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The emotional toll of stress related to any family law issue, including an Oregon divorce case, can be exhausting without litigation. Let us take care of the law. You take care of you.

With Pacific Family Law Firm, you can expect a lot.

1. Talk to Lawyers

In most firms it is the staff that handles the bulk of your case. You end up dealing with paralegals, assistants, or clerks instead of the lawyer you signed up with. At Pacific Family Law Firm, assistants may handle paperwork and occasional informational calls, but most of the time you will be working with your actual trial attorney.

2. Streamlined Representation

Our office and divorce lawyers have built the firm from the ground up with efficiency in mind. Paperless, custom-built data centers for instant access to all file information, and flexible communication by phone, email, and even secure instant messaging. We want you to be able to participate as part of the team in your case.

3. Honest Assessment of Case

Far too many divorce and family law "mills" are simply out to settle your case as fast as possible so they can move on the next one. Pacific Family Law Firm was founded by lawyers who are used to the courtroom and don't run from it. If getting you the right result means taking the matter to a trial, we will do it. If you are ready for a trial, we won't back down either.


Our lawyers are ready to help with your Oregon divorce case.

How does Oregon divorce work?

The Oregon divorce process is generally a process of resolving issues related to what is called “the marital estate,” that is, things that have come into the marriage, whether property or money. With a few exceptions, an Oregon divorce court can divide all personal property that is part of the marital estate, including bank accounts and retirement accounts. Additionally, issues relating to children of the marriage are addressed, including custody, child support, parenting plans, and a determination of spousal support if appropriate. Further, the court has the authority to resolve real property issues, whether it is to be retained by one of the parties or sold on the open market.

Because the court has such broad authority to divide assets and establish plans for your family, the best Oregon divorce attorneys are going to thoroughly discuss all aspects of your assets and debts, your goals concerning personal property, and of course, your goals regarding custody and parenting of your children. Before a divorce is finalized, all issues that apply to your case, whether they be money or child-related, will need to be resolved and reduced to a final judgment (the legal document that finalizes your divorce). Additionally, your divorce (sometimes called a “dissolution” or “marital dissolution”) may require additional specialized language in the divorce judgment, mainly when retirement accounts or pensions are divided.

There are many ways to reach a divorce resolution.

There is no single way to resolve a divorce case, and sometimes many different processes might get used. Probably the most familiar is traditional litigation, where parties go to court. Interestingly, very few cases resolve with a trial. Instead, mediation or other settlement methods are often utilized. Parties sometimes already know precisely how they want to address the issues and use our services to draft documents for what is called an “uncontested divorce.”

There is no doubt that the process can be disorienting, especially given the emotionally charged subject matter. It is essential that your divorce attorney - your advocate - can effectively explain your options and answer your questions as they occur. The best Oregon divorce lawyers will listen carefully to your goals and requests, and provide candid advice along the way.

Talk to one of our Portland, Oregon divorce lawyers today to discuss your specific circumstances. We can help and provide guidance throughout your divorce, regardless of which resolution processes you end up using. From the first filing of your divorce papers to settlement discussions and negotiations to trial, we’ll be on your side. Our experienced divorce attorneys will help you at every phase.

Top lawyers in Oregon for divorce.

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Frequently Asked Family Law Questions (FAQ's)

The Cost and Length of a Divorce in Oregon

Clients always want to know the duration and the price of an Oregon divorce. Unfortunately, this is tough to answer without consulting on the case, although a widespread question.

Lawyers charge on an hourly basis, meaning the price of your divorce is related to the amount of time your lawyer spends working on the matter. There are also some court costs associated with the filing of a divorce, or other family law matters, in the state of Oregon. As a general rule, the higher the number of issues that are in dispute in your circumstance, the higher the fees. This is simply because the attorney will need to spend more time working on your matter.

Couples that can solve all issues may be able to do so without the need of a lawyer. Or, they may simply use a lawyer to draft appropriate paperwork. However, if a divorce goes to trial or has multiple hearings in court, the costs will grow accordingly. Because going to court is comparatively expensive, most cases settle without going to trial.

The length of the divorce also depends on whether the case goes to trial. A complete divorce could be finished as little as two weeks (or even less!) if the parties have agreed on most of the matters and only require the drafting of a judgment. However, when the matter involves court time, the schedule is often at the mercy of the court, which can be lengthy given the court's caseload. While most contested cases resolve within nine months, outlier cases can last more than a year.

Let us evaluate your case at a flat-fee initial consultation. We will attempt to give you a ballpark assessment of how much your matter would cost at every step and discuss the specifics of your case, which could make it more or less costly.

Oregon Child Custody: Sole vs. Joint - What's the Difference?

Background of Oregon Child Custody

Child custody is one of the most contentiously and contested issues in Oregon family law cases. Misconceptions about what "custody" actually means tend to meld with advice from well-meaning friends and family and with conflicting information from web sources that might not even reflect Oregon law.

What is Oregon Custody?

