How can I help my kids deal with our divorce?

There are many community resources available to help parents help their children. We are also available to refer you to experienced counselors who specialize in working with children who are dealing with a family break-up.

I can’t wait for settlement – I need child support now!

There is no quick answer to this question, but there are procedures in the court to ask for a temporary award of spousal and/or child support until a divorce reaches settlement. It is important to seek a lawyer’s advice as soon as possible to file the right court documents.

My ex abused us; I don’t want him seeing the kids. What do I do?

This is a very difficult situation, and best handled by a lawyer well experienced in this area. We have dealt with many cases such as this, and we recommend that you seek advice as soon as possible. The law provides for court orders to protect you and your children from abuse. Additionally, you may need a restraining order allowed by Oregon law.

How much child support will I get?

The amount of child support awarded is determined in large part by the Child Support Guidelines established by law and the Administrative Rules. The level of support varies, and depends on a number of factors. The income of each spouse is a factor, as is the cost of work-related daycare, medical insurance costs, and in some cases, the number of nights the children spend with each parent.

Child support can be modified at any time that circumstances are significantly changed. That might be if one spouse loses their employment, gets a raise, or inherits a sum of money. It is important to have a highly qualified lawyer to assist you in modifying child support.

Am I ready for mediation?

It is important to select a lawyer before going into mediation so that you know what to negotiate. In court ordered mediation, the issues are custody of children and parenting time (visitation). In voluntary mediation (outside the court system), you need to be more completely prepared. Did you know, for example, that you may be entitled to part of your spouse’s retirement and 401K accounts, life insurance, and other assets you may not have considered? We can make sure that nothing is overlooked during this confusing time. You need to be prepared emotionally as well. We can help you prepare and can refer you to a qualified counselor, as well as get your documents organized.

What is mediation and why do we have to do it?

Mediation is a cooperative problem solving process using mediators (people who are not biased) to help a divorcing couple reach an agreement on the issues dividing them. These issues usually include custody and developing a parenting plan as well as division of assets and spousal support.

Mediation is required by the court in divorce cases on issues of child custody and parenting time (visitation). That’s usually a good thing, as “custody battles” in court are very expensive. These days most divorce cases don’t see the inside of a courtroom, and are resolved through successful mediation and negotiation between attorneys. When you agree to mediation, it is important to be fully prepared. If you are prepared and the case can be kept out of court, the results are usually better for everyone, and certainly a great deal cheaper.

What is a typical visitation plan/parenting time schedule?

Every county has its own standard parenting time schedule (you may know it as a visitation plan). They can all be modified through agreement or marriage circumstance, but a good starting point is