Family Law Matters
Family law issues are often at the very core of people's lives and touch on their most personal and intimate relationships. These legal matters frequently result in feelings of uncertainty and instability as individuals struggle to address these issues. More so than most other areas of law, family law requires an attorney to address the client's needs both emotionally and rationally to help the client navigate through these issues.
Here at the offices of Christopher J. Graves, LLC, we seek to provide assurance, guidance, and security to our clients as we help them down these difficult roads. CJ prides himself in his ability to listen to his clients and their specific concerns in order to ensure that their needs are being met and, perhaps most importantly, that they are fully informed throughout the process. The information below provides a brief summary of some of the various aspects of domestic relations that CJ frequently assists his clients in understanding.
In Oregon, child support is ordered for the benefit of minor children. Child support will continue until the child is 18, and may continue until the child is 21 so long as he or she qualifies as a child attending school. Child support is calculated based on the Oregon Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines are based on a presumption that each parent should pay an equitable share of the needs for the minor child.
The Child Support Guidelines must be calculated carefully to determine the appropriate amount of support going forward for the benefit of the children. An experienced attorney can help you determine the right values, factors, and costs to arrive at an amount of support that provides for the best interests of the minor child.
Custody and Parenting Time
"Custody" and "parenting time" are often misunderstood terms. Many clients have heard of parenting time, visitation, and custody, but are unclear on the specific meanings of these terms. In Oregon, there are two primary parenting issues involved: legal custody and parenting time.
"Legal custody" is the right to make major decisions in caring for the child or children. In Oregon, this most often takes the form of either joint or sole custody. In contrast, "parenting time" is the time each parent gets to spend with the minor child. Every parent is entitled to parenting time pursuant to the best interests of the minor child. An experienced family law attorney can help advocate for your right to parenting time or custody over your minor child, and seek the result that is in your child's best interests.
In Oregon, the law of divorce and dissolution serves one primary purpose: to disentangle the parties' finances from one another to the greatest extent possible. This is important to understand, as to disentangle the parties and help them move forward with their lives, the court will seek to divide any assets or debts controlled by the parties as is "just and proper." The court may also award child support for the benefit of the minor children and spousal support to enable each spouse to continue their lives in a manner that is appropriate and equitable. The court uses these tools to disentangle the parties, and has great flexibility in how to apportion assets, debts, and obligations between the individuals.
Importantly, Oregon is a "no-fault" divorce state, as opposed to a "fault" divorce state. This means that the only basis for dissolution in Oregon is "irreconcilable differences." In other words, the court will disentangle the parties based upon equity without considering the reasons why the parties are seeking a divorce or which party is at fault for the end of the relationship. This may at times be frustrating for clients to understand, especially where they feel that their significant other has wronged them, but it all goes back to the purpose of divorce law in Oregon: disentangling financial assets.
An experienced attorney can explain more about your various options, choices, and possible legal outcomes regarding the often difficult decision as to whether and how to seek a dissolution. A domestic relations attorney can assist you in this process, and help to explain and preserve your rights and options.
The most satisfying part of CJ's job is the opportunity to give voice to those who have been silenced by the turmoil and abuse of any kind, whether it is physical, emotional, or economic. As a domestic relations attorney, CJ has had the opportunity to represent many survivors of domestic violence or abuse. Survivors have unique legal needs, and handling domestic abuse cases requires a heightened understanding and sensitivity to the various issues an individual may be attempting to navigate.
CJ understands that what is right for one person experiencing domestic violence may not be right for all persons experiencing domestic violence. In order to fully support individuals in these difficult circumstances, CJ uses a individualized approach to best assist survivors with their specific situation based on their wants and needs. For some individuals, options may include Family Abuse Prevention Act Restraining Orders, Stalking Orders, Elder Abuse Prevention Act Restraining Orders, or Sexual Assault Prevention Orders. Others may not feel comfortable seeking such an order; in such cases, we can help plan and come up with the best way to ensure your and, if applicable, your children's safety.
In addition, survivors may also have tort claims that can be resolved either as part of the dissolution or through a separate civil action. Personal injury and domestic relations law can interact in very challenging and unique ways. This is why it is very important to seek the advice of a skilled legal professional when deciding whether to bring a tort suit, or seek a dissolution if you believe you may have also been wronged by the person you are separating from. We have experience in advising survivors in family law matters as well as tort matters and the complicated ways in which these areas of law interact.
High Asset Divorce
Although all divorces can be emotionally difficult and complex processes, some types of dissolutions, such as high asset divorce, add additional layers of complexity to the dissolution process.
In any given dissolution proceeding, one of the key issues is the nature of the assets in question. For example, different rules apply to businesses, liquid assets, retirement accounts, stock accounts, trust funds, real estate, and high value personal property. While the court's mandate is still to divide this property as is "just and equitable," the means of valuing these assets and correctly determining the outcome that is in the best interest of an individual client requires extensive knowledge and a network of other professionals.
Here at the law offices of Christopher Graves, LLC, we have a strong network of experts to value businesses, provide tax advice, properly divide various investment interests, and arrive at a proper value for the particular assets at issue. In addition, we have experience interpreting this information, analyzing the financial data, and presenting this information in the manner best suited to meet our clients' needs. As with all our clients, those with high asset estates deserve to have the peace of mind of knowing that they have received solid and accurate advice so that they can continue building their futures.
In most cases, judgments dividing property cannot be modified once they are entered. However, judgments regarding parenting time, custody, spousal support, and child support may be modified if the client can meet the relevant standard in each instance. These standards vary by the type of order the client is seeking to modify, and the client must be able to meet these criteria in order for the court to consider modification.
An experienced attorney can help you determine whether you are eligible for modification of an order, or educate you as to the relevant standards that a court will look for when determining whether to modify a previous order. For instance:
Parenting time can be modified based on showing the best interests of the minor children would be best suited by altering the current parenting time arrangement. The court looks at all of the relevant factors to determine what parenting time arrangement would be in the best interest of the minor child.
To modify custody where one party is awarded sole custody, the non-custodial parent must show both a substantial change in circumstances from the time when the most recent custody determination was made, and also demonstrate that the change in custody would be in the best interests of the minor child.
To modify custody if the parties have joint custody, the party seeking to change the custody order will only have to establish that the proposed change in custody is in the minor child's best interests.
Child support may be modified either every three years, or after a substantial change in economic circumstances. In most cases, these modifications can be done administratively through the State of Oregon. If either party's income or expenses change drastically, either party may file to modify the support award.
Spousal support may also be modified based on a substantial change in circumstances. What qualifies as a substantial change is partially determined by the judgment, but also by statute, and common sense. However, this change also needs to be one that was unanticipated at the time when the issue was heard by the court. This can be a problem because it may mean that subsequent marriages or retirements may not qualify as substantial and unanticipated changes in circumstance.
We have handled numerous modification cases dealing with each of the above areas individually, or in some combination. If you think the current ongoing orders in your particular case are no longer fair, it may be wise to seek legal counsel to determine if you have grounds to modify your current obligations.