Legal "custody" of a child in Oregon is not nearly as sweeping a status as many tend to believe. It is not a "super parent" status that allows a custodial parent to make unilateral moves for the child that involve relocation or schedule changes. In short, legal custody refers to decision making authority on three significant issues: 1. Education - for instance, if there is a dispute regarding which of two available public schools a child would attend, the custodial parent would have the final "tie-breaking" vote. 2. Healthcare - in non-emergency circumstances, the custodial parent may determine major medical questions, like selecting which primary care pediatrician the child uses. 3. Theological training - again, for example, this would entail determining as to whether a child went to a religious school or a public school. (Note that this custodial decision says nothing about the who would pay for a private religious school.)

Unpacking the Two Types of Oregon Child Custody

There are two separate types of custody in Oregon: full legal custody and joint custody. Full custody is where one parent has the entire "tie-breaking" decision making authority, as referenced above. In joint legal custody, neither parent has any more power than the other; all determinations as to primary education, healthcare, and religious training must be by agreement of the parties. Joint custody can only come about by agreement of the parties. The court cannot force it.

By contrast, sole ("full") legal custody, if not agreed to, must be decided on by the court. When doing this, the court must take the child's best interest or children into account and apply factors as prescribed by Oregon law. In determining custody, Oregon law specifies what factors the court must evaluate and consider when deciding who should be the sole custodial parent at ORS 107.137: - a) The emotional ties between the child and other family members; - (b) The interest of the parties in and attitude toward the child; - (c) The desirability of continuing an existing relationship; - (d) The abuse of one parent by the other; - (e) The preference for the primary caregiver of the child, if the caregiver is deemed fit by the court; and - (f) The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child. However, the court may not consider such willingness and ability if one parent shows that the other parent has sexually assaulted or engaged in a pattern of behavior of abuse against the parent or a child and that a continuing relationship with the other parent will endanger the health or safety of either parent or the child.

When the parties cannot agree on joint custody, the court has no option but to decide on one parent to be awarded sole custody by applying these factors. If a case goes to trial, a court will often recite the statutory factors they considered when making their ruling and awarding custody. However, not all cases go to trial. Most do not. If parties agree on a custody arrangement, without the need for a judge to weigh the custody factors, the court will honor that decision in any final judgment. Parties can come about an agreement by themselves, with the help of attorneys, or even through a mediated settlement.

Changing Oregon Custody

Once custody is decided, or agreed-to for one parent, changing custody is substantially harder than establishing it. The court requires a "substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances," generally, which are to the detriment of a child.

Get Legal Help From Custody Law Experts

Custody issues are tricky and require knowledge of the law to present the relevant evidence in a contested case. If you need help with your Oregon custody case, contact an experienced Oregon custody lawyer at brittle.law to set up a consultation.

What is Oregon Family Law?

Q: What does a family law lawyer do? What is "Oregon family law?"

A: “Oregon Family law” is an umbrella term that refers to the practice of law that involves common domestic and family issues. While it is often associated with Oregon divorce, "family law" covers far more. Common family law issues include child custody, parenting time (visitation), step-parent adoptions, spousal support, child support, restraining orders and stalking orders, prenuptial agreement, grandparent rights, and far more.

Modern families come in all sizes and arrangments, and the term "family law" simply refers to the practice of law that helps those families within the Oregon court system.

Portland, Oregon Divorce and Family Lawyers & Attorneys | Pacific Family Law Firm

Overview of Pacific Family Law Firm divorce and family law services.

Common Effects of Divorce on Older Children

Sometimes a divorce can affect older kids more than younger kids. The main reason is that an older child has had time to get used to how things are. Even if the parents fight, they are used to the safety afforded by their intact family. Because of this, the effects can show up in higher numbers in older kids and teenagers and can sometimes be a lot more dramatic.

Anger at Parents

Many older kids and teens will be more willing to express their parents’ anger for the divorce. Understand that even though it’s not their place to have an opinion about your marriage, it is their place to have one about how it affects their life. Try to understand how frightening this is and reassure them that you’ll try to make it easier.

Dramatically Taking Sides

A lot of older kids will decide that one of their parents needs protection. Often this will manifest by them taking the one parent’s side over the other parent’s in a theatrical way. They may threaten to tell the judge, or they may demand to live with the parent they think needs them, or they may copy the parents’ arguments. Both parents need to curtain this behavior by forming a united front and letting them know that there is no one person to blame and that you’re both there for them.

Separating from the Family

Some older children will avoid the entire situation by spending more time with their friends than at home. If your child stops coming home as much after school, spends most weekends away, and doesn’t want to be with the family, there’s a good chance that is what’s happening. Try to create some particular family time at both homes to help reassure them that you can still have a great family life but in a new way.

Avoiding Home and School Responsibilities

Sometimes the stress and anxiety can become so strong that the child starts avoiding any responsibility, from chores to homework. They may even react negatively toward parents and teachers who try to get them to do the right thing. Some kids need counseling to help them get through the divorce. Pay attention to these signs so you can intervene earlier rather than later.

Self-Abusive Behavior Due to Self-Blame

Many children react to divorce by abusing themselves in many ways. They may start using drugs, alcohol, or unhealthy food. They may stop eating. They may stay up too late and avoid sleeping. They may not take care of themselves. The behavior may be visible or subtle. The primary defense against this problem is staying open to communication so that they know it’s not their fault.

