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April 2014
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Oregon Divorce - 503.974.6133

Attorney Henry LeSueur

Henry LeSueur is a Family Law and Divorce Attorney who is an expert at handling alimony, child custody, child support, and property division issues in Oregon. He is a skilled negotiator and trial attorney who can protect your rights and help you achieve your goals through settlement or trial.

We practice in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties. As a Portland Divorce Attorney, Henry LeSueur often practices in Multnomah County Circuit Court. There he has brought several family law cases to trial, including divorces, child custody and parenting time cases, and restraining orders.

Here you will find a great deal of easy to understand legal information about divorce (or dissolution of marriage) in Oregon. If you have any questions about what you read here, call us! 503.974.6133.

This page will address the following divorce topics:

  1. General Divorce Information (including Fees)
  2. Residence Requirements for Divorce
  3. Alimony or Spousal Support
  4. Oregon Child Support Guidelines
  5. Equitable Distribution of Marital Assets and Liabilities
  6. Leaving and Selling the Marital Home
  7. Child Custody, Primary Residence, Visitation
  8. Parenting Courses
  9. Oregon Divorce Mediation
  10. Collaborative Oregon Divorce

1. General Oregon Divorce Information -[top]

How much does a divorce cost in Oregon? How long does a divorce take? What is the divorce process like?

To get a divorce in Oregon you have to follow a few simple steps. First, you file a divorce petition with the court and serve it on your spouse. If you are served with a petition, then your job is to file a "response" to the petition. Doing these two things will set you up with a trial date set out a few months from then. From there, the sky is the limit when it comes to your options in how you want to handle the divorce.

At this law firm, we always attempt to negotiate with the other side at this point. Negotiation saves time, it saves stress, it saves money, and you can usually do better than you would ever do in court. At this point, if kids are involved in the divorce then Oregon requires that the parents take a parenting class and attend mediation. All of this is explained in more detail in the custody and mediation sections of this page below.

To have effective negotiations we typically need a very comprehensive understanding of everyone's financial situation. We have to know everyone's income and work history, the history of the marriage, we have to know about houes and cars, stocks and jewelery, etc. Armed with this knowledge, we can come up with a long-term plan that hopefully will make everyone happy. Sometimes this financial information isn't readily available or we don't what exactly everything is worth. We might want to request some documents from the other side or subpoena things from a bank or wherever. This whole stage of figuring out what we have and what we want to do with it is called discovery.

With discovery out of the way we can get to the nitty-gritty. A lot of times, negotiation is done over the phone or by fax and email. I personally like to meet with the other side face-to-face to work things out whenever there are disagreements. If we cannot resolve our disputes through negotiation then we will put the issues before a judge and have it worked out in court.

Generally, most negotiated divorces that we handle at this firm take about 3-6 months. Some cases go faster and some go slower. As for cost, a divorce can cost anywhere from $2000 for something very simple to well over $10,000 for high-asset cases or for cases that require trial.

For now, I have a standing $2,500 flat-rate offer for divorces that don't require contested court appearances. There are, of course, some caveats about what happens if we have to go to court. But if you come to me with a divorce that I think we can resolve without going to a contested hearing, then all I require is a $2,500 fee. You won't find too many Oregon divorce attorneys in this town willing to put a rate on their web-page, but there it is. Call me if you want some details.

2. Residency Requirements -[top]

How long do you have to live in Oregon to file a divorce here? Can I file a divorce in Oregon if my husband or wife lives in another state? Can I divorce someone living in another country?

These questions are all answered by Oregon's residency requirement laws. The general answer to all of these questions is as follows: as long as one or more spouse has lived in Oregon for at least six months before the filing of the divorce petition, then the divorce can be heard in Oregon and an Oregon court can dissolve the marriage.

The most common scenario that I see in this law firm is one where two people who have been living here in Oregon need a divorce and there are no problems with residency. If you have property in a state other than Oregon, however, or if your spouse lives in a different state, then these laws are going to be an important part of your divorce.

Just because an Oregon court can dissolve your marriage does not mean that it can decide all of the property and support issues of your marriage. The legal concept of "jurisdiction" is one that most everyone is familiar with from TV shows. You see the bad guys racing toward the state line because if they get there then they leave the jurisdiction of whoever is chasing them. The same concepts apply to divorce law. An Oregon court simply doesn't have power to say one way or another what happens to your condo in Florida or your business in Texas. Of course, the court can decide these issues if both parties agree to submit to the jurisdiction of the court. Without that, however, the court doesn't have the power.

