Category: Family Law Attorneys

Divorce can be an excruciatingly painful experience. Oftentimes, the lack of clarity of the future is enough to cause anyone emotional turmoil. The first step that is essential to the beginning of any divorce is to protect yourself. Although many spouses would like to have an amicable divorce, financial and custody disputes can often end in one spouse attempting to take advantage of the other. Instead of a war zone, think of your divorce as a business negotiation. There are things that your spouse wants; there are things that you want – a top divorce lawyer will recognize the desires from both sides to get you what you want from the divorce.
In order to begin the process of divorce, you must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the circuit court. From that point, the next steps consist of negotiating items such as child custody, alimony, division of property, and debts with your spouse.
In order to properly negotiate, it is often helpful to hire a third party to aid in the negotiations. For simple divorces, it can be a great idea to hire a mediator that will act as a third party to your negotiations. However, when children are involved a divorce can become more complicated. Although mediators may seem like a cheaper option, you should understand that the mediator’s job is to get you both to sign the agreement. This means that the mediator will not necessarily tell you what rights you have unless they are explicitly asked about it. With an experienced divorce lawyer, you will be able to expertly negotiate with your spouse so that you can leave the divorce without feeling that you have been taken advantage of.

Life changes over time. Whether it has to do with your job, your children, your physical well-being; it is important to have the support to accommodate such changes in your life. If you are the one providing the support to your former spouse, pivotal changes can also occur for you as well that would require modification of spousal support. No matter if you are receiving or providing support, you do have the right to a post-divorce modification that best suits your needs.
Keep in mind, did you sign any waiver that would prevent post-divorce modification? In certain marriage settlements, there may be an agreement to prevent post-divorce modification in regards to spousal support. The benefit may be that you will consistently receive the same amount of support or that you know exactly what you will need to pay your spouse. In these circumstances, it would be very difficult to modify spousal support.
If no such document exists, then you can persuade the court to readjust the support to fit your unexpected change. If you are a spouse that receives the support, be sure that you can explain to the court the extenuating circumstances surrounding the need for additional support. In Portland courts, it is not common to have support increased unless you are able to prove that you have fallen ill or have become disabled. In some cases, the fact that you have lost your job may be enough reason to reinstate more support, but this would only occur if the spousal support was intended to retrain you to enter the workforce. If you are a spouse providing the support, then you must also prove the special circumstances as to why you can no longer provide support. Losing you job qualifies; however, the courts will often rule paying a reduced sum instead of not paying support altogether. With the assistance of a Portland post-divorce modification attorney, you will have the strategic advantage to persuade the court to change the support to better compliment the next chapter of your life.

Divorces, especially with children, are often complex and draining. It can feel as though you had just come to an agreement with your former spouse as to parenting time, and then something changes and the terms of the agreement need to be modified. Perhaps, a parent is moving further away or is experiencing a change in their work schedule, which necessitates a new parenting plan. Perhaps the schedule you came up with when your child was a toddler is no longer appropriate now that your child is in school. Whatever your reasons are to adjust the current status, it is important to understand all the steps required to modify parenting time.
In Oregon, it’s a requirement to have a parenting plan in any divorce involving children. During the divorce, you and your former spouse likely created a parenting plan which determines when you and your former spouse spend time with your child. In an attempt to modify parenting time, it is always more beneficial if you can reach a compromise with your spouse, but this is not always possible.
If you are unable to reach an agreement with your former spouse, then you must file a motion with the court requesting a change to the parenting plan. The standard for modifying just parenting time (not custody) is “the best interests of the child”, so you must explain to the court why your proposed changes are in the bests interests of your child. With an experienced Portland modification of child custody attorney to help, you will have the tools at your disposal to obtain the parenting time that you want.

Grandparents, step-parents, foster parents, and other extended family members often take on important roles in raising children. Usually, these relationships work out well and the children benefit from having multiple adults who care for them, but what happens when there’s a dispute about custody or visitation? Does the grandparent or other third-party have any rights? The answer depends on the nature of the relationship between the adult and the child.

