Divorce results from the emotional breakdown of your relationship. In the legal context, it is ending and changing the legal relationship between people who are married. The law strives to legally disentangle the two parties as much as possible. In the financial context, this means splitting up your assets and debts in a way that is just and equitable. Divorce also addresses whether one party should provide spousal support to the other, and how much and for how long. Most importantly for many couples, divorce involves decisions about how both parties will continue to parent their children in two different households. Thus issues of custody, parenting time, and child support must be resolved. A divorce judgment can affect your future and the lives of your children for many years. It is a detailed, complex document especially if both parties do not agree about what it means. Effective legal representation is critical to make sure the process is handled well. We are here to help.

Under a legal separation, married parties can address the same issues that they might in a divorce, including property division, child and spousal support, and child custody and parenting time. However, they do not dissolve the marriage itself.  Legal separation can be a tool if for some reason, such as a religious reason, the parties do not want a divorce.  However, much of the time a divorce is the best legal vehicle for what parties are seeking to accomplish.  We can help you evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each process and choose the right one for you.

Courts consider the best interests of the child when deciding who should have legal custody of a child after divorce, or when unmarried parents have a child.  Legal custody concerns which parent has the legal authority to make decisions around important parenting decisions, e.g. healthcare, education, and religion.  Courts also help decide parenting time between the parties, that is what is in the best interest of the child in terms of how much time should the child spend with each parent, and when.  In addition, sometimes a third-party, such a grandparent who has been raising the child, can be granted custody or parenting time if it is the best interests of the child after considering other legal factors.

As a matter of public policy, our legal system expects each parent to contribute to the financial costs of raising a child.  The amount of child support that one parent must pay to the other is usually determined by child support guidelines.  This means that factors such as parties’ incomes, healthcare costs, who pays for healthcare for the children, how much time the child spends with each parent, and whether either parent has other children, are taken into consideration in determining the amount of a child support award.  Child support is for the benefit of the child, not the parent, and therefore a parent may not withhold child support to punish the other parent if he/she is unsatisfied with the parenting time he/she is receiving.

After two people get divorced, or after two unmarried people split and resolve legal issues around their children, circumstances may change.  Oregon law allows spousal support, child support, child custody, and parenting time judgments to be modified under certain circumstances.  If your income has changed, you have retired, the other parent’s income has changed, or the child custody and parenting time judgment is no longer meeting the best interests of the children, we can help you seek a modification.

If your child’s birth certificate does not list the child’s father or if the listed father is not the biological father, you may use the court’s legal process to establish paternity.  This is the first step that needs to be taken if the father has not legally acknowledged his paternity but you are seeking child support or a custody and parenting time arrangement with the father.  A father may also use this process to establish that he is indeed the child’s father.

Marriage brings with it a variety of legal obligations should you get divorced in the future.  The marital relationship can also control how your estate will be distributed if you die.  Sometimes parties want to change or control what might be the outcome of a divorce or death of one of the parties.  The parties may want to decide in advance how certain property would be split upon a divorce, how much or whether spousal support would be paid upon a divorce, and how assets should be distributed upon one of the parties’ death.  Effective legal counsel is critical to ensuring these kinds of agreements are enforceable down the line if the parties divorce or one party dies.

The court can issue a restraining order against a person with whom you have had an intimate relationship if that persons threatens you, hurts you, or puts you in fear of being hurt.  These orders can also help protect your children, your home, and your pets.  Restraining orders limit a person’s contact with you and can determine custody for your children.  It is important to pay attention to the details and the process, especially if the person threatening you contests the order.

What do you do if you have a court order or judgment, but the other party is not complying?  Multiple legal processes are available in Oregon to ensure both sides follow the court’s legal direction.  The other party may be found to be in contempt of court.  Or you may need to file a motion to enforce parenting time to get the parenting time that is being withheld from you.  We can help with your enforcement needs.

If you are looking to legally adopt your partner’s child, we help with step-parent and second parent adoptions.  We also help with same-sex adoptions where both parties may already be recognized as parents in some contexts, but want to ensure that all of their rights and obligations are recognized in Oregon, and nationwide.  Although step-parent and second parent adoptions can seem straightforward, the laws and agency processes to complete the adoption process are complex.  We provide the expertise to complete the process effectively as you build your family.

When parents cannot adequately care for their children, and a relative is willing to or has already taken over care for the children, the relative can seek a guardianship of the children.  Guardianships are easier to obtain if the parents give their consent, but it is possible for the court also to order the guardianship if the parents don’t consent.  Situations in which a guardianship can be appropriate include when the parents are unable to care for the children because of a current addiction, they are in prison, or they have a debilitating disease or injury.  Guardianships can give the relative who is caring for the children peace of mind because the biological parent cannot try to take the children back without court involvement.

Sometimes adults are unable to manage their own personal or financial affairs due to an accident, a disability, an illness, or another reason.  For example, a person may suffer from dementia, causing that person difficulties in remembering to take his or her medicine or in paying her bills.  The courts may appoint a guardian and/or conservator to help that person.  The process for appointing a guardian or conservator has many specific legal requirements and may involve a bond for that person.  We can help you through the process to help your loved one.