Michael McGrath, Shareholder, has been selected as a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, joining GRM attorney David Gearing as one of only 25 active Oregon members. The AAML is a national organization founded in 1962 with Fellows recognized by their peers based on their legal knowledge, skill, and integrity. For more information about this group, please go to www.aaml.org.
Gearing, Rackner & McGrath, LLP are pleased to announce that Adam McKibben and Logan Krochalis have joined the firm. Both Adam and Logan will emphasize all aspects of family law in Oregon, including divorce, custody and parenting time, and support issues. Adam is a recent graduate of the University of Oregon and a member of the Oregon State Bar since 2016. Logan graduated from the University of Oregon in 2013 and prior to entering private practice, she was the judicial assistant to the Honorable Judge Susan M. Svetkey in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Portland family law attorney Alexandra Nowlin knows why her profession is referred to as her practice. Alex knows she must reach people on a human level that is often very difficult to achieve in a combative context. This challenge presents itself most markedly in cases involving the custody and well being of children.
Alex is no stranger to difficult parenting time and custody issues in her cases. “Most kids make successful transitions from living with both parents to living in two households. However, the court often becomes involved when there are complicating factors. Mental health and substance abuse issues are common. Children can have unique issues to address, such as a child’s health condition, or difficulties functioning in school or socially. You have to be an advocate and at the same time find solutions that work for a family long-term. An adversarial process is not the best way to solve these problems and create parenting arrangements that are best for the kids.”
These situations are complicated and require creative solutions that are fueled by passion but ultimately rest in reason. Alex focuses on achieving this balance as she coaxes parents/clients to see both the legal context and the bigger life issues of what is at stake. She says, “Most clients appreciate that I am a parent myself and understand that children change your whole life in unimaginable ways.” She applies a wide angle lens to some very serious issues. She drafts parenting plans that go beyond the basic ingredient of time with each parent. How chemotherapy gets factored into an already overtaxed family schedule or how a move away parenting plan is built that includes one parent moving to another state for special needs therapy while the other maintains normalcy for other children at home base are just a few of the unique plans that have characterized her clients’ fact patterns in recent years. She understands how important it is to empower parents to fashion solutions for situations wracked by illness or disability for which they might feel otherwise powerless.
Alex is a family law attorney who genuinely cares about children. Like many parents she serves she understands the emotional potential that they are capable of and channels this to work with them towards solution. “I do not know how you can be in this field if you do not love kids and families. That’s really what its all about.” That is the legacy she is practicing to build.
“Children develop and mature at a faster rate when their survival depends on it”
Dunin writes, “At the end of the contentious hearing with the boy’s divorced parents, Kristena LaMar, a senior Multnomah County judge, appointed an attorney, David C. Gearing, for the 5-year-old. She asked him to report back by Jan. 24 with information that would help her decide whether the boy was better served living with his father, James J. Flowers, or his mother, Stephanie L. Cole.”
Read the full post online at The Oregonian
In an interesting case originating in Kansas, a same-sex female couple privately sought the assistance of a male sperm donor to conceive a child (to be raised by the couple). The three parties signed a written contract that waived the man’s rights to any legal relationship with the child and also waived any legal responsibility for the child’s support and expenses. The parties did not use the services of a physician or clinic, contrary to a 1994 Kansas law.
Things went as planned – there was a successful pregnancy, a birth, and the parties allegedly parted ways and lost contact. However, the female couple later sought state assistance on behalf of the child and, as occurs in Oregon and Washington, the state exercised its right to recover a contribution from either responsible parent. In this instance, the sperm donor and the biological mother were found to be liable for the child’s assistance payments as well as future child support.
Even though the couple joined in the biological father’s defense, the judge rejected the private donor contract and its “waiver” of responsibilities. Noting that the right to financial support belongs to the child and not the parents, and that the state has the ultimate responsibility to protect a child if his or her parents fail to do so, the Court decided that the contract could not be enforced if it harmed the child’s or the state’s interests.
Most Oregon or Washington families (or those who wish to start a family) are not going to find themselves in a similar situation, but that does not mean the Kansas case should be ignored. The important thing to remember, in Kansas or any other state, is the concept that the child’s rights belong to the child and a judge will scrutinize any agreement between the parents that is not in the child’s best interests. This may apply to support issues, custody arrangements, and parenting plans.
It is always a good idea to check with an attorney to make sure that any agreements affecting your child are within the bounds of the law.
Guiding clients through the sensitive and often traumatic process of divorce makes me keenly aware that there are no one size fits all solutions during difficult transitions in life. Divorce can be emotionally and financially complex making the redefinition of relationships and fiscal reorganizations associated with divorce exceptionally challenging. Transitions present themselves in stages that require ongoing energy and progressive solutions when each may be in low reserve. The fact patterns and personalities each party brings to their case require divorce lawyers to cultivate strong skill sets beyond their knowledge of applicable law.
Chief among these skills is the importance of listening in a client’s initial consultation. Providing a frank legal assessment is equally vital. A new client must have the appropriate legal context within which to assess his or her story, concerns and goals. Strategizing and sizing up of a potential case between client and attorney begins almost immediately. How well this early exchange goes is a good gauge of how well a client and his or her divorce attorney will work with each other. Communication is key and will ultimately be reflected in the way they present their case to others. This relationship building starts early and can have a significant influence over a case’s outcome.
Resolution may be reached through a well negotiated settlement. An experienced divorce lawyer realizes the benefits that a successful negotiation has in concluding a case and building a basis for ongoing cooperation and mutual respect. This is especially important if the parties are parents or must work together to run a business or reconfigure assets. Although this is the goal it is hardly a foregone conclusion. If resolution outside the court room cannot be reached your divorce lawyer must be prepared for trial. I never litigate for litigation’s sake. I understand the role that ongoing trial preparedness plays should settlement proceedings fail. In many instances my clients have achieved favorable outcomes largely because we are ready to go the distance and the other side realizes that fact.
Whether resolution occurs in mediation or at trial it is never too late to infuse old relationships with new beginnings. Traditionally divorce is viewed simply as an ending. More often there are ongoing family issues especially when children are concerned that must coax the parties to break new ground, build appropriate boundaries with each other and let go of the fight. Life after divorce is undoubtedly challenging but also carries the potential for a fresh start and should be planned out with care.
Our partners and many of our attorneys at Gearing, Rackner & McGrath LLP have been selected to Super Lawyers, a national rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations, so you know this rating carries a lot of weight (but doesn’t necessarily leap tall buildings.)
See the profiles of our Super Lawyers here: David C. Gearing– Super Lawyer, Laura E. Rackner – Top 25 Women Oregon Super Lawyers, and Michael T. McGrath, Melissa L. Hurley and Alexandra Nowlin – Super Lawyer Rising Stars.