If the grandparent/third-party wants to seek custody of the child, she must first prove that she’s had a “child-parent relationship” with the child within six months of the time of the court filing. What is a child-parent relationship? Oregon law defines it as a relationship in which the adult either had physical custody of the child or resided with the child and provided the child with basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, care, education, and discipline. It is a relationship that “fulfilled the child’s psychological needs for a parent as well as the child’s physical needs.” ORS 109.119(10)(a).

If the grandparent/third-party wants to seek visitation, rather than custody, she must first prove that she has an “ongoing personal relationship” with the child. An ongoing personal relationship is defined as a “relationship with substantial continuity for at least one year, through interaction, companionship, interplay, and mutuality.” ORS 109.119(10)(b).

Once the grandparent/third-party is able to prove that she has either a child-parent relationship or the ongoing personal relationship, she must next prove that she can rebut the presumption that the legal parents act in the best interest of the child. Since grandparents/third-parties are not legal parents, they are viewed differently than legal parents in custody and visitation cases. The law presumes that if a legal parent wants to limit contact between a grandparent/third party and a child, that the legal parent in acting in the child’s best interest. It’s up to the grandparent/third-party to prove this is not true. The court looks at various factors to determine whether a parent is acting in the best interests of their child. Some of those factors include: whether the legal parent has encouraged or fostered the relationship between the grandparent/third-party and the child; whether the legal parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child; whether the grandparent/third-party currently is or has been the child’s primary caretaker; and whether the legal parent has unreasonably denied contact between the grandparent/third-party and the child.

Even if the grandparent-third-party is able to prove that the legal parent is not acting in the best interests of the child, there is still one final step in the process. The court must examine what is in the best interests of the child. In this step, the court looks at the same factors that it looks at in a custody and parenting time case between two legal parents. These factors are discussed in more detail in our blog post on custody. http://www.jensen-leiberan.com/blog/category/family-law-attorneys/custody/

Overall, grandparent/third-party custody and visitation cases are legally complex and it is important that you have an experienced family law attorney advocating for you if you are involved in this type of case.

Divorce is, without a doubt, complex and overwhelming. Divorces involve negotiating complicated matters such as child custody, spousal support, and division of property. Of course, these matters amplify in difficulty when you and your spouse are wealthy with multiple assets on the line. In Oregon, no matter if you were partners with your spouse in accumulating that wealth or a homemaker supporting the ability for your spouse to accumulate wealth – you are entitled to an equitable amount of the assets. In order to ensure that you receive every possible benefit from the negotiations, you should hire an experienced divorce attorney who will help you navigate through the complexities of your divorce.
When confronting a high-asset divorce, negotiations can include: company assets, collectibles, retirement accounts, future earnings, properties, stock options, business goodwill, and any domestic or international accounts. In order to guarantee that you will receive an equitable portion of the assets, you will need to have an attorney carefully comb through the different assets that you and your spouse have. Review of assets can come in the form of reviewing intricate financial documents, business valuations, family trusts, marital debts, assets intended for child support, and cash flow. The fact of the matter is that you need to have both an understanding of the assets, and the laws behind them so that you can retain your fair share.
In addition, you may need to have an attorney search for hidden assets that your spouse may have. Although it may seem like they have successfully hidden their accounts from the public eye, you do have the ability to expose your spouse so that you and your children are properly taken care of. With a strategic and thorough divorce attorney, you will be able to navigate the difficulties of your divorce with ease.

Stepping into your home, you look around to see items that you and your spouse own. Dividing such property and debts, may not end on the friendliest of terms. What will they take? How much is this going to cost me? At the beginning of a divorce, it is important that you, yourself, take inventory of the marital property, all assets, and obligations both inside and outside the home. You must take note of all property that was accumulated during the marriage, because some items may go missing, even gifts. Also, creating a list of all the marital property, including assets and debts, will give you a clearer picture of what is important to you.