Seeking Perfection Due to Self-Blame

Conversely, some kids react to divorce by trying to be perfect. They think it’s their fault, so they are trying to be perfect and trying to recreate the situation as it was before. They may work even harder at everything they’re good at to find that perfection. While this might initially appear fantastic, everyone needs a balanced life. Everyone should be doing things because they want to - not because they’re blaming themselves and are afraid that being imperfect will cause someone to leave them.

Demonstrating Lack of Trust in Relationships

When an older child experiences their parents’ marriage as healthy and good and then are thrown for a loop regarding a divorce, this sometimes manifests as not trusting any relationships anymore. They start acting untrusting to friends, siblings, and parents, maybe even everyone.

You can alleviate many of the adverse effects of divorce by maintaining open and active communication. Don’t wait for your teens to come to you with questions; instead, have a family meeting (if possible, with both parents) to discuss the divorce and what will happen going forward. Most of all, assure the children that you’re both there for them no matter what.

Mistakes to Avoid During an Oregon Divorce

Watch for the common mistakes in Oregon divorces

If you’re contemplating a divorce, there’s no doubt that it’s a difficult time. Divorce fraught with charged emotion that may be unfamiliar. Even if you initiate the divorce, it’s still complicated. Divorce spawns big emotion, and even well-meaning parents make mistakes without thinking about the ramifications of their actions. To ensure a smooth process, we have compiled a list of common pitfalls to avoid doing during a divorce.

Using the Children as Weapons

This unfortunate practice, while universally counseled against, still creeps into divorce negotiations. People will tie parenting time and custody issues to matters of property division and finances. For example, “if you agree to X amount of spousal support, I will allow joint custody.” Although it is rarely so overt, it is nonetheless prevalent in more subtle ways. Don’t do it. Period. Courts penalize parents who prioritize financial issues over the best interest of children. Your children are not leveraged for anything. Your parenting time and custody matter must always place their best interest first.

Trash-Talking Your Ex

Negative talk about ex-spouses is a common problem, and you may not even realize you are doing it. As an ironclad rule: do not disparage your ex-spouse to your children or in front of your children. Children take these things to heart. Even if the allegations and statements are true, children don’t need to hear negative thoughts about their parents. Your children are 50% of the ex-spouse you are disparaging, so by insulting your ex; you are disparaging your children in some respect.

Allowing Emotion to Control Your Actions

It is said that during a divorce, people behave the equivalent of having temporarily lost 20 IQ points. Whether this is the case, it’s undeniable that thinking is more difficult when you are overwhelmed by a flood of other emotions. Intense hurt, anger, fear, and other emotion can cause poor judgment if you let them. Having a dispassionate sounding board, like an experienced attorney, counselor, or therapist, can help keep your worst impulses under control.

Everything You Do Might Affect Your Children

Whether your children are infants, teens, or even adults with their children, your divorce is going to impact them. Hiding the divorce from children is rarely a viable option. However, children also don’t need to know the gritty details of the divorce either. Here, it is an excellent idea to seek the guidance of a counselor or therapist with experience with children and divorce to determining the most age-appropriate language to use to explain the circumstances. A teenager will require far more information than a toddler, so tailoring your communication to each child is a must.

Obscuring Financial Information

Don’t lie to the court; this is always the case. Often people will try and frame their finances when divorcing to make the situation appear either better or worse for court. Should you wind up in court, savvy judges generally figure out the truth. Obscuring facts simply damages your credibility. Ignore well-meaning friends and family who might focus on the horrors of spousal and child support. Listen to your attorney instead and follow their direction. They know the law in your state.

Focusing on the Past

With few exceptions, legally, it doesn’t matter why you are getting a divorce. In the unfortunate circumstances that involve abuse or danger to yourself or the children, specific facts might be relevant to discuss with your lawyer. Otherwise, family law judges don’t evaluate which person is morally right or wrong or why the divorce is occurring. They are there to divide assets and debts and create a new future for your children. Leave that in the past. The grievances and emotional hurt from the marriage are better left to your counselor or therapist, as discussion in court simply muddies the issues the judge is required to decide.

Refusing to Compromise

Don’t enter negotiations unwilling to make any concessions. Sometimes it is tempting to “stand your ground” and decide that you aren’t willing to give an inch. If that’s the case, going into a negotiation likely will not yield anything except frustration. If you can’t negotiate and reach an agreement on your own, the only person who will be able to make decisions for you is the judge. In that case, you will end up having compromise made for you, often in less desirable ways. If you are going to enter negotiations, do it in good faith.

Not Getting an Experienced Oregon Divorce Lawyer

Abraham Lincoln famously said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” The fact is that all but least contentious divorces have emotional issues that can impact your judgment amid a divorce. Even if you believe you are handling the circumstances will, hindsight will likely prove that some decisions were made without the clarity of dispassionate advice. Further, there is no substitute for knowing the law. Even if you have facts on your side, unless you know how to frame and present those in the context of Oregon law, you may not get the benefit of those factual advantages.

