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Do I Need a Reason to Divorce My Spouse in Oregon?

Updated: Dec 10, 2023


 

Oregon is a no fault state, meaning that you do not need a specific reason to initiate a divorce. However, there may be instances when a spouse’s income, social environment, lifestyle or abusive conduct could affect the outcome of a divorce.

Irreconcilable Differences


As I just previously mentioned, Oregon is a no fault state so all that’s needed in your divorce petition is to allege “irreconcilable differences” which means that you don't get along with your spouse anymore and you no longer want to be married. Notice this is a one-way street and it does not matter whether or not your spouse disagrees with the divorce. If one spouse wants a divorce, it can't be prevented because the other spouse doesn't. Unlike Oregon, in fault states you must have a legally acceptable reason for petitioning the court for a divorce such as infidelity, cruelty, or abandonment.


Where Spouse’s Bad Acts and Mistreatment Do Not Factor


Property distribution and spousal support are largely unaffected by spouse bad acts and mistreatment. The overarching principal with property distribution and spousal support is that the awards should be “just and equitable” which is a legal term meaning that the award is fair given the circumstances. The court has interpreted this as what is fair in an economic sense and not to penalize a spouse for bad acts or to reward a spouse for mistreatment. For instance, a court of appeals case, In re Marriage of Garza (2005), the court of appeals held that a spouse’s domestic violence and mistreatment of one spouse did not qualify as a basis for spousal support.


Where Spouse’s Bad Acts and Mistreatment Do Factor


Child custody and parenting time are areas where a spouse’s conduct does play a role in the outcome of the case. When the court decides which party should be awarded custody of a child between the parents, the factors listed in Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 107.137 are the court’s guide. Among those factors is section (4) that states: “...the court shall consider the conduct, marital status, income, social environment or lifestyle of either party only if it is shown that any of these factors are causing or may cause emotional or physical damage to the child.” It’s not enough that there is some bad act or behavior that a parent engages in, it must cause or have potential to cause emotional or physical damage to the child.


One example of bad acts negatively affecting a parent’s custody argument was in Matter of Marriage of Tuma (1977), where the court found conduct that clearly endangered the child on several occasions including the parent driving while intoxicated when the child was in the car, leaving amphetamines accessible to the child, and holding marijuana cigarettes to the child’s mouth.


Abuse Against Parent


Also within ORS 107.137 is section (2) that states “... if a parent has committed abuse…there is a rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interests and welfare of the child to award sole or joint custody of the child to a parent who committed the abuse.” The definition of abuse is found in ORS 107.705 and is the standard for granting a restraining order under the Family Abuse Prevention Act (FAPA).


Bottom Line


In other states, there needs to be an allegation and evidence of infidelity, cruelty, or abandonment before a party can file for a divorce. In Oregon this is not the case; only a desire to no longer be married to your spouse is required, which is called “irreconcilable differences.” Spousal mistreatment and abuse do not factor into the economic aspects of a divorce, but they do factor into aspects of child custody and parenting time.


Starting a divorce can be complicated and have negative consequences if not filed correctly or filed for the right reasons. It’s important you talk with an attorney to help guide you through the process and explain the advantages and disadvantages of making certain requests in your divorce petition or when you are served with a divorce.


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

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