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What is a divorce?

A divorce, which in Oregon is called “dissolution of marriage,” legally ends a marriage.  A dissolution of marriage is started when one spouse/partner files a petition for dissolution.  The spouse/partner who files the petition is called the petitioner.  The other spouse/partner is called the respondent.  Both parties can file a joint petition, in which case they are co-petitioners.
If there are children involved, Petitioner also must file a certificate regarding pending child support proceedings and existing support orders, and a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) affidavit regarding pending custody or parenting time proceedings and where the children have lived for the last five years.  Other documents may be required during the case if the respondent files a response. 

How are parties notified?

If the parties are not co-petitioners, after the petition is filed, the respondent must be “served” with a copy of the petition.  This means that Respondent is given a copy of the petition that was filed with the court and a summons.  The respondent can agree to sign an “acceptance of service” that says he or she has received the petition.  Otherwise, the sheriff or another adult who meets the legal requirements must give Respondent copies of the papers.  If Petitioner or the sheriff or process server cannot find Respondent, Petitioner may ask the court to allow Respondent to be served by publishing a notice in a newspaper or posting at the courthouse or another means of alternate service.

How much time does Respondent get to file papers?

Oregon law gives a respondent 30 days after service of the petition to file a response with the court.  If Respondent does not file a response, Petitioner may be granted everything he or she asked for in the petition.  If Respondent files a response, the court may set the case for trial, mediation, or a settlement conference, depending on the court’s procedures.

Do we need a reason to get divorced?

In Oregon, there is no-fault divorce.  The only reason needed for dissolution of marriage is that the spouses cannot get along and there is no way to fix the problems.  The law calls this “irreconcilable differences that have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.”  A spouse or partner does not need permission of the other spouse or partner to divorce.

When is the marriage officially ended?

A judgment of dissolution of marriage, signed by a judge, is the final document that ends a marriage.  The judgment will include all of the judge’s rulings and may state:


  • That the marriage is over;
  • Which parent gets custody of the children;
  • The parents’ parenting time;
  • Which parent pays child support, how much, and when;
  • Which parent provides or pays for health insurance for the children;
  • How the bills will be divided;
  • How property, including retirement benefits and a home, will be divided;
  • Whether one spouse will pay spousal support (alimony) to the other;
  • That a party’s former name will be restored; and
  • How the court costs and fees will be divided.

In almost all cases, one of the spouses/partners must have lived in Oregon for six months before filing for dissolution.  If only one spouse lives in Oregon, the Oregon court can dissolve the marriage but may not be able to order the non-resident party to pay money or to divide his or her property.

Are there different types of dissolutions?

Oregon law creates a summary dissolution proceeding for people with simple dissolution cases.  If a couple meets the requirements for summary dissolution, they may pick up forms at the courthouse or access them on-line.  Summary Dissolution Forms

Self-help forms for more complex dissolutions also are available.  Many Oregon counties have family court facilitators available at the courthouse to estimate the best self-help dissolution forms.  These court staff members are not practicing lawyers and cannot give legal counsel.  Facili​tator List  

What is the cost?

The court charges a fee for filing dissolution petitions and responses.  There are additional fees for service, settlement conferences, and trial.  A party to a case may ask for a fee waiver or deferral if he or she cannot afford to pay the court or service fees. 

Lawyers usually charge money to represent a person in a dissolution case.  The more complicated the dissolution, the more the attorney fees will be.  Lawyers will explain their fees and billing procedures to clients.  You may call the Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service for help finding a lawyer who offers payment plans.  The number to call is (503) 684-3763 from the Portland area, or (800) 452-7636 from elsewhere in Oregon.  An online referral request form also is available at


The length of time it takes to get a judgment of dissolution depends on the complexity of the case and the court’s timelines.  A dissolution case moves quickly if the parties file as co-petitioners and agree on everything before they file.  If a judge has to make decisions, the case will take longer.

The respondent has 30 days after being served to file a response.  A party may have 10 to 30 days to file a response to a request for temporary orders (this time period depends on local court rules). 

Each court may have additional timelines for mediation, parenting classes, and other requirements.  You should check local court rules for these requirements. 

Legal separation

A judgment of separation may be issued when irreconcilable differences between the parties have caused the temporary or unlimited breakdown of the marriage.  The main difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that spouses are still married after a legal separation. 

Why separation?

A spouse may be able to stay on the other spouse’s insurance policy or the parties may have moral objections to divorce or neither party has lived in Oregon for six months.  It is possible to divide assets and obtain a support order with a legal separation.  A legal separation proceeding may be changed to a divorce proceeding at a later date.


A marriage may be annulled when a party was incapable of entering into or consenting to marriage because he or she was not of legal age or lacked sufficient understanding or a party’s consent to the marriage was obtained by force or fraud. 

A marriage that has been annulled for one of these reasons is void as of the time the judgment is signed.  In a few cases, such as when a party to a marriage was married to someone else at the time of the marriage, the marriage is treated as if it never happened.

Packet 1A: Summary Dissolution
Packet 1B: Dissolution for PETITIONERS with Children
Packet 1C: Dissolution for PETITIONERS without Children
Packet 1D: Dissolution for RESPONDENTS with Children
Packet 1E: Dissolution for RESPONDENTS without Children
Packet 9A: Co-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Children
Packet 9B: Co-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage without Children

This web page provides general legal information in summary form. The information is not a complete explanation of the law in this area, and it is not intended to substitute for legal advice. The law in this area may change, and the changes may not be noted here.  Contact a lawyer for legal advice.