Placing Too Much Faith in the Advice of Family and Friends

It’s human nature to rely on the people closest to us during a divorce. Friends, family, and even acquaintances all seem to suddenly have opinions, advice, and experiences to share with you. The problem here is twofold. First, unless those family and friends are experienced Oregon divorce lawyers, they don’t know how to interpret the facts of your case correctly. Secondly, those family and friends, though well-meaning, are often aligning with you and telling you information you want to hear instead of providing objective legal analysis rooted in Oregon family law.

Not Recognizing Room for Improvement

Nobody is perfect; we all make errors along the way. If you are reading this list and realize you have already made some of the mistakes listed, it’s ok. You can make changes. What is important is recognizing the room to improve and find a way to change bad habits. Divorce is a process, and it’s a learning experience. Give yourself some breathing room and slack for making errors. It’s how you adapt to your situation and find space for self-improvement over past mistakes that ultimately will result in more peace for your family.

What types of tasks do Oregon unbundled lawyers handle?

What types of tasks does an Oregon unbundled lawyer handle?

There is no standardized type of "Oregon unbundled legal service" because attorneys handle the scope of these types of matters in a spectrum of ways, and clients have a wide variety of requirements. A client might hire an unbundled service lawyer to perform some tasks, including, but not limited to:

  • evaluating the client's case, and advising about strategy;
  • informing about legal responsibilities or rights;
  • informing about court rules and procedures;
  • advising about alternative dispute resolution options;
  • preparing specific documents, briefings, motions, or other legal pleadings;
  • reviewing documents;
  • conducting investigations;
  • referring specific issues to know experts;
  • performing appropriate legal research;
  • advising on settlement options or negotiations;
  • helping preparation for court appearances;
  • appearing with the client in court for a limited purpose; or
  • assisting with an appeal.

Unbundled Oregon legal services can provide an excellent option for clients who don’t need the expense or full level of service associated with full legal representation, but who still need legal help along the way.

Oregon Divorce Mediation - What is it?

What is Oregon divorce mediation?

When going through a divorce, tensions are already high. Emotions are high; feelings are hurt. The last thing that helps this circumstance is litigation, where the parties are forced to take positional roles that are adverse to each other, with a judge deciding on "who is right." By contrast, mediation is about building agreements and consensus. Rather than having a judge tell you the decision, a skilled Oregon mediator will help guide the parties to agree on their own. For couples going through a divorce, this is often an excellent way to reduce the level of conflict and create a resolution that works for the family.

While certainly not free, mediation can also be an excellent investment if it cuts a lengthy and far more costly litigation cycle of trial preparation and trial. Further, the reduction of tension and faster resolution, if successful, can have many longer-term benefits for families with children. By improving the ability to communicate at seem level, it may foster an environment that parents can work on other conflicts in the future to resolve issues involving the children.

Every county in Oregon is required to offer some divorce mediation to litigants. These mediation processes are connected to the court process. Still, they are outside the routine litigation that occurs within the court process itself. All mediation requirements may be satisfied by utilizing a private mediator independently hired by the parties.

How does Oregon divorce mediation work?

In the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area, each of the three counties has its own mediation services required during a divorce: -  Multnomah County Divorce Mediation: Under Multnomah County Supplementary Local Rule 8.031(1): In any domestic relations case, all parties are required to participate in some form of appropriate dispute resolution, including mediation, arbitration, judicial settlement conference, or a neutral-assisted settlement conference… - Clackamas County Divorce Mediation: Divorce mediation is voluntary - Washington County Divorce Mediation: Washington county Supplementary Local Rule 12.011 require: Mandatory Mediation: Any action filed in the court involving a controversy over custody or parenting time of minor children shall be subject to mediation - Outside the trip-county metropolitan area, each county has it’s own requirements which can be evaluated in the county supplementary local rules.

Mediation vs. Arbitration - What's the Difference?

Mediation and arbitration are both alternative dispute resolution methods ("ADR") but are very different processes. Arbitration is more like a less formal trial and does not take place in a courtroom. In arbitration, an "arbitrator" fills the role of a judge in a courtroom and makes decisions about the case. By comparison, mediation is a process where a mediator facilitates negotiations and helps bring about agreement on disputed issues. Unlike an arbitrator, a mediator does not have any decision making authority in the case. While a good mediator can facilitate an agreement, they cannot force a resolution.

Why mediate before or after a divorce?

Minimizing conflict both during and after a divorce should be essential for parties, particularly those with children. Mediation provides a useful tool for resolving disputes without the need to enter a public forum (a courtroom) and inflame tensions by leveling allegations at each other. Mediation allows the parties to take part in the development and agreement of their resolution. This lowing of strains can have long-term benefits for the parties' emotional well-being and foster a better co-parenting relationship after the divorce process is complete. Similarly, or utilizing mediation after the divorce process is complete before returning to court for later disputes, the parties may continue to resolve future issues without costly or hurtful litigation.

Mediation For Conflict Resolution After Divorce

Conflict reduction during and after divorce Minimizing conflict is a primary benefit of mediation during a divorce. The ability to do this can not only make the divorce itself less complicated, but it can set up a more positive atmosphere for after the divorce. For people who must co-parent after the divorce, this can be highly beneficial and in children's best interests.

