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3 Things You Should Know Before Starting a Divorce in Oregon

Updated: Dec 10, 2023


 

Before filing a divorce petition and other initiating documents with your local county courthouse, there are certain requirements that must be met or your divorce case could be rejected or vacated.


1. The Residence “Domicile” Requirements Must Be Satisfied:


Before you may file a divorce in Oregon, you or your spouse must have lived in Oregon for at least six months continuously before you file the divorce petition and other initiating documents. The only exception is if you first file a petition for separation and then later convert the separation into a dissolution of marriage. Additionally, the divorce petition and other initiating documents must be filed in a county in which one of the parties resides.


This could be relevant to your situation, for example, if you moved around Oregon and a bordering city back-and-forth, fled a domestic violence situation or otherwise moved to seek stability.

“Living” in Oregon means you are domiciled in Oregon, i.e., residing in an established abode (home or apartment) with the intent to continue living in Oregon for the time being.


If you meet the residential requirements you can file your divorce petition immediately. If you are approaching the six-month requirement, you can either file for separation first or wait until you have satisfied the six-month requirement.


Where the petition is filed is important because that determines what county circuit court will be hearing the case. Most people want the case in the county that they reside in because it’s more convenient, especially if the other spouse lives in another state. Be aware that even though one spouse files first in one state or jurisdiction doesn’t mean that the case’s “venue” cannot be transferred based on various factors we won’t get into with this article.


2. The Child Custody Jurisdictional Requirements Must Be Met:


For an Oregon court to have jurisdiction over issues involving any child, such as custody and parenting time, the requirements of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) must be met.


For Oregon to have jurisdiction, the UCCJEA requires Oregon to be the child’s “home state” when the divorce is initially filed or was the child’s home state within six months of the initial filing and at least one parent is still residing in Oregon.


Oregon is considered the child’s home state if:

  1. The child has lived in Oregon with a parent for at least six consecutive months before commencement of the divorce (if the child is less than six months old, the home state will be the state in which the child was born and lived from birth);

  2. Another state’s court does not have jurisdiction or home state of the child or has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that Oregon is the more appropriate court; and

  3. The child and the child’s parents have a significant connection with Oregon other than mere physical presence; and

  4. Substantial evidence is available in Oregon concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships.

So for example, say spouse A, spouse B, and their child have lived in Oregon for many years. Spouse B leaves with the child to the state of Washington. Oregon is the child’s home state and continues to be the home state for six months after spouse B leaves with the child. Therefore, spouse A can file a divorce petition in Oregon within the six months that spouse B and the child left Oregon for Washington. Once six months pass, Oregon is no longer the child’s home state. Spouse A could still file in Oregon, but Washington would have the superior home state jurisdiction claim over the child. A Washington court would have to decline to exercise their jurisdiction because Oregon is the more appropriate court and the child’s parents have a significant connection with Oregon other than mere physical presence and substantial evidence is available in Oregon concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships.


There is an exception to the requirement of waiting six months to attain home state status in the new state. This is called emergency jurisdiction. Emergency jurisdiction is granted if the child is present in Oregon and the child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, or a sibling or a parent of the child, is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse. This typically occurs when a spouse flees one state with the child and files a restraining order under the Family Abuse Protection Act (FAPA) in the new state.


3. Check With The Court Clerk For a Fee Waiver


As of the date of this writing, the filing fee for a divorce petition is $301. Once your divorce petition and other initiating documents are ready to be filed with your local county courthouse, you should ask the court clerk for an application to have your court filing fee either waived or deferred. The application will evaluate your income, expenses, and whether you are a recipient of public benefits to determine if you qualify for a waiver or deferral of the filing fee.


Should You Talk With an Attorney First?

Initiating a divorce and jurisdictional issues can be complicated and have negative consequences if not done correctly. As you can see, initiating a dissolution has many requirements and steps. Doing the process correctly is crucial to achieving your desired results without wasting time and money. It’s important you talk with an attorney to help guide you through the process, advise you of your options, and explain the advantages and disadvantages of your actions you take in initiating a dissolution of marriage in Oregon. Contact us at Navigate Legal Services today by calling (503) 300-1990.


Discuss your case with an Oregon attorney today. We serve clients all throughout Oregon. Contact us at Navigate Legal Services today by calling (503) 300-1990.


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