Oregon family law involves many different issues, including premarital agreements, dissolution of marriage, child custody, child support, alimony, and more. All of these issues can be complicated and deeply personal, commonly affecting many aspects of your life and the lives of your children. Gaining an initial understanding of Oregon’s family law statutes so that you can apply them to your particular case is an essential first step to getting the rights you deserve. Our primer, below, can help with that. The next step is figuring out how much Oregon family law advice you need. We can help by connecting you – at no cost – to a local Oregon family law attorney or professional who can help you further.
Oregon Annotated Statute 107.025 makes Oregon a no-fault divorce state only. This means that all Oregon divorces are no-fault – you must only state that there are irreconcilable differences between you and your spouse that have caused a temporary or unlimited breakdown of the marriage. While no-fault divorce is often simpler than fault-based divorces in other states, there are still numerous potential complications you may face. You and your spouse must come to an agreement on many issues involving your property division, custody of your children, spousal or child support, and more. If you cannot settle all issues on your own, the court will have to hear your arguments and decide for you.
Oregon, like all other states, requires certain residency rules for a married couple to divorce within the state. Oregon Statute 107.075 states that one party to the divorce must be a resident of Oregon for at least 6-months prior to the filing of the divorce.
Mandatory Waiting Period
Oregon has a mandatory waiting period before a final trial or divorce decree can be entered by the court. The waiting period, according to Oregon Statute is 90-days. However, there are some exceptions to this if you can show the judge that some type of emergency exists as to why the court should enter the divorce sooner. Another exception exists under Oregon Statute 107.485 if the parties qualify for a Summary Dissolution Procedure.
Oregon is what is known as an “equitable distribution state” according to Oregon Statute 107.105. This means that property will be divided according to what the judge determines is fair given the specific circumstances of each particular case. This does not mean that property will automatically be divided on a 50/50 basis.
To come to a final decision on what the judge believes is fair, the court will consider a lot of evidence, including: the age of the parties, earning capacity of each party, the costs of the sale of any assets, taxes anticipated by the parties, education levels of each spouse, and many other factors. In some instances, one spouse may be awarded a significant amount of property, like the marital home, to offset the other spouse’s higher income earning potential.
Alimony – Spousal Support
Oregon allows awards of spousal support (formerly called alimony) under Oregon Statute 107.105 and as you would guess, it one of the more highly contested of all Oregon family law cases. Alimony can be awarded to a lower earning spouse for a few different reasons depending on a marriages specific facts. Oregon has 3 different types of spousal support:
1. Transitional Spousal Support: awarded to one spouse so that the other spouse can attain education or training necessary for reentry into the job market.
2. Compensatory Spousal Support: When one party has contributed significantly to the education, training, or earning capacity of the higher earning spouse (such as being a stay at home parent or working full-time while the other spouse attended college or graduate school).
3. Spousal Maintenance: A contribution by one spouse to the other for a specified or indefinite period of time to continue a standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.
The main factors that go into determining an award of spousal support should be read in the Oregon Statute at 107.105 but they include: length of the marriage, each parties earning capacity, the spouse’s education level, each party’s child support obligations, and some other factors.
Oregon Child Support
Oregon Statute 107.105 states that child support shall be ordered in accordance with Oregon courts are obligated to make child support decisions based on specific calculations that take into consideration the income of both parents, percentage of time each parent spends with the child, special needs of the child including day care or health care, and more. Even though this calculation is presumed to be fair, you can fight that presumption if you believe that another amount would be more appropriate. The Oregon Department of Justice has an estimated Child Support Calculator here that you can use to get a reasonable idea what the child support costs will be.
Oregon Child Custody
Oregon Statute 107.137 states that Oregon judges should decide child custody issues based on the “best interests of the child” standard. This means that courts must approve Oregon child custody arrangements and parenting plans based on what they believe is in the best interests of the child. This may include factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent and siblings, the willingness of each parent to have a meaningful relationship, the wishes of the child (if the child is mature enough), any history of abuse, and more. Courts may not have to intervene, however, if you and the other parent can come to a suitable agreement on your own, though this often takes an experienced negotiator or mediator to accomplish. A Parenting Agreement would allow for the parties to work out all issues such as custody, visitation, and all decision making issues that arise.
Should the court order joint custody for two parents, they will still order one parent to be the residential parent, give one parent decision making authority on everyday things, while allowing both parents to have joint decision making ability for major child raising issues. A court can also order sole custody to one parent which gives that parent excusive decision making for most issues that arise in a child’s life. In either event, it is important for the non-residential parent to have significant parenting time with the child on a regular basis. This is where having a Parenting Agreement works best because it works these details out and puts it into a written and signed agreement that is then entered by the judge.
Child custody decisions are not necessarily permanent in nature though. Modifications can be made whether it be for parenting time, vacation time, or transferring residential custody from one parent to the other. The rules for requesting a modification mean that the filing parent must show that there is a change in circumstances that warrants a change in the original custody order.
Married vs. Unmarried Couples and Custody
It also should be noted that all these custody decision are made whether parents are married or unmarried. Parents that are married have a built in presumption that the husband is the father of the child born during the marriage. Parents that are unmarried need to first establish paternity. Paternity is the process by which the court determines who the biological and legal father of the child. The next step would be for the court to sort out which parent should have custody by following the rules found in the Oregon Statutes.
Oregon Father’s Rights
Oregon has become a state that believes in fathers’ rights as being equal to a mothers. However, the bias against father’s and towards mothers as being the primary caregiver still exists and fathers need to go above and beyond to get the parenting rights they want. Fathers have equal parenting rights and responsibilities as mothers, and they should always know how to ensure that they receive the fair determinations in court that they deserve. This means being present for all doctor appointments, school meetings, making lunches and dinners for the kids, and providing emotional and financial support for the kids. It is also important for a father to avoid the pitfalls that can derail and ruin his custody case.
What is the Next Step?
Oregon family law help is available by educating yourself with our primer and our other useful articles. You can get an understanding how the law will apply to your particular case so that you can decide how much family law help you need. Then, let us connect you – for free – to a local Oregon family law expert who can explain to you how they can help you further.