Oregon law permits no-fault divorces. This means that no one needs to demonstrate any specific facts to justify a divorce -- any married person can get divorced by stating to a court that the marriage has broken down. No other reason needs to be given. The typical legal issues that arise in divorces are division of property and debts, spousal support, and child custody and child support.
The general rule for division of property in a divorce is equitable distribution. Oregon is not a community property state. This means that married couples do not automatically own all property together. When a couple divorces, each retains ownership of any property and debts they had at the start of the marriage. Any property obtained during the marriage is divided equitably between the spouses. This can include real estate and retirement accounts.
When a divorce case is filed in Oregon, a statutory restraining order automatically goes into effect. This is not a restraining order that prohibits people from talking to or being near each other (see this page for more information about restraining orders used to prevent domestic violence). Rather, this order prohibits either spouse from hiding or disposing of marital assets, including real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, or other property. The law is intended to prevent one party to a divorce from hiding or keeping assets from the other.
Debts, like property, are equitably divided under Oregon law. Any debts that a person had when entering the marriage are normally considered to be theirs alone; debts incurred during the marriage are generally the responsibility of both parties. It is important to remember that a divorce judgment between you and your spouse or ex-spouse does not bind any third-party creditors you may have. Your creditors will retain the right to collect on debts from either spouse named on an account or debt. Division of debts in a divorce only allows one spouse to collect repayment of such a debt from the other spouse.
There are three types of spousal support that can be ordered under Oregon law:
Transitional support: This is ordered on a temporary basis, to allow a spouse who has been supported by the other to find work and become self-sufficient.
Compensatory support: This is ordered on behalf of a spouse who made a significant contribution to the other spouse's earning capacity, typically by helping them pay for school or otherwise advance in their profession. The spouse who was assisted in this way may be asked to compensate the spouse who made sacrifices to help them.
Spousal maintenance: This is ordered for a person who has spent so long supported by their spouse, they are incapable of supporting themselves and divorcing any other way. It is typically ordered only in marriages that have lasted many years.
Spousal support is never automatic, and is ordered at the discretion of the court. You should consult with an attorney if you want to know if spousal support will apply in your case. Spousal support can involve substantial amounts of money over many years, and can have considerable tax implications. A good result on this issue is worth the investment.
Child custody and support laws are essentially the same for married couples and unmarried parents. You can read more about these laws here.
A divorce is a lawsuit -- one spouse sues the other, asking the court for an order. This means that the normal rules governing lawsuits apply. Each side has the right to request production of documents and other information from the other side, and is obligated to comply with those requests.
If you have been sued for divorce, you should consult with an attorney immediately. Typically, when you are served with a summons and petition in a lawsuit, you have only a limited time (30 days, for divorces in Oregon) to file a response with the court. If you miss this deadline, you can lose your case by default, and the other party will get everything they ask for. You must file a response to preserve your rights.
It is also possible for spouses to file for a divorce as co-petitioners. You can do this if you and your spouse agree on all the legal terms of the divorce - everything discussed above. This does not require you to agree on any of the personal, emotional issues that led up to the divorce; just on the outcome you desire. Joint petitions are almost always faster, cheaper, and less stressful than contested cases, but they are only possible if both parties agree on all the terms at the start. It is also possible to settle a contested case that has started out as an adversarial one. Your lawyer can often help you negotiate an equitable settlement that spares your family from unnecessary stress.