Divorce with a Reluctant Spouse
January 6th, 2022
Oregon is a no-fault divorce state. This means that a spouse does not have to prove marital misconduct to obtain a divorce. Instead, they only need to allege “irreconcilable differences.” In addition, Oregon law doesn’t require that both spouses agree to end their marriage — one party can file for divorce regardless of whether the other is reluctant, resistant, or simply doesn’t want to end the marriage. Although a reluctant spouse has no legal right to prevent a divorce from moving forward, challenges may still arise during the divorce process when both parties are not on the same page.
How to Move Forward When One Spouse Doesn’t Want a Divorce
If your spouse is reluctant to divorce, it’s important to understand what is causing their hesitancy in order to find a solution to move forward. For example, they may have religious or moral objections to the divorce. They might also be concerned about the costs associated with divorce or their financial situation in the future. In other cases, painful emotions may be driving the reluctance, or they might think the issues in the marriage can be resolved.
Depending on the reason a spouse doesn’t want a divorce, there are certain strategies that may be used to proceed forward with ending the marriage — and still maintain an amicable relationship. If you can communicate with your spouse, it’s best to have an open discussion with them regarding their objections and make it clear that divorce is inevitable. If you have tried marriage counseling, the counselor can help facilitate the conversation and address your spouse’s readiness to divorce.
Mediation can be a good option if communication is strained. It can also help to keep your case out of court if your spouse is hesitant to divorce due to concerns about legal fees, or for privacy reasons. It may be worthwhile discussing the benefits of mediation with your spouse and reminding them that participation in the process allows you to remain in control of the outcome. However, if your spouse resists mediation and refuses to agree to an uncontested divorce, litigation might be your only option.
Filing for Divorce When Your Spouse Won’t Cooperate
Significantly, there is a crucial difference between a spouse who is reluctant to divorce and one who refuses to divorce. If a reluctant spouse needs some time to come to terms with your desire to end the marriage, you may be able to use the time wisely by preparing for divorce. Doing the following in advance can help the divorce process run more smoothly:
- Identify your long-term goals — Every divorce is unique, and it’s critical to know what your goals are in the long term. These goals can include things like alimony, child support, and stipulating college costs. You might also consider how the divorce will impact your retirement plans and other financial issues in the future.
- Gather financial documents — Complete financial disclosure is mandatory in divorce, whether you are ending your marriage through mediation or litigation. While it can take some time to gather the documents you need, including bank and credit card statements, mortgage documents, and tax returns, it’s a good idea to compile them in advance.
- Inventory marital property — Oregon is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing property in a divorce. This means that any property or assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage are subject to distribution. It’s essential to identify your marital property, differentiate it from separate property, and consider how you would like to divide it. If spouses cannot reach an agreement concerning property distribution, a judge will decide the outcome based upon what they deem to be fair.
- Look into housing — Divorce is life-changing. If you are the spouse who is moving out of the marital home, or the house is going to be sold pursuant to divorce, it’s imperative to consider your housing options. Since finding housing that suits your needs and lifestyle can be time-consuming, it can be advantageous to start the search early.
- Learn about your legal options — Whether your spouse is hesitant to divorce or doesn’t want a divorce, it’s vital to research your options. For instance, you may consider researching experienced mediators or learning more about the collaborative divorce process. Regardless of where you are in the divorce process, it is also beneficial to schedule a consultation with a divorce attorney to advise you of your legal rights.
In the event you have exhausted all possible options to get your spouse to agree to an uncontested divorce, it’s important to be aware that you don’t need their consent to proceed. You can file a petition for divorce with the court and serve it on your spouse regardless of whether they are willing to cooperate with the divorce process. If your spouse doesn’t file an answer or appear in the case within 30 days, the court may issue a “default” judgment of divorce.
How Can the Collaborative Divorce Process Help When A Spouse is Reluctant?
A collaborative divorce is typically a good option if a spouse is reluctant to divorce. During the collaborative process, a team of professionals is assembled to help spouses communicate respectfully and reach an agreement regarding child custody, support, and property division. Since collaborative divorce involves a mediator or mental health professional, it can help to reduce tension and provide both spouses with tools to process their emotions in a healthy manner.
The collaborative process is informal and allows spouses to negotiate results that work best for them. It also offers several other advantages to point out to a hesitant spouse. Specifically, it is less stressful, cost-effective, faster, and confidential. It is also healthier for families — collaborative divorce emphasizes limiting the impact of divorce on children. It allows parents to make important decisions about their lives rather than let a judge determine the outcome.
Contact an Experienced Oregon Divorce Attorney
Divorce is never easy, but there are a few ways you may be able to limit the stress involved — and avoid contentious litigation. If you’ve been considering divorce, a knowledgeable divorce attorney can discuss your options with you. Based in Salem, Litowich Law is committed to providing compassionate counsel for clients throughout the divorce process, whether the outcome is achieved through litigation, mediation, or collaborative divorce. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation to learn how we can help.