Legal Separation in Oregon

Under Oregon law, a judgment for a legal separation of marriage may be granted in lieu of a divorce. A legal separation is different than dissolution of marriage in that the parties remain legally married and cannot re-marry. A legal separation is a formal legal agreement between spouses, which allows for separation of their lives and finances but does not dissolve their marriage.

There are several reasons why you may choose a legal separation instead of marriage dissolution (divorce). Some reasons include:

  • • Personal – religious beliefs or social reasons
  • • Legal – you are not ready for a divorce but need court protection concerning your children, financial support, protection from your spouse’s debts, and property issues
  • • Financial – you need to remain married to retain health insurance or retirement benefits (which benefits are only available in certain situations following a legal separation; be sure to discuss your specific situation with your attorney)
  • • Residency requirements – you may file for legal separation in Oregon if one party resides in Oregon. You may then, if you choose to do so, convert the legal separation filing to one for divorce once the six-month residency requirements are met

It is important to note that the legal separation of marriage process is nearly identical to that of a dissolution of marriage. Plans for child custody, child and spousal support, and property division (assets and debts) must be in place. Also note, one party can object to a legal separation and insist that the petition be converted to a divorce. The major drawback of a legal separation is that the terms of a legal separation judgment are not “final” in the same way that many terms of a divorce judgment are. Your attorney will help you determine whether a legal separation is appropriate in your situation.

In Oregon, within a two year period following a legal separation, either party may file a motion to convert the legal separation to a divorce. This can be a straightforward process if neither party seeks to change terms of the original agreement.