Steps in Divorce

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The Divorce Process

Below are the steps in divorce – a basic outline of the divorce process. Please keep in mind that divorce proceedings are unique to an individual’s situation and every divorce can take a different course. Some of the steps described below may not be relevant to your case, and additional steps that are not specified may be required when getting a divorce.

The following list is intended as general information to help clarify the intricacies involved with how to file for divorce in Oregon. Divorce in Washington is very similar.


  1. Meet with a divorce attorney to discuss options, a timetable, and the laws of divorce in your state.
  2. Hire an attorney by signing a retainer agreement.
  3. Provide requested information to prepare divorce paperwork (including names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, and telephone numbers).
  4. Review papers prepared to file for a divorce or legal separation and sign.
  5. The law firm files the paperwork for the court, with a filing fee.
  6. Opposing party is served either by voluntarily accepting service in writing, or by being physically served by a process server.
  7. If children are involved, register for and complete the required parenting class within two weeks of filing for divorce. (In Washington, the two week deadline does not exist.)
  8. Opposing party files a response answer, with a filing fee.
  9. Provide discovery to opposing party (documentation, depositions).
  10. Obtain discovery from opposing party.
  11. Obtain discovery from other potential witnesses.
  12. If necessary, participate in custody / parenting time study.
  13. Determine goals and negotiating position for final settlement of case.
  14. Attempt settlement. This includes making settlement offers, participating in settlement conferences and divorce mediation, or arbitration if there are no children or spousal support involved. (In cases where a divorce settlement is reached, jump to step 18. If a settlement is not reached, go to step 15.)
  15. Prepare for trial (review issues, witness questions, goals, and trial position).
  16. Attorney files trial memorandum outlining issues and trial position.
  17. Go to trial.
  18. Attorney incorporates settlement or Judge’s ruling into a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
  19. Review draft of Judgment with attorney.
  20. Opposing party approves form of Judgment or submits written objections to form.
  21. Judge reviews and signs Judgment.
  22. Exchange personal property and assets as necessary under Judgment. After your divorce has been finalized, it may be necessary to obtain new medical insurance (for example, if you were previously covered under your spouse’s insurance). Separate auto insurance and, in some cases, life insurance will also need to be obtained.
  23. Verify that any pension or retirement accounts are properly divided, if applicable.
  24. Review and update your estate plan.

Related FAQs

What can I do to prepare information before filing for divorce?

Collect your asset and income information such as: tax returns, titles to real estate, retirement plans and accounts, non-retirement investments, savings information, pay stubs and stock options. Assemble a thorough account of your financial obligations (debts and monthly bills) as well. It is a good idea to obtain a credit report early in the process in order to thoroughly address all aspects of a settlement. In addition, when custody and parenting time are an issue, it is helpful to gather information relevant to the care of the child, such as parenting journals or e-mails between the parents.

Will I have to go through a trial to get a divorce?

Each case is unique, but the majority of divorce cases are resolved outside of court, through agreement between the parties, negotiation between attorneys, or mediation. There will be a trial if you and your spouse are unable to reach agreement on all the issues. If the parties reach a partial agreement, a trial will resolve the issues that are still in dispute.

Can a wife have her former name restored?

Upon request, a judge will grant one spouse’s request for a name change. However, a spouse cannot force the other spouse to stop using his or her last name just because the parties have been or will be divorced.

What is a Marital Settlement Agreement?

A property settlement agreement is a written contract between the parties listing and dividing the marital property and financial obligations. It may also be used in settling custody, child support and spousal support in accordance with the wishes of the parties. A property settlement agreement reached before a trial is subject to a judge’s approval, but typically will be fully incorporated into the divorce judgment.

Will I lose my spouse's group health insurance after the divorce?

You can ask to continue your health insurance coverage through your spouse’s employer by enrolling in the COBRA plan. This extension period can range from eighteen months to three years, but there are stringent requirements related to the enrollment period and prompt payment of premiums. Aside from COBRA, group health insurance plans generally do not allow a former spouse to remain covered on the ex-spouse’s plan.  

Will either party be required to pay spousal support?

Spousal support must be requested in the initial pleadings before a judge will consider awarding it. A judge will consider a variety of factors to determine whether spousal support is appropriate. These factors correspond to the type of spousal support that is ultimately awarded. Some basic factors include the length of the marriage, the parties’ earning capacity and financial needs, tax consequences of an award, and the parties’ work or educational experience.

Does spousal support automatically end if the receiving spouse remarries?

In Oregon, no, although remarriage is something that a judge can consider if there is a request to modify or terminate the spousal support award. In addition, the parties may agree that spousal support will terminate upon remarriage.

In Washington, spousal maintenance automatically terminates when the spouse receiving maintenance remarries.

How will spousal support affect my taxes?

The party receiving spousal support treats these payments as regular income for tax purposes. The party making the support payments can deduct these payments from their taxable income.

If I didn't get spousal support in my divorce judgment, can I go back to the court and get it later?

No. Spousal support must be ordered in your original divorce decree or the court is powerless to award any spousal support.