4 Differences Between California and Oregon Divorce Laws

As a byproduct of our federalist form of government, where the power to legislate and govern is shared between the states and the federal government, divorce laws can actually vary drastically from state to state.

Some people enter into a divorce with the presumption that it will always follow a predefined template and that their divorce will be the same as every other divorce they’ve heard of, but the fact is, their state’s laws could cause the proceedings to be entirely different than they expected.

Pacific Cascade Legal represents clients in all family law cases in both Oregon and California, so we thought it would be beneficial to outline some of the key differences in how divorces are handled in these two states.

While both Oregon and California are considered no-fault divorce states, meaning you do not need to demonstrate a reason beyond irreconcilable differences in order to obtain a divorce, there are several different rules which could potentially have a major impact on the way your divorce case is handled. We’ve detailed some of those difference below, but please keep in mind that this is not an all-inclusive list and is meant to be representative of how divorce laws can vary from state to state.

1. Community Property vs. Equitable Distribution

Likely the single biggest difference between California and Oregon divorce laws is how each state handles the distribution of assets in the divorce settlement. California is a community property state, which means that all property of the couple is considered to be owned equally by each spouse, or only by an individual spouse. The courts seek to provide an absolute 50/50 split of the property between the spouses.

Is Oregon a Community Property State?

No. Unlike California, the state of Oregon adheres to the principle of equitable distribution. This means that the courts will seek to divide all assets equitably, or fairly, but not necessarily equally. Under some circumstances a spouse may be awarded a percentage of the value of the property, rather than physically dividing the property for distribution purposes.

2. Residency Requirement

In order to get a divorce in the State of Oregon, at least one spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months. If the marriage occurred in the state, then no such requirement exists. Similarly, California requires that at least one spouse has been a resident of the state for the six months leading up to the filing for divorce, but they also must have been a resident of the county in which they are filing for the three months immediately preceding the filing.

3. Waiting Period

California dictates a mandatory waiting period of six months for all divorces before the divorce can become final. While Oregon previously had a statute that required a similar three month waiting period, that requirement has since been abolished and couples seeking an uncontested divorce could conceivably have their divorce finalized within a single day (although unlikely simply due to processing times, crowded court dockets, etc).

4. Considering Fault

As previously mentioned, both Oregon and California are no-fault divorce states, thus you cannot seek a divorce based on alleged misconduct. However, even the way no-fault divorce is handled can vary from state to state. While California is a pure no-fault state, which will not consider fault in any aspect of the divorce, Oregon may consider fault within the context of dividing property or awarding alimony. Thus, marital misconduct (adultery, etc) could result in a worse divorce settlement for the spouse who committed the misconduct.

This is just a brief list of some of the key difference between getting a divorce in Oregon and in California. If you are seeking to get a divorce in either state, or you are struggling with any other family law issue in either state, please contact Pacific Cascade Legal today.