Legal Separation and Divorce in Oregon

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

    While either a husband or a wife can file a petition seeking legal separation in Oregon, in almost all cases, the other side can convert the case to a divorce case when they respond.

    Also, while a divorce cannot be filed until at least one spouse has lived in Oregon for at least six months, a legal separation can be filed without this delay.  The legal separation can be converted to a divorce by either spouse once the six month residency period has passed.  This is true whether or not the final separation judgment has been issued by that time.

    A legal separation can also be converted to a divorce by either the husband or the wife simply filing papers in court seeking this change at any time up to two years after the date that a legal separation judgment is issued.

    A divorce can be better than a legal separation.

    The reason for this is that a divorce is final and permanent.  If a couple just has a legal separation, either spouse can later file a completely new case seeking a divorce, and can seek different property division, spousal support, parenting terms or the like.  In other words, with a divorce, you know what you have, and you have some certainty.

    This filing of a completely new case, seeking a divorce, even though there is already a legal separation, can be done at any time, whether less than two years after a legal separation judgment becomes final, or more than two years after a legal separation judgment becomes final.

    It is true that some terms of a divorce (especially support and custody or parenting time) can be modified in certain circumstances.  However, if a divorce is final, there has to be good cause to change things such as support or parenting time.  Other things, like property division, cannot be changed at all once a divorce is final.

    In contrast, even though there is a well thought out settlement to a legal separation, or even though the parties have spent lots of money on legal fees, and gone through a court trial as part of the legal separation process, all aspects of the parties’ finances and all aspects of child custody and parenting can at least potentially be changed if one spouse files a new divorce action thereafter.