Portland Divorce Attorney
Oregon Divorce Attorneys Offer Clients Comprehensive Representation Throughout All Aspects of Family Law
Every Oregon divorce is different, but one aspect of divorce remains constant: ending a marriage is never easy. Even when both spouses can agree that divorce is the best option, it can still be an emotional process. And at its worst, the emotions that splitting up causes can turn every issue into a disagreement, even those in which it seemed there would be a mutual understanding and agreement. At the Portland family law firm of Gearing Rackner & McGrath, LLP, we represent clients going through the difficult process of divorce. Having been serving clients across Oregon and Washington for several decades, our attorneys understand that clients often need more than just an attorney.
Over the years, we have discovered that one of the most critical aspects of our job is to listen. Each of our clients is unique, as are their marriages, and only by taking the time to get to know you can we provide you with the representation that you need. At Gearing Rackner & McGrath, our team of experienced divorce attorneys works with clients early on in the divorce process to ensure that their rights are protected. We also handle legal issues related to divorce, including child custody and child support matters. With our assistance, you can be sure that you will not only have a zealous advocate who will look out for your rights, but also a network of supporting professionals who can offer you expert guidance along the way.
Divorce in Oregon and Washington
In both Oregon and Washington, the legal process of divorce is referred to as the “dissolution of marriage.” Both states are “no-fault” states, meaning that neither party needs to show that the other was at fault for the deterioration of the marriage. However, the actual termination of a legal marriage is the final step in a series of other issues that must be resolved. While many decisions must be made throughout the course of a divorce proceeding, judges presiding over a divorce must primarily make the following determinations:
• Division of property
• Child custody
• Child support
• Spousal support
Each of these issues can affect the lives of the parties for a long time to come. However, just because a marriage is ending does not mean that there cannot be agreement on some issues. In many cases, the best results for our clients have come through skillful negotiation rather than ardent litigation. Unfortunately, a collaborative approach is not always possible or practical.
Division of Property in Oregon Divorces
The division of property is one of the most contentious issues in any divorce proceeding. Oregon and Washington use different methods when it comes to dividing assets during a divorce. Oregon is an equitable distribution state, meaning that courts will distribute assets to each spouse based on what is fair, but not necessarily equal. On the other hand, Washington is a community property state. Thus, Washington judges typically divide assets evenly between the parties.
In most states, before a judge gets to dividing a couple’s assets, the court must first determine which of the couple’s assets are marital assets or community property. Oregon, however, is different in that assets that were obtained by a spouse before the marriage may be subject to equitable distribution. Another unique aspect of Oregon divorce law is that there is not a statutorily defined list of factors that a judge must consider when dividing property. By statute, courts must only consider the contributions of the spouses, including any contributions as a homemaker. Beyond that, the courts have broad discretion when conducting the equitable distribution analysis. Notably, there is a presumption that each spouse contributed equally to any assets that were acquired during marriage, including appreciation on premarital assets. That presumption can only be rebutted by persuasive evidence that one spouse contributed much more than the other.
Determining Child Custody and Parenting Time in Oregon Divorces
Perhaps no other issue is more difficult for spouses going through a divorce than that of child custody. While Oregon does allow for joint custody of children after a divorce, a court will only order joint custody of a child when both parties agree to the arrangement. When the parties do not agree, courts will award one parent primary custody and the other parent will spend “parenting time” as described in an Oregon parenting plan.
When making custody determinations, Oregon courts are guided by what is in the best interest of the child. Under state law, courts must consider the following factors when deciding which parent will have custody of a child:
• The child’s relationship with other family members;
• The parties’ interest in the child;
• The parties’ attitude toward the child;
• The benefit of a continued relationship with each party;
• Whether either party engaged in any abuse of the child or the other parent;
• The child’s preference (with more weight being afforded to older children); and
• The willingness of each parent to foster a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent.
Once the court determines which parent will have primary custody, the court will then order visitation pursuant to an Oregon parenting plan. A parenting plan is a legal document that details the amount of time a child spends with each parent and the rules for the same. A parenting plan may be the product of a mutual agreement between parents or, if the parents cannot agree, the court will create a parenting plan. Courts prefer that the parents at least try to come up with a workable parenting plan on their own, often through mediation. However, if the parties cannot reach an agreement on their own, a court-ordered parenting plan will be required.
How Courts Decide Oregon Child Support Issues
Child support refers to payments made by a non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the care, support, education and welfare of a child. In Oregon, after a divorce, both parents have a legal responsibility to provide for their children. During the divorce proceeding, the court will typically award primary physical custody to one parent, who is referred to as the custodial parent. The custodial parent will usually (but not always) receive child support payments from the non-custodial parent.
Unlike the decision of how to divide a couple’s assets, courts use a formula when determining if child support is appropriate. The formula considers the following major factors:
• Each parents’ gross income from all sources,
• The amount of time the children spend with each parent,
• Child care costs,
• The cost of medical insurance, and
• Ongoing medical expenses not covered by insurance.
Once a judge makes a child support decision, that decision is final. However, either spouse can petition the court for an Oregon child support modification by showing that there has been a change in circumstances since the original order.
Spousal Support in Oregon
Formerly called “alimony,” spousal support or spousal maintenance refers to regular payments made from one spouse to the other after a divorce is final. Spouses can agree on whether spousal support is necessary, as well as the amount. However, if the parties are unable to agree, a court can order spousal support on its own. When determining whether spousal support is appropriate, courts consider the following:
• The length of the marriage;
• The requesting spouse’s training, employment skills, and work experience;
• The financial needs and resources of each spouse;
• The tax ramifications spousal support may have on each spouse;
• Whether either spouse has custody of a child or pays child support; and
• Any other factors that are appropriate as deemed by the court.
Spousal support can be awarded for a specific period of time or for an indefinite period of time. In long-term marriages, spousal support payments are more likely to be indefinite. Like child support, Oregon spousal support orders can be modified by either party by showing that there has been a material change in circumstances since the original order.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Oregon Divorce Attorney
If you are considering filing for divorce or believe that your spouse is contemplating a divorce, contact one of the dedicated family law attorneys at Gearing, Rackner & McGrath, LLP. As committed divorce lawyers, we have extensive experience handling divorce cases as well as the related issues that frequently come up when going through a divorce, including child custody and child support. To learn more about how our award-winning attorneys can help you, call us at 503-222-9116 or contact us through our online form to learn more about how we can help.