Is it necessary to hire a divorce lawyer or family law attorney?

Is it worth getting a divorce lawyer?

This question is standard, though completely subjective and fact-specific. It is certainly possible for people to do divorces independently, and the court even provides paperwork to the public to do so. However, unfamiliarity with legal forms can confuse the inexperienced, and mistakes can result in more considerable legal fees in the future to correct the errors.

When there are more complex issues involving children, custody, and real property or more extensive assets, getting the expert legal opinion from an experienced Oregon divorce lawyer is almost certainly a good idea.

Common Psychological Issues with Children When Parents Are Divorcing

When parents get a divorce, even when they try to ensure that the kids are not affected, their kids experience more psychological issues than kids whose parents don't divorce. Thankfully, if you are paying attention to how your children are experiencing your divorce, you can work toward mitigating any long-term issues with counseling and good parenting.


A child often cannot tell you that they are experiencing anxiety and stress. Instead, they may talk a lot about headaches, stomach aches, and other aches and pains. They may say that they feel sick when there are no indications that they are. Sometimes this manifests as moodiness too. The main thing is to check in with your kids by verbally letting them know that itís not their fault and that everything will be okay.


For some children, unregulated feelings may manifest as bad behavior. They may seem to purposely do the opposite of what you want them to do. They may act this way with both parents or outside of the house with teachers and peers. Regardless, if this is new behavior for your child, make sure you get help from a professional.


Some kids, especially teenagers, will act out during a divorce by missing school, retreating from life, or even using drugs. Maintaining open communication with your teenager about what is happening, acknowledging that the circumstance is difficult, and making sure they know that they can get help from a professional are all important steps to making children feel supported. Having a person who is not a family member can be helpful, as often children experience torn allegiances between their parents.

Impulse Control

For some kids, their issues will show as seeming to have no impulse control. A young child might throw an unusually long tantrum. A toddler might run in the road when they have not done so in the past. An older, school-age child might choose to cut their brother's hair. In acting out, children might make some poor choices. Show compassion during this time. Your children act out because their brains and developmental levels don't allow them to fully process or verbalize the mix of emotions they are experiencing. It's hard enough for adults to do this. How can we expect more of a toddler or grade-schooler?


Parents may discover an onset of new insomnia from their child. This side effect of anxiety and worry is not uncommon for children experiencing stress. Addressing their sense of security is critical to help them through this difficult time. Allowing extra time at bedtime to read an additional story, taking time out to talk about silly things, or even trying some child-centric meditation with your child can be practical tools in relaxing them before bed. Just like adults, if the worrying thoughts can be brought under control before it's time to sleep, they won't be as likely to cause sleeplessness.


The sense of powerlessness is a trigger for depression among humans of all ages, including children. When things happen to you that you have no choices about, it can make you feel helpless. In a divorce, children often feel exceptionally powerless. For some children, this will manifest as depression. If your child is withdrawing, sleeping more than usual, skipping activities they generally enjoy, missing school, getting lower grades, or generally avoiding life, they may be experiencing depression. While most depression resolves over time, it can become dangerous if prolonged and untreated. Make sure you discuss concerns with the child's pediatrician, who may refer your child to a counselor with pediatric depression experience.

Substance Abuse

Many older children of divorce will turn to drugs, alcohol, and food to fill the void that they're feeling. Blotting out difficult feelings with substances is a shortcut to address problems that they feel powerless to stop. Child and teen substance abuse is not a healthy reaction to stress under any circumstance. While it is easy to chalk up such behavior to "youthful experimentation," when done in the context of battling depression, anger, or loss makes this circumstance far more likely to lead to problematic substance use down the road. Making yourself available for direct talks about drugs and alcohol should be the first line of defense. Modeling healthy behavior is always critical. If the substance use becomes prolonged, a doctor's office would be an excellent starting point for a referral to a specialist.

Identity Crisis

Change in any kind of family can cause a whole range of feelings from a child. From anger to disappointment to depression, the loss of the "family unit," which they are used to identifying as part of can be difficult. This can be further compounded by learning things about their parents that disappoints. Infidelity by a parent, for example, can cause a loss of respect for that parent that causes the child to struggle with their instinct to hold the parent in high esteem. Assuring your children that you will continue to be there for them can help provide a sense of stability.

Help is Available

Being attentive to your children's behavioral signals is an important part of monitoring their mental health during a divorce. They are experiencing a range of emotions, just like you are. Leaning on those with training and expertise in child psychology can be a key piece of mitigating the long-term effects of a difficult time. Further, making yourself available to talk and listen is perhaps the fastest response you can provide. Acknowledging the big feelings can be validating for your children, versus simply telling them to "cheer up." They need to process too. Whether with you or with a professional, with attention to their needs and what their behavior is telling you, your children will come out of the process with more tools to deal with future adversity.

