Article provided by Deanna Jensen - Jensen & Leiberan PC
Due to a Federal District Court ruling in May of 2014, same-sex couples were allowed to marry in Oregon. The U.S, Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (June 2015) recognized the right of all couples to enter into legal marriages anywhere in the United States and to have those marriages recognized by every state no matter where the couple may move.
This landmark decision brings equality and certainty to the rights of same-sex couples throughout the country. However, it does not nullify the right under Oregon statutes for couples to enter into registered domestic partnerships. It also does not automatically convert registered domestic partnerships entered into before the Obergefell case into marriages. These are issues that will need to be addressed by the Oregon legislature and/or Oregon courts.
Oregon’s Registered Domestic Partnership Law prohibits anyone from entering into a marriage until the registered domestic partnership is dissolved. This was intended to prevent someone from having a registered domestic partnership with one partner and marrying another. However, it now creates unforeseen legal issues for those who were already in registered domestic partnerships when same-sex marriage first became legal in Oregon in May of 2014.
Dissolving Registered Domestic Partnerships in Oregon
Once individuals have registered as domestic partners in Oregon, they have created a legal relationship, which must be dissolved through a legal proceeding if either partner wishes to end the relationship. Even if both partners are living outside of the state of Oregon at the end of the relationship, the petition to dissolve the registered domestic partnership must still be filed in Oregon.
Procedurally, A dissolution of a registered domestic partnership is similar to a divorce proceeding. If at least one of the parties to the domestic partnership still lives in Oregon, the petition to dissolve the registered domestic partnership must be filed in the county where at least one party currently resides. If neither party lives in Oregon at the time the Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership is filed, then the Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership should be filed in the county where one of the partners last resided in Oregon.
The terms of a General Judgment of Dissolution of Registered Domestic Partnership may divide property, debts, award support to either partner, award child support, determine custody and parenting time issues for any joint children, and award either partner attorney fees and costs.
Registered domestic partners face challenges that married couples may not face. The dissolution of a registered domestic partnership may bring about significant tax consequences for both partners and difficulties in dividing retirement accounts, since registered domestic partners are not afforded the same rights as a married couple under federal law.
Do You Need to Hire an Attorney?
If you are considering dissolving a registered domestic partnership or if you have been served with a petition to dissolve your registered domestic partnership, an attorney can advise you on what steps must be taken to dissolve your domestic partnership and can help you ensure that you understand the relevant law and facts that are important to your case.
Because registered partners do not receive all of the same protections that married couples receive under federal law, individuals who plan on dissolving a registered domestic partnership should take care to plan for difficulties that may arise in dividing certain assets. An attorney can provide advice about the possible tax consequences of paying or receiving support from a former registered domestic partner and the possible tax consequences of transferring property between partners. By receiving advice from an attorney throughout each step of a case, and planning for the possible tax ramifications of payments of support or awards of assets at the time of the dissolution of a registered domestic partnership, individuals can help to mitigate possible tax liabilities incurred as a result of transferring property or paying support to a former registered domestic partner.
If you think that you want to try to settle your case, you may want to talk to your attorney about the possibility of participating in mediation or a settlement conference. Your attorney can make sure that you are fully advised of your legal rights and that you obtain the relevant information to your case prior to negotiating a final settlement.
Being unprepared for trial or uninformed about the law that is relevant to your case can hinder your ability to protect your legal rights. If it seems likely that your case may go to trial, an attorney can help you prepare for trial, help you obtain relevant documents and information from the opposing party prior to trial, and can represent you at trial to make sure that your legal rights are protected.