Second, you should take a walk with your spouse and make a list together. The key here is to understand what your spouse prioritizes without having to be in a hostile environment. Don’t tell them what you want yet; this is not a “calling dibs” contest. Your goal is to negotiate a settlement where your spouse doesn’t feel that they have been taken advantage of during the division of marital property. Also, keep in mind that Oregon is an equitable distribution state, but this does not necessarily mean that everything will be split right down the middle. Oregon courts will consider factors such as financial contributions to certain assets, taxes, and children to fairly determine what property will go to whom. In regards to financial contributions to certain assets, you can argue to a court if you feel that your spouse did not contribute to purchasing a certain item/asset.

Also, make sure that you take account of the smaller, less valuable items in the house. Is there a family album that you want? What about a book collection? These items are often mixed up during the move. Once these items are with your spouse, you may never get them back. To make sure that you stay protected during the divorce, be sure to hire an experienced divorce attorney to ensure that you get what you want.

Throughout the course of a marriage, people change, but few things can be as jarring as when a spouse comes out and declares their homosexuality.

“While the acceptance of gay and lesbian rights in Oregon has rightly been a cause for celebration, one of the by-products of this change is that more and more children in marriages where one parent comes out are in a custody dispute,” says Portland attorney Deanna Jensen, who’s firm frequently takes cases involving LGBT custody issues.

 

With the passage of a series of laws at the state and federal level, child custody issues should be treated just as they are in heterosexual divorce proceedings.  However, despite the letter of the law, when one of the parties in a marriage dissolution comes out as gay, there’s an increased likelihood that that  person may experience some form of bias.

 

“Although for several years now our Oregon courts have been very even-handed and often sympathetic when dealing with the LGBT community, it is not uncommon for a party and/or an attorney to present the case involving a parent who has come out with bias and derision.  This makes the dissolution process very emotionally difficult, leads to more litigation, and is often more costly for the family,” adds Jensen.

 

If you are concerned that you are experiencing bias because you have come out as gay in a heterosexual marriage, it’s best to consult a Portland attorney who has experience in LGBT custody issues.  You can get an attorney referral from the National Center for Lesbian Rights at www.nclrights.org or research possibilities on any number of other specialized data bases.

In May 2014, Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage was overturned resulting in the state recognizing no legal differences between a same-sex and opposite-sex marriage.  That means same-sex couples will face the same standards and laws in divorce or child custody proceedings as an opposite-sex couple.

 

On the surface, to some people, that may mean there is no need to work with a Portland based attorney with experience in LGBT family law.  But the value of retaining an LGBT family law attorney is still important when dealing with legal issues that cross state lines where same sex marriages are not officially recognized.  Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that a same-sex marriage considered valid under a state’s law is also recognized by the Federal government, there are still complications and issues that exist on a state by state basis.

 

What is consistent, however, is that with the Supreme Court ruling in June of 2015, equal rights were affirmed for all citizens in the United States, including same-sex families, as guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment.

 

That means same-sex married couples now enjoy:

 

Tax Benefits – same-sex couples now benefit from state and federal tax rules that apply during marriage, including filing jointly and avoiding estate taxes on state and federal returns.

 

FMLA Benefits – Under the Family Medical Leave Act, same-sex couples taking a leave of absence from employment to care for a spouse now enjoy this benefit. Maternity and paternity provisions also apply to these couples as well.

 

Employee Benefits – Same-sex couples can now be included on the medical, dental and other types of health plans of their spouse.

 

Property Rights – Same-sex couples now enjoy the same provisions as heterosexual couples when it comes to property benefits, division of federal and state retirement plans, and marital estate planning.

 

 

The joy of adding a child to a family is undeniable.  The bond is forever.  But with that joy comes a serious set of responsibilities for the new parent or parents.  That’s why the guidelines for adoption are stringent.

