1. Oregon does NOT have “fault” divorce.
Oregon is what is commonly called a “no-fault divorce” state. That means to get a divorce in Oregon, you don’t have to prove to the court that it was either spouse’s fault the marriage is ending. You only have to show that “irreconcilable differences between the parties have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.” Although reasons the marriage ended (like infidelity, abandonment, etc.), may be of tremendous personal importance to you, they are not considered relevant to the judge as grounds for divorce. It is better (and probably cheaper) to work on your feelings about these issues with the help of friends, family, and/or a therapist rather than with your lawyer and the courts.
2. “Custody” is NOT the time you and your ex get to spend with the kids.
Many people do not really know what “custody” means in the legal sense and use the term “custody” when they really mean “parenting time.” “Custody” in Oregon, is the right and responsibility to make “major decisions concerning the child, including, but not limited to, the child’s residence, education, health care and religious training.” The time the child spends with you and your ex individually is called “parenting time.”
3. “Joint custody” is NOT the default in Oregon.
“Joint custody” is when you and your ex share the rights and responsibilities described above. In Oregon, “the court shall not order joint custody, unless both parents agree to the terms and conditions of the order.” If both parents cannot agree, the court will order sole custody to one parent or the other. If both parents agree to joint custody, “the court may not overrule that agreement by ordering sole custody to one parent.”
4. What some states call “alimony” Oregon calls “spousal support.”
- Oregon courts do not use the term “alimony” to describe the money the court orders one spouse to pay to the other after a divorce. Instead of “alimony”, Oregon uses the term “spousal support.” In Oregon, there are three categories of spousal support. They are Maintenance, Transitional, and Compensatory Support. The court uses several factors to determine the dollar amount and length of time for spousal support.
- Maintenance—the court defines Spousal Maintenance as “a contribution by one spouse to the support of the other for either a specified or an indefinite period.” The primary goal of maintenance support is to help the parties live separately at a standard of living similar to the standard of living during the marriage to the extent possible. The reason for “to the extent possible” is the court recognizes that the same income that supported one household during the marriage cannot support two households at the same level after the parties have separated.
- Transitional—the court defines Transitional Support as “needed for a party to attain education and training necessary to allow the party to prepare for reentry into the job market or for advancement therein.” Transitional support is usually awarded when one spouse has had a lengthy absence from the workforce and needs additional education or training to reenter the job market.
- Compensatory—the court awards Compensatory Support “when there has been a significant financial or other contribution by one party to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning capacity of the other party and when an order for compensatory spousal support is otherwise just and equitable in all of the circumstances.” Significant contributions are those that “are meaningful and are likely to have influence and effect.”
In Oregon, the court can award one, two, or all three types of spousal support in the final divorce judgment.
5. Oregon is NOT a “community property” state.
Presently, 9 states are what are commonly referred to as “community property states.” Oregon is NOT a community property state. In an Oregon divorce, the court divides property based on what it finds “just and proper in all the circumstances.”
In Oregon, property includes real estate, cars, bank accounts, retirement accounts, furniture, tools, etc. All property owned by either spouse is considered “marital property” but only those things acquired during the marriage are considered “marital assets”. There are different legal presumptions for how marital property is divided depending on whether it is a marital asset or not. If the parties cannot agree on how to divide the property, the court will decide based on these legal presumptions.