of your case.
17. Final divorce. Your divorce will be final on the day that the judge signs the General Judgment (Dissolution of Marriage).