 

Because there are many avenues leading to adoption, it’s best to consult an attorney in Portland who routinely handles adoption.  The attorney can help walk you through the various options and represent you throughout the process.  The ways a child can be adopted in Oregon include:

 

Oregon Department of Human Services – when courts terminate parental rights or parents choose to give up those rights, children enter into the custody of DHS.  Many times, this involves older children or children with special needs.  Some subsidies from the state may be available to assist with caring for adopted children with special needs.  Attorney fees and adoption costs are paid by the state.

 

Private adoption agency – Adoption agencies are licensed by DHS and must meet high ethical and professional standards.  Paid adoption facilitators and adoption agencies that operate without a license are illegal in Oregon.  Adoption agencies take legal custody of children from parents and have discretion over where to place those children.

 

Independent adoptions – A child is placed directly with adoptive parents by the birth parent in an independent adoption.  This is best done with advance planning that includes working with an adoption agency or an attorney that specializes in adoptions.

 

International adoptions – Some countries allow United States citizens to adopt children from their country.  Almost all international adoptions work through adoption agencies and must meet Oregon laws, U.S. immigration laws and the laws of the foreign country.

 

Step parent or second parent adoptions – This commonly takes place when parents are remarried, and one spouse adopts the other’s child.  In Oregon, this can be done as an opposite sex couple or a same sex couple.  Second parent adoptions can also be done when the couple is not married but are in a long-term relationship.

 

Consent to artificial insemination in the context of an unregistered domestic partnership - Recently in Oregon the Court of Appeals decided that in unregistered domestic partnership cases where there was no second parent adoption, a child’s birth certificate can be reissued designating both parties as the legal parents of their children.  This is decided on a case-by-case basis.  Some of the facts that would lead to an order to reissue a child ‘s birth certificate designating both the birth parent and a second parent include but are not limited to: the children were born during the parents’ relationship; the non-birth parent consented to and/or participated in the artificial insemination process; the parents participated in a commitment ceremony; the parents have taken the same last name;  the parents considered themselves spouses and held themselves out as spouses; the parents shared child rearing responsibilities, commingled their finances and made financial decisions together; and most important, that it is in the best interest of the child that the non-birth parent be recognized as the child’s legal parent on that child’s birth certificate.

On the surface, determining who the father is in a paternity proceeding seems like it would be a simple and straightforward issue to resolve.  In Portland, as is the case throughout Oregon, it’s important to establish this fact for purposes of determining who must pay child support.

 

Determining paternity works fine in cases where an acknowledged father steps forward and has agreed that he is the biological father of a child born to unmarried parents.  This is accomplished when both parents sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form at a hospital when the child is born, or the father is shown on the child’s birth certificate.  In cases where only one parent will have custody of the child, the parent who has physical custody of the child at the time the form is signed is said to have legal custody.

 

But it is less clear cut in a case where a person is the presumed father.  There are certain standards that come into play to identify who the presumed father is.

 

  • The man and the mother were married at the time the child was conceived or born.

 

  • The man married the mother after the child was born and he agreed to list his name on the child’s birth certificate for the purposes of supporting the child.

 

  • The man publicly and openly acknowledged the child was his.

 

Paternity attorneys will advise that in addition to establishing financial support for the child, establishing paternity creates a legal status that means the father has all the parental rights and responsibilities that a parent would have if the child had been born to a mother and father who were married.

 

If you do not have custody of the child, this can include visitation rights and an ability to seek custody, a responsibility to contribute to the support of the child, and in cases where there is a support judgment, support may be enforced by withholding wages and intercepting tax refunds.

Jensen & Leiberan Attorneys at Law

One Lincoln Center
10300 SW Greenburg Road, Suite 300
Portland, OR 97223
Phone: 503-446-2521
Fax: 503-646-2053
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