Your Portland Divorce: The Basics

Your love blossomed during a sunny Sellwood summer. But the rainy winter took the bloom off your Rose City romance, and instead of marital bliss in Beervana, you’ve got a bad hangover. But how do you navigate a divorce without getting stuck? To help you avoid the thorniest issues, here is a brief introduction to Portland divorce law.

What Does a Divorce Mean?

A divorce, referred to in Portland as "dissolution of marriage," is a legal process that ends your marriage or domestic partnership. After a divorce, you will be legally single, and allowed to marry or become a domestic partner again. A court can also issue orders regarding child support, spousal or partner support, custody and visitation orders, restraining orders, and division of property as part of divorce proceedings. Portland has a few processes similar to divorce that are helpful to be familiar with these, as they may apply to your circumstances.

A summary dissolution is similar to a divorce in that it ends your marriage, but you may not need to appear before a judge. Summary dissolution only applies to spouses who have been married for less than 10 years, don’t have any children together, and don’t have any real estate or sizeable assets or debts together.

Portland also has a process called legal separation. A legal separation may allow a court to decide issues like child support, custody, and restraining orders. Unlike a divorce, however, a legal separation doesn’t end a marriage or domestic partnership; meaning you can’t re-marry or enter into a partnership with someone else.

An annulment is when a court says your marriage was never legal in the first place, so you are not legally married. A marriage might be annulled if one of the partners was already married, was too young to consent to being married, or was tricked or forced into getting married.

Until 2014, Oregon did not allow same-sex couples to marry or recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. However, same-sex couples were able to register as domestic partners, and domestic partnerships can be ended by a judgment of dissolution. In May 2014, the ban was declared unconstitutional by an Oregon court, but a final decision was still on appeal in the court system.   

What Reasons Do I Need For Divorce?

Oregon is a “no fault” state, meaning you don’t have to show that your spouse did something wrong to get divorced in Portland. Instead, you can state that you cannot get along with your spouse and you have what are legally called “irreconcilable differences that have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.” Also, you don’t need your spouse’s permission to end the marriage. Either of you can file for divorce, and the other can’t stop the process by refusing to participate. If your spouse or domestic partner doesn’t participate in the divorce proceedings, you may still be able to get a “default judgment.”

How Do I File for Divorce in Portland?

A Portland divorce begins when one spouse files a petition for dissolution. You can file a joint petition with your spouse or file on your own. The petition gives the court some basic information about your marriage and asks for the orders you want the court to make regarding your property. If there are children involved, there is additional paperwork regarding child support, custody, and parenting time.

Portland also requires you to file a Summons, containing important information for you and your spouse about the divorce process and limiting what you can do with your communal property, money, and other assets and debts. The Summons can also prohibit either you or your spouse from moving out of state with your kids, if you have any, without prior written consent from your spouse or a court order. Depending on your financial status and whether or not you have children, you may need additional forms, which can be found on the Oregon Judicial Department website.

Divorce paperwork can be filed at the Multnomah County Circuit Court at 1021 SW Fourth Avenue. You can reach the court at (503) 988-3957. Here is a complete list of Portland area courthouses. There are also family court facilitators available at the courthouse who can estimate the best divorce forms. Please note that these court staff members are not practicing lawyers and cannot give legal advice.

What Happens After I File For Divorce?

How long it takes to get a judgment of dissolution, which makes a divorce final, depends on how complex your case is and the court’s timelines. If your spouse and you agree on everything before you file together, a dissolution case could move quickly. If a judge has to make decisions on contested issues, the case will take longer.

If you file individually, your spouse will have 30 days after being served to file a response. After that, each court may have additional timelines for mediation, parenting classes, and other requirements. Also, all child support, child custody, and property division issues should be settled either by agreement between you and your spouse or by a trial, before the divorce is granted.

Additional Resources

A divorce can be a difficult process for anyone. It’s possible that having an attorney might ease the strain of dealing with both the your spouse and the divorce paperwork. You may want to consult with an experienced divorce attorney or find free legal aid in Portland. More general information on this topic is also available at FindLaw’s divorce section.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.