Family is where you find it. Oregon has an expansive interpretation of family, and it may surprise you to learn that even unmarried partners have both parental and property rights.
The main challenge in any family law dispute is getting past your anger at the other party. What you view is “right” or “just” may not have support in the law, and so it is important to approach these disputes with a clear understanding of what facts a court will consider, how those facts can be presented, and a realistic understanding of the process.
Family law matters are always tried solely to a judge; there is no jury in this type of proceeding.
A new case begins with a “Petition” which must be served on the other party. Service has very specific requirements, but the most important issue is that one party cannot serve the initial pleading personally, but instead must (usuallly) pay a third-party to do it. That server files a certificate with the court, which is important for when the Respondent (that’s the person who was served) fails to respond. If someone doesn’t file their Response, they can be found in default the court will generally grant whatever relief the Petitioner requested in her petition. This can include custody, parenting time, and property division provisions.
If the Respondent does file a timely written response, depending on which county the action is brought the court will send out an order for mandatory mediation between the parties, and if children are involved will also require a mandatory parent education class. If the parties have attorneys, they will meet with the judge at least a few times before a matter goes to trial. The court strongly encourages settlement of cases by agreement of the parties. As a consequence, attorneys will push you to reach agreement. This is usually to a party’s benefit since trial to the court is risky, and no-one generally “wins” in a family law dispute. By settling, you have some control of the outcome.