If you’re in the midst of significant marital hardships, you may be feeling that space and time apart, rather than a divorce, is more along the lines of what you and your spouse need. It’s not uncommon for couples to feel this way, which is why Oregon recognizes unlimited separation as an alternative option. So, what is unlimited separation, and what are the benefits?
What is Unlimited Separation?
Unlimited separation is a binding agreement between two spouses that establishes custody arrangements, child and spousal support and division of property without actually terminating the marriage. It creates complete financial separation while maintaining the marriage itself. It’s similar to divorce in that it will require the same legal procedures that are required with a dissolution, and will provide the same forms of relief, but it avoids the permanency that accompanies divorce. Unlimited separation may not be necessary if you plan to just live apart for a short trial period, but if you foresee the separation lasting months or years, it can offer security that a verbal agreement cannot, and can help mitigate any financial risks that could arise.
When you file for unlimited separation, you’ll have to specify a duration of time you want it to be intact—this can range from one year to unlimited duration, meaning it’s valid until a new court order modifies it. Oregon statute states that a time frame needs to be established for the separation, but this can be abdicated if both parties so desire. So, while unlimited representation can technically last as many years as you and your spouse desire (if agreed upon, you and your spouse can be legally separated for the rest of your lives), they are designed to be temporary. When the deadline for your decided time period approaches, the agreement will be terminated if neither party has converted it to a divorce, and (ideally) the marriage continues as it was.
Be warned: there are certainly complications that could arise should you decide to terminate the separation. One of the primary complications is the fact that property division is not modifiable. So, assuming you established fair division of property during the separation, you may run into a bit of a legal roadblock should you choose to combine property once again. For this reason, it’s important you talk with an attorney before making any final decisions so that you fully understand any complications that could potentially arise.
The beauty of an unlimited separation is that, because many of the same entities can be rewarded as in a divorce (custody, support and assets), it’s actually relatively easy to convert the separation into a divorce if you decide that’s what’s best. The only caveat is that the unlimited separation must be converted into a dissolution within two years of the separation being filed. If you pass that two-year mark, you’ll have to file for divorce completely separately—a process that will take more time and money.
Why do People Get an Unlimited Separation?
There are multiple reasons people opt for an unlimited separation over a divorce. Primary reasons may include:
- Religious beliefs that create conflicting feelings towards divorce. If the parties no longer want to share assets or live together, but religious beliefs are inhibiting them from divorcing, they may opt for an unlimited separation.
- The parties have not lived in Oregon for at least 6 months, and thus cannot legally file for divorce quite yet.
- There are certain situations when one spouse has an addiction or bad habit that results in irresponsible management of funds (say, for example, a gambling addiction). If one spouse is concerned that their husband or wife will spend all of their shared money, they may file for unlimited separation for the purpose of establishing financial separation, and thus securing financial security while remaining legally married.
- Sometimes people know they can’t afford the attorney fees associated with divorce at that time in their life, but don’t want to continue cohabitating while they save the funds. In addition to this, if one spouse isn’t working at the time of conflict, an unlimited separation can allow them time to get a job and get on their feet financially before divorcing.
- It may make more financial sense for your family if you stay married and continue to share certain tax and insurance benefits, however this is a subject that is based on certain plans and can vary greatly between states, so it’s better to consult with an attorney on this subject before making any risky assumptions!
If your marriage is taking a turn for the worst, it may be worth it to talk with your spouse about filing for an unlimited separation rather than divorce. It’s important that you take an unlimited separation as seriously as you would a divorce, considering many of the same factors and arrangements will be brought forth. The attorneys at Landerholm Law are well versed in family law, and are prepared to ensure the outcome of your case is both favorable and fair. Call us today to set up a consultation at (503) 227-0200.