In most cases, people who have out of state assets just want to get the divorce over with and they will submit to the jurisdiction of the court. And, in fact, very few cases actually go to a contested hearing anyway. That is, whether an Oregon court has jurisdiction over out-of-state assets or not doesn't really matter if you can come to an agreement with your spouse over how to divide things up.  If you or your spouse owns real property it is wise to get a high asset divorce lawyer who understands how property would be divided in a trial. I have handled cases involving millions of dollars of real estate located in several different states and would be a good choice to represent you in such a case.

3. Alimony or Spousal Support -[top]

What is Alimony (Spousal Support) and how do I get it? How much alimony will I get? How long will my spousal support last? Who has to pay taxes on Alimony or Spousal Support?

Alimony and Spousal Support are two different terms that mean the same thing: money that one spouse has to pay the other every month on account of getting divorced. This is separate from child support! You can get both Child Support and Spousal Support.

In an ideal world, everybody wants to get some spousal support. But in Oregon, spousal support is not something that comes as a right, and there are no hard and fast rules that determine who gets it and for how long. Despite some legislative efforts to define Oregon spousal support guidelines, none currently exist. We determine whether spousal support is appropriate based on common sense and as defined in case law.

To figure out if you might qualify to receive spousal support, consider that Oregon law allows for three different types of spousal support: Compensatory Spousal Support, Transitional Spousal Support, and Maintenance Spousal Support. Compensatory spousal support is support that is a kind "pay back" support. It compensates one spouse for all of the work he or she has put into the marriage that has helped the other spouse become more financially successful.

For instance, the housewife who stayed at home to raise the kids helped her husband get that vice president position by relieving him of the need to worry about the kids or the house, etc. The court recognizes that behind every good man is a good woman (or vice versa!), and the court can award that stay-at-home spouse a piece of that career that she helped her husband build. This is not something that you get awarded automatically. The amount and length of support depends on the length of the marriage and the amount of your contribution.

Transitional support is support to help one spouse transition from his or her married life to a single life of self-sufficiency. Oftentimes this support is awarded to help a stay-at-home spouse get some education and experience in the job market before severing all financial ties. This is a common type of support. If you are transitioning into or between careers while going through a divorce it is smart to have an Oregon Divorce Lawyer advocate for spousal support to help you with this transition.

Finally, Maintentance support is typically reserved for lengthy (15+ years) marriages where one spouse significantly out-earns the other spouse. It also might apply where one spouse is older or in poorer health than the other spouse. The idea here is that the financial situation has been steady for so long that disrupting it would cause some serious harm to the spouse that has become accustomed to the lifestyle.

I have some case studies here to highlight some real-life examples of what kind of support has been ordered and under what facts. I will post it shortly.

Spousal support is tax-deductible to the person paying it, and it is taxable income to the person receiving spousal support. Moreover, Oregon Divorce Attorneys can negotiate trading spousal support for real estate or other property. This allows certain tax benefits when done skillfully. 

4. Oregon Child Support Guidelines -[top]

How much child support will I owe or get? How long do I have to pay child support?

Child support in Oregon is much easier to figure out than spousal support. The laws that govern who has to pay child support and in what amounts are very black and white. Lawyers and courts all use a computer program that is available on the web to plug in all of the relevant information and to get a result. So how do we determine how much child support someone has to pay?

The biggest factor in figuring out an amount is the number of overnights each parent has with a child. The more nights a child spends at a parent's house, the more money that parent presumably has to put out on that child's behalf. The other parent has to help pay those costs. The other main factor in these calculations is the income of the parties. The more a parent makes, the more they are expected to contribute.

Other factors include whether a parent is supporting other (non-joint) children, whether they have to pay union dues or spousal support, whether there are day care or health care expenses, and more. Generally, Child Support runs by law until a child is 18 years old or, if the child qualifies as a "child attending school" (essentially, if they go to college), then support lasts until the child is 21 years old

The Oregon Child Support Guidelines were updated most recently July 2013. Some very important changes with into effect. Importantly, non-custodial parents now will get a parenting time credit even if they do not have twenty fives percent of the overnights each year. The parenting time credit is calculated on a sliding scale based on the number of overnights in the plan. Also, now both parents can deduct their own health care premium costs from their income for the purposes of the Oregon Guidelines Child Support Calculation. This rewards parents for keeping themselves healthy regardless of whether that parent must purchase health insurance to insure their children.