Hallmarks of the Best Oregon Divorce Lawyers

While not an exhaustive list, experience has shown that the best Oregon divorce lawyers consistently display a handful of traits. These are the hallmarks that tend to create the client's best knowledge and are most likely to lead the client to their goals. It is common for people to want a "pitbull" or some other cliched characterization of a lawyer to represent them. However, these are the traits that, in practice, are the most likely to obtain positive results.

  1. Experience. The best Portland, Oregon divorce lawyers are going to have plenty of experience. Knowledge is not something that can be cut short. Having handled at least dozens, and hopefully, hundreds of cases lead to a level of familiarity with Oregon family law that provides a sense of what a reasonable outcome is with a particular fact pattern. Underlying this sense is the trial and court experience, having seen what judges tend to do with specific fact patterns. The best Oregon divorce attorneys tend to use this experience to predict a range of possible outcomes, focusing your attention on the most likely while making you aware of the lesser possibilities.
  2. No Guarantees. The Top Oregon divorce attorneys will not guarantee a particular outcome in your case. If there is one thing that experience in divorce litigation should teach any attorney, no result is assured. Sometimes even the most seemingly "clear" cases don't turn out as expected, and even issues that seem to have poor facts turn out better than hoped. Given the subjective nature of families and their structures, assets, debts, and goals, the outcome is never clear until a judge decides the outcome. If an attorney guarantees a result, this should be a red flag. As discussed earlier, the best Portland, Oregon divorce attorneys will generally present a range of outcomes, not a guarantee.
  3. Focused on client goals. Perhaps one of the most overlooked traits of the top Oregon divorce and family lawyer is that they listen carefully to clients' goals, not just focusing what they believe to be best for you. Your lawyer should be on your side. This means that they should explain your risks and work towards your best outcome. However, sometimes just because obtaining a particular result is possible, it's not what a client wants. For instance, it might be that a client is an excellent candidate to receive a large amount of spousal support, but does not want to pursue it. The lawyer should explain the risks of not pursuing that and listen to why the client does not wish to pursue it. Maybe the client has other assets available to them, and they think that the money issue would be damaging to the family relationship. Perhaps there is value to the client in reducing familial conflict. The best Oregon divorce lawyer will listen to your goals and pursue those, not their own.
  4. Keeping you informed. Top divorce lawyers are going to keep you informed. This is your case, your life, your family. Even if a lawyer is working hard behind the scenes, that doesn't help relieve the anxiety you may feel in the meantime. A lawyer should keep you informed about correspondence and discussions they are having with opposing counsel and make sure that you are getting copies of documents filed with the court. Even emails that are sent between attorneys should make their way into your file. If you aren't staying informed, you similarly aren't able to provide the attorney with relevant thoughts or information that might shape the case for your goals.
  5. Clear Billing. One of the most challenging issues for any attorney/client relationship is that of money. It's no secret that divorces can be expensive, and issues of attorney fees and costs can drive a wedge between an otherwise productive relationship between lawyer and client. The top Oregon divorce lawyers are going to be transparent with their billing. An explicit fee agreement upfront should outline how time and expenses will be billed. Regular statements and invoices to the client should itemize work performed to understand how their retainer or other payments are being used.
  6. Honesty. The best Portland family law attorneys will always be honest about your case. Lawyers usually went into law school with the idea that they wanted to help people. They are natural problem solvers. As a result, it's sometimes difficult to admit to themselves or their clients that they cannot fix a situation. Sometimes clients have poor cases. The facts are insufficient. The client is unlikely to get the outcome they would like. The top family law and divorce lawyer will level with the client and provide problematic information upfront. Providing an honest assessment of the case is most critical upfront, so a client is not led to spending thousands of hard-earned dollars to pursue an improbable outcome.
  7. Organization. Organization is a hallmark of the most successful Oregon divorce lawyers. Keeping client files complete with all correspondence, pleadings, and discovery is a surprisingly work-intensive process. However, the best Oregon divorce lawyers develop systems to not only organize but also maintain accessibility to all parts of your case file. Organization from the start makes it likely that negotiations or trial, if necessary, are also organized. That necessary evidence makes its way in front of a judge in a way that can assist your case. Lost items help nobody.
How Do restraining orders work in Oregon?

If you have been physically or abused or threatened with abuse, you may qualify to get a restraining order under the provisions of the Oregon Family Abuse Prevention Act. This law provides a way to obtain protection from abuse and domestic violence without the need for a divorce or other legal proceedings (though often the two may coincide).

Can I get my attorney fees paid in my Oregon divorce case?

It is common in any Oregon divorce or other family law matter, from child custody to spousal support cases, for clients to ask about attorney fees. Generally, they want to know whether the other side will be made to pay their attorney fees.

Oregon family law statutes do provide mechanisms for the court, and the judges who hear the case, to award attorney fees to one party at the expense of the other. When clients ask, "Can the judge make the other side pay for my attorney fees?" the short answer is "yes." However, the slightly longer answer is "yes, but don't count on it." In Oregon divorce cases, the judges have "equitable authority" to resolve the matter. In short, they have broad discretion to do what they see as fair.

