During the course of a marriage, some couples choose to separate for a period of time. Sometimes this separation is followed by a divorce, and sometimes the couple reconciles and gets back together after the separation. Some married couples who separate decide that they would like to obtain a legal separation to formalize the rights and obligations of each party during the separation. Married couples may decide to obtain a legal separation instead of a divorce for religious, financial or other personal reasons.
In Oregon, the procedure for obtaining a legal separation is very similar to the procedure required to obtain a divorce. If the parties do not agree on the terms of the final Judgment of Legal Separation, the parties will proceed to a trial to have a court make a decision regarding the issues in that parties' case.
Although the procedure for obtaining a legal separation is similar to the procedure for obtaining a divorce, legal separation is different from a divorce and does not prevent either party from filing for divorce in the future. A Judgment of Legal Separation does not dissolve a marriage, and the terms of a Judgment of Legal Separation can be modified in subsequent divorce proceedings. Regardless of what provisions a Judgment of Legal Separation contains with regard to a division of marital property, the Judgment of Legal Separation does not prevent a court from making a different distribution of marital property in a future divorce proceeding.
The Judgment of Legal Separation does not determine what occurs to any property acquired by either party after entry of the judgment, while the parties are still married. Any personal or real property acquired by either party during the legal separation may be marital property subject to division by the court during a divorce proceeding. Any debts acquired by either party during a legal separation may also be subject to division by the court during a subsequent divorce proceeding.
The Judgment of Legal Separation may contain provisions relating to child support, spousal support, custody and parenting time. If the separation is converted to a divorce, the final General Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage may contain different provisions for support, custody and parenting time.
A Judgment of Legal Separation may be converted into a divorce decree (within the same case), so long as the parties convert the Judgment of Legal Separation into a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage within two years from entry of the Judgment of Legal Separation. If the parties do not convert the Judgment of Legal Separation to a Judgment of Dissolution within two years, a separate divorce proceeding will need to be filed in order for the parties to obtain a divorce.
A Judgment of Legal Separation may define how long the separation lasts. At the end of the time stated in the judgment, the Judgment of Legal Separation will expire. If the Judgment of Legal Separation has no expiration date, the terms of the judgment will continue until the parties are divorced, the Judgment of Legal Separation is modified or the parties obtain an order to dismiss the Judgment of Legal Separation.
Because a legal separation does not provide for a final resolution of issues relating to support and division of marital debts and assets, it is important that you obtain legal advice about the possible implications of a legal separation prior to deciding if a legal separation is right for you.
Is a Legal Separation Right for You?
The Oregon and Washington family law attorneys at Jensen & Leiberan provide dedicated legal services to clients interested in learning more about legal separation or receiving guidance in obtaining a legal separation. Contact us online or call 503-446-2521 for a consultation.