Reasons to Vacate a Divorce Decree in Oregon
By Jim Thomas
Once a judge has signed your divorce decree, it's usually a done deal.. While it's possible to vacate a divorce decree in Oregon, it's not easy. The Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure specify the grounds a court will consider in deciding whether to overturn your divorce. There are a limited number of reasons and the court tends to construe them narrowly. Even false testimony or the concealment of assets during a divorce proceeding might not be enough to enable you to vacate your divorce.
Vacating a Divorce Decree
A divorce decree is a formal order that legally terminates a marriage. The court's judgment is finalized when the order is signed and dated by the trial judge and court clerk. A divorce that is vacated is formally set aside or annulled. Legally, vacating a divorce means it never happened, so the parties are restored to their former status. In short, if you filed for divorce while you were married or separated, you'll once again be married or separated if the decree is vacated.
Mistakes and Newly Discovered Evidence
Under section 71 of the Oregon civil procedure statutes, you can ask the original court that granted the divorce to vacate it on the grounds of mistake. For example, your case might have been filed in a county without jurisdiction to hear the matter. A mutual mistake by both parties also can be alleged as a reason to vacate the divorce. The discovery of new evidence that wasn't known or discoverable at the time of the divorce also can be the basis of vacating a divorce decree.
Fraud, MIsrepresenation or Misconduct
Oregon rules allow you petition the court to set aside a divorce decree if you can prove fraud, misrepresentation or misconduct by the other party. Proving fraud generally requires you to show that a false representation of fact was made by the other party, who either knew the representation was false or acted with reckless indifference to the truth. In addition, the false representations must be made with an intent to cause you to act in ways that are detrimental to your own interests. However, the burden of proof in Oregon is high and you must present "clear and convincing" evidence. A disproportionate division of assets, in and of itself, is not considered fraudulent, nor is the appearance of impropriety.
In an Oregon case involving visitation rights, In Re Samuel Andrew McLaughlin, the Court of Appeals wrestled with a provision of section 71 that gives state courts the "inherent authority" to vacate a judgment or decree. Case law in Oregon requires the petitioner to show that "extraordinary circumstances" require vacating the judgment. The court wrote that extraordinary circumstances "typically involve some sort of fraud or overreaching by one of the parties." But the appeals court added that a judgment that proves to be erroneous does not automatically rise to the level of "extraordinary circumstances," and thus cannot be vacated. In another case, perjury was insufficient to demonstrate "extraordinary circumstances."
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.