Generally, what judges see as fair is to handle money issues such that costs, awards, and the property is divided equally. This outcome is not required. More often than not, it's just that dividing property and finances equally is what the judge finds to be fair or equitable. The same logic holds for attorney fees. Generally, the court is inclined to make people each pay for their attorneys. While Oregon judges have the authority to award attorney fees to one party in a divorce or other family law case, generally, they do not if both parties are taking good-faith positions throughout the litigation.

That said, there are circumstances where Oregon judges certainly will award attorney fees to one side. Oregon divorce and family law lawyers typically see attorney fees being awarded to one side when the other individual - either with or without a lawyer - made the case unnecessarily costly or contentious. This can be caused by failing to comply with court orders, taking legal positions that are not supported by law, or prolonging litigation by numerous other tactics. Suppose a judge gets the sense that one side abuses the system or wastes time or resources merely to harass. In that case, the odds increase dramatically that the judge could award other side attorney fees for the time spent addressing meritless positions.

In a sense, while the law is not structured that way, awards of attorney fees in Oregon divorce cases are often treated by judges as sanctions for bad behavior. This reality should give litigants pause when seeking out the fabled "pitbull lawyer." The law does not reward people who are aggressive only for the sake of being aggressive. Generally, it is good advice to a potential client that while it is possible that they could recover some portion of their attorney fees spent - up to the full amount - they should take legal positions that assume they will not. If you unnecessarily run up the bill with the hope that the other side may have to pay for your lawyer, you may not only find yourself not getting reimbursed but paying for the other side's attorney instead.

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Useful Oregon Statutes For

Ex Parte Temporary Custody Or Parenting Time Orders

ORS 107.097(2)


(a) A party may apply to a court for a temporary protective order of restraint by filing with the court an affidavit or a declaration under penalty of perjury in the form required by ORCP 1 E, conforming to the requirements of ORS 109.767. (b) Upon receipt of an application under this subsection, the court may issue a temporary protective order of restraint restraining and enjoining each party from:

(A) Changing the child’s usual place of residence;

(B) Interfering with the present placement and daily schedule of the child;

(C) Hiding or secreting the child from the other party;

(D) Interfering with the other party’s usual contact and parenting time with the child;

(E) Leaving the state with the child without the written permission of the other party or the permission of the court; or

(F) In any manner disturbing the current schedule and daily routine of the child until custody or parenting time has been determined.

Read Full Text: ORS 107.097

Parenting Plan

(1) In any proceeding to establish or modify a judgment providing for parenting time with a child, except for matters filed under ORS 107.700 (Short title) to 107.735 (Duties of State Court Administrator), there shall be developed and filed with the court a parenting plan to be included in the judgment. A parenting plan may be either general or detailed.

(2) A general parenting plan may include a general outline of how parental responsibilities and parenting time will be shared and may allow the parents to develop a more detailed agreement on an informal basis. However, a general parenting plan must set forth the minimum amount of parenting time and access a noncustodial parent is entitled to have.

(3) A detailed parenting plan may include, but need not be limited to, provisions relating to:

(a) Residential schedule;

(b) Holiday, birthday and vacation planning;

(c) Weekends, including holidays, and school in-service days preceding or following weekends;

(d) Decision-making and responsibility;

(e) Information sharing and access;

(f) Relocation of parents;

(g) Telephone access;

(h) Transportation; and

(i) Methods for resolving disputes.

Read Full Text: ORS 107.102

Provisions Of Judgment

ORS 107.105 is a huge statute that provides detailed provisions governing not only the provisions of a divorce or separation judgment but also provisions regarding attorney fees. Rather than quote select parts, the statute may be reviewed in its entirety at the link below.

Read Full Text: ORS 107.105

Vacation Or Modification Of Judgment

(1) The court may at any time after a judgment of annulment or dissolution of marriage or of separation is granted, upon the motion of either party and after service of notice on the other party in the manner provided by ORCP 7, and after notice to the Division of Child Support when required under subsection (9) of this section:

(a) Set aside, alter or modify any portion of the judgment that provides for the appointment and duties of trustees, for the custody, parenting time, visitation, support and welfare of the minor children and the children attending school, as defined in ORS 107.108 (Support or maintenance for child attending school), including any health or life insurance provisions, for the support of a party or for life insurance under ORS 107.820 (Support order as insurable interest) or 107.830 (Physical examination may be ordered);

(b) Make an order, after service of notice to the other party, providing for the future custody, support and welfare of minor children residing in the state, who, at the time the judgment was given, were not residents of the state, or were unknown to the court or were erroneously omitted from the judgment;

(c) Terminate a duty of support toward any minor child who has become self-supporting, emancipated or married;

(d) After service of notice on the child in the manner provided by law for service of a summons, suspend future support for any child who has ceased to be a child attending school as defined in ORS 107.108 (Support or maintenance for child attending school); and

(e) Set aside, alter or modify any portion of the judgment that provides for a property award based on the enhanced earning capacity of a party that was awarded before October 23, 1999. A property award may be set aside, altered or modified under this paragraph.