5. Dividing Real Property and Businesses During a Divorce -[top]

Can I keep the house in the divorce? How do we split up stocks, businesses, or retirement plans? Can we sell the house and split it?

Dividing up a couple's assets is a major portion of a divorce, especially when the couple owns real property or business assets. Generally speaking, Oregon law contains the "presumption of equal contribution" which essentially means that spouses are 50% owners in all of their marital property. That does not mean, however, that everything will be split 50/50.

Your property division is going to depend largely on your goals. We need to figure out what is important to you and then work towards finding a settlement that can make everyone happy. This can involve getting real estate or business appraisers involved in the process as well as accountants or other financial experts.

The other thing to consider is that spouses are also considered to be equal contributors to marital debt as well as assets. This gets split up just like assets. If there are good reasons why one spouse should get more of the debt than the other, then we will definitely address it. Sometimes some spouses go nuts with credit cards when they get divorced. We can handle situations like that to make sure that you are being treated fairly.

6. Leaving and Selling the Marital Home -[top]

Should I leave the house? What happens if I leave the house during the divorce? How does selling and splitting the house work?

Usually when things go south in a marriage, one of the spouses is going to leave the house. This is a big decision but it doesn't cut you out of any rights you have to the home. You should know that if you are the victim of physical abuse or domestic violence in Oregon that you can get a Family Abuse Prevention Act (FAPA) restraining order. This order will require that the abuser leave the family home and it will also allow you to take temporary custody of your joint children. Hiring a Portland Restraining Order Lawyer quickly is often a concern because of the short timelines that apply in these cases and I try to be particularly responsive to that concern.

A lot of people misuse the FAPA restraining order process to get temporary possession of the home and custody of the kids. There are better ways to do things. If there has not been any abuse in your home, then you are still able to accomplish these goals by filing for temporary relief after the divorce has been filed.

If you do decide to leave the marital home, you should be sure to take an inventory of the expensive stuff. Jewels, big TVs, furniture, etc. When you file for a divorce, an automatic restraining order goes into place preventing either spouse from selling or otherwise transferring these types of major assets. Even so, what the law says to do and what people do are not always the same. Take notes of the expensive stuff to cover yourself.

A very common divorce scenario is one where a couple owns a home and they want to split the equity in it. In today's housing market it can be a pretty bad idea to sell the house, but a pretty good idea to refinance instead. The most common situation we see here is where one spouse wants to keep the house and buy out the other spouse. The way that works is that the person who keeps the house will refinance the mortgage into their own name and then take a loan for half of the equity to pay out the other spouse.

For example, if you own a $200,000 home with $100,000 in equity, then you might keep the home but refinance the mortgage to be in your name alone. You would then pay your spouse $50,000, which is half of the equity. This is typically clean, simple, and fair. You might even get a better rate on your mortgage by refinancing. Any way you do it though, you will definitely need an Oregon divorce attorney to get it done right.

7. Oregon Child Custody and Visitation -[top]

How does the court determine who gets custody? What kind of visitation or parenting schedule can we expect?

Child custody is frequently a part of divorce, but unmarried parents may also hire an Oregon Divorce or "Family Law" Attorney to help them with a child custody case. Custody cases within a divorce appear very similar to a stand alone custody cases, however, it should be noted that whole different sections of Oregon law applies to each case.

I find that determining child custody in Oregon divorce cases tends to be more simple than in cases where the parents were never married. The best case scenario, the one that we usually aim for, is the "joint legal custody" scenario. In this case, both parents retain equal decision-making rights over the children. A typical parenting plan has one parent with primary physical custody and the other parent with scheduled parenting time (visitation). An average schedule is one where the children live at one house during the week and then the parent's split the weekends evenly. Sometimes there are weekdays visits in there as well.

Every divorce with kids will require a written parenting plan. The plan can be as simple as "the parents will figure it out between themselves" or it can be a rigid and complex schedule that has parenting time figured out to the minute. In most cases it is good to start with a pretty specific plan that governs where the kids will be during school, during school breaks, on the weekends, and on birthdays and holidays. If you get those things in writing then that provides a great fall-back position for when the parents have a disagreement over parenting time. As time goes on, most parents can be pretty flexible with each other and can still successfully co-parent despite the divorce.

