Getting a divorce from your spouse can be a very emotional and difficult time in your life. A divorce could take less than a month to complete if both parties are able to agree on all issues. A contested divorce could take 4-8 months, or in some cases even longer, to go to trial.
Figuring out how to navigate the legal process of getting a divorce can feel overwhelming. This blog post explains the basic legal process of getting a divorce in Oregon.
Filing for Divorce & Responding to a Divorce Petition
The divorce process starts when one spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and other initial pleadings with the court. If they do not have an attorney, they use the court forms for unrepresented parties. The spouse who begins the process is called the Petitioner.
The Petition, initial pleadings, and court notices must then be “served” on the other spouse. The Petitioner cannot serve the other spouse themselves. They can pay the sheriff or a private company to serve the other spouse, arrange for a third party to serve the other spouse, or see if the other spouse is willing to accept service without being formally served. A Proof of Service or Acceptance of Service must be filed with the court showing the date the other spouse was served.
The other spouse, called the Respondent, has 30 days to file a Response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. If they do not have an attorney, they can use the court forms for unrepresented parties. The Respondent can serve a copy of the Response on the Petitioner or their attorney by mail.
After both spouses have filed their divorce paperwork, they are usually required to participate in mediation before going to trial. If there are joint children, the parties will likely also have to take a mandatory parenting class prior to trial.
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If there are joint children or one spouse is asking for spousal support, a court can order temporary relief. Temporary relief that can be ordered includes temporary child custody, temporary parenting time, temporary child support, temporary spousal support, or other pre-judgment relief. See ORS 107.095.
A party seeking temporary relief can file a Motion for Temporary Relief. If they are seeking temporary child or spousal support, each party will also need to file a Uniform Support Declaration. The court will then hold a hearing on temporary issues, where each party can present evidence about why temporary relief should or should not be awarded. The court will then decide whether some temporary relief should be awarded.
Discovery & Pursuing Settlement
Before your case goes to trial, you have the opportunity to request evidence from your spouse. This process is called discovery. It is important to think about what you will ask for in your discovery request, as there are limits on how many requests you can make.
Sometimes the discovery process will allow you and your spouse to get a clear sense of what a court might rule if the case went to trial. If this happens, you might be able to successfully settle your case. Settlement allows you and your spouse to agree on your resolution without asking the court to issue a ruling. Settling your case can often save you money, time, and stress.
Going to Trial
If you are not able to settle your case, you will have to go to trial. At trial, you and your spouse will present evidence in front of a judge. After hearing both sides of the case, the judge will read out their findings of facts and base a legal ruling on those facts. This ruling will be binding on you and your family. However, if your life circumstances substantially change after your trial has finished, you can seek a Modification to better suit your family’s needs.
Do you have questions about how to get a divorce or what you should do in your divorce case? Give us a call at 503-850-0811 to set up a meeting with an attorney.