Read Full Text: ORS 107.135

Factors Considered In Determining Custody Of Child

(1) Except as provided in subsection (6) of this section, in determining custody of a minor child under ORS 107.105 (Provisions of judgment) or 107.135 (Vacation or modification of judgment), the court shall give primary consideration to the best interests and welfare of the child. In determining the best interests and welfare of the child, the court shall consider the following relevant factors:

(a) The emotional ties between the child and other family members;

(b) The interest of the parties in and attitude toward the child;

(c) The desirability of continuing an existing relationship;

(d) The abuse of one parent by the other;

(e) The preference for the primary caregiver of the child, if the caregiver is deemed fit by the court; and

(f) The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child. However, the court may not consider such willingness and ability if one parent shows that the other parent has sexually assaulted or engaged in a pattern of behavior of abuse against the parent or a child and that a continuing relationship with the other parent will endanger the health or safety of either parent or the child.


Read Full Text: ORS 107.137

Proceeding To Determine Custody Or Support Of Child

(1) If a child is born to an unmarried person and parentage has been established under ORS 109.065 (Establishing parentage), or if a child is born to a married person by a person other than the birth mother’s spouse and parentage between the person and the child has been established under ORS 109.065 (Establishing parentage), either parent may initiate a civil proceeding to determine the custody or support of, or parenting time with, the child. The proceeding shall be brought in the circuit court of the county in which the child resides or is found or in the circuit court of the county in which either parent resides. The parents have the same rights and responsibilities regarding the custody and support of, and parenting time with, their child that married or divorced parents would have, and the provisions of ORS 107.094 (Forms for restraining order and request for hearing) to 107.449 (Transfer of proceeding under ORS 107.135 to auxiliary court) that relate to custody, support and parenting time, the provisions of ORS 107.755 (Court-ordered mediation) to 107.795 (Availability of other remedies) that relate to mediation procedures, and the provisions of ORS 107.810 (Policy), 107.820 (Support order as insurable interest) and 107.830 (Physical examination may be ordered) that relate to life insurance, apply to the proceeding.


Read Full Text: ORS 109.103

Rights Of Person Who Establishes Emotional Ties

(1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (9) of this section, any person, including but not limited to a related or nonrelated foster parent, stepparent, grandparent or relative by blood or marriage, who has established emotional ties creating a child-parent relationship or an ongoing personal relationship with a child may petition or file a motion for intervention with the court having jurisdiction over the custody, placement or guardianship of that child, or if no such proceedings are pending, may petition the court for the county in which the child resides, for an order providing for relief under subsection (3) of this section.

(2)(a) In any proceeding under this section, there is a presumption that the legal parent acts in the best interest of the child.

(b) In an order granting relief under this section, the court shall include findings of fact supporting the rebuttal of the presumption described in paragraph (a) of this subsection.

(c) The presumption described in paragraph (a) of this subsection does not apply in a proceeding to modify an order granting relief under this section.

(3)(a) If the court determines that a child-parent relationship exists and if the court determines that the presumption described in subsection (2)(a) of this section has been rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence, the court shall grant custody, guardianship, right of visitation or other right to the person having the child-parent relationship, if to do so is in the best interest of the child. The court may determine temporary custody of the child or temporary visitation rights under this paragraph pending a final order.

(b) If the court determines that an ongoing personal relationship exists and if the court determines that the presumption described in subsection (2)(a) of this section has been rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, the court shall grant visitation or contact rights to the person having the ongoing personal relationship, if to do so is in the best interest of the child. The court may order temporary visitation or contact rights under this paragraph pending a final order.

(4)(a) In deciding whether the presumption described in subsection (2)(a) of this section has been rebutted and whether to award visitation or contact rights over the objection of the legal parent, the court may consider factors including, but not limited to, the following, which may be shown by the evidence:

(A) The petitioner or intervenor is or recently has been the child’s primary caretaker;

(B) Circumstances detrimental to the child exist if relief is denied;

(C) The legal parent has fostered, encouraged or consented to the relationship between the child and the petitioner or intervenor;

(D) Granting relief would not substantially interfere with the custodial relationship; or

(E) The legal parent has unreasonably denied or limited contact between the child and the petitioner or intervenor.

(b) In deciding whether the presumption described in subsection (2)(a) of this section has been rebutted and whether to award custody, guardianship or other rights over the objection of the legal parent, the court may consider factors including, but not limited to, the following, which may be shown by the evidence:

(A) The legal parent is unwilling or unable to care adequately for the child;

(B) The petitioner or intervenor is or recently has been the child’s primary caretaker;

(C) Circumstances detrimental to the child exist if relief is denied;

(D) The legal parent has fostered, encouraged or consented to the relationship between the child and the petitioner or intervenor; or

(E) The legal parent has unreasonably denied or limited contact between the child and the petitioner or intervenor.


Read Full Text: ORS 109.119


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We work hard to stay up to date on law and on developments in Oregon family and divorce law that may help or impact our clients. Our firm maintains a policy of "information first", and we make every effort to share information with the public and clients, both in person and online. Our blog covers topics from the frequently asked questions (FAQs) that Oregon family law attorneys encounter, to news headlines that impact attorneys who help families in transition. If there is a topic you would like to see covered, let us know and we'll add it to our list of subject matter!

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