If there is a dispute over who should get custody then custody becomes a winner-takes-all game. The court cannot force joint custody upon you. That means that ultimately it has to make a custody decision and award someone legal custody. Sometimes it is pretty obvious who should get custody. If there has been domestic violence in the home, the abuser almost never gets custody. But all other things being equal, it is a very tough question with no clear answers.

The worst-case scenarios involve the use of psychologists and other child experts to help the court make a decision. Being a Portland Divorce Attorney, I have worked with several child custody evaluators that are sponsored by Multnomah County Circuit Court who available to litigants at a reduced cost. Sometimes we get attorneys for the children so that the court can hear their voices without requiring the children to testify. It can be a grueling and disheartening process. But sometimes people just can't agree. There is nothing more important in this situation than to have a good Oregon divorce lawyer on your side.

8. Parenting Courses -[top]

Do I need to take a parenting class? Where do I take the parenting class? How much is the parenting class?

Everyone who has children and gets a divorce in Multnomah, Washington, or Clackamas Counties must take a parenting class before their divorce can be finalized. Why is this class important? I'll just quote the brochure:

"The ability of divorcing parents to cooperate during and after their divorce has a direct impact on how well children do in school, in the community and their personal relationships. The class is designed to help minimize the negative impact of divorce on children at a time when parents are naturally preoccupied with their own adjustments. This seminar acknowledges that, althought the marriage is over, the parental role continues to exist."

In Multnomah County the cost is $55 if you sign up within 60 days of filing the case. It is $70 otherwise. The number for the Multnomah County Parent Education Class is 503.988.3037. You can also go there to register in person in room 350 of the Multnomah County Circuit Court at 1021 SW 4th St., Portland, OR 97204. You can register for the Multnomah County Parent Education Class Online here.

The Clackamas County Parent Education Program is called "Parents Helping Children Cope with Family Change." All the information you need for the Clackamas County Parent Education Program can be found here.

The Washington County Parent Education Class is called "Kids' Turn" and those folks can be reached at 503.846.0665. The Washington County class is quite intense compared to the other classes, requiring several different sessions of attendance.

9. Oregon Divorce Mediation -[top]

What is mediation and how can it help me in my divorce? Does this firm do Oregon Divorce Mediation?

There are many ways to resolve a divorce dispute short of bringing it to court. One great way is to hire a mediator to help you and your spouse work out a deal without lawyering up. A mediator is a professional neutral party who is an expert in divorce issues such as custody and property distribution. Most divorce mediators are divorce lawyers as well.

We provide mediation services at this firm, but it is important to know that this is a decidedly different service from representing you in a divorce. As a mediator, we would be working for both spouses while representing neither of you in a divorce.

Mediation is a really great option for spouses who want to save money and to save stress. We can help you reach a fair agreement on tough issues and we can help you put the paperwork together to make your divorce happen as smoothly as possible.

When you hire us to mediate your divorce, you pay only one attorney. The downside is that if you cannot reach an agreement, then we cannot represent either party in your divorce. It wouldn't be fair!

10. Collaborative Oregon Divorce -[top]

What is collaborative divorce and how can that help me?

Collaborative Divorce is a method of resolving your divorce by using two attorneys who sign special agreements to work as efficiently as possible towards a friendly resolution. In a collaborative divorce, both parties agree to lay all of their cards out on the table and to avoid legal maneuvering.

There are no secrets in collaborative divorces -- only goals. It is a lot like mediation in that nothing is binding in the process. The parties still have to reach an agreement and to put it in writing. But it is different from the traditional divorce in that a ton of time, energy, and money can be saved by just walking hand-in-hand.

The goals of a collaborative divorce are to ensure that each party is financially self-sufficient, to ensure a just distribution of property and debt, and to ensure a parenting arrangement that is in the best interests of the children while protecting both parents' rights. To this end we might employ financial experts, child development experts, property appraisers, and other experts. This can save you a lot of money. In a traditional divorce it is not uncommon for both sides to hire their own appraisers. When the appraisers inevitably decide in favor of whoever paid them, tempers flare and money must be spent figuring out who did a better job. In a collaborative setting, you can hire one person that both spouses agree upon and then you know that there is no bias.

We primarily work with attorney Bret D. Lubic on collaborative divorces. Please don't hesitate to call us if you have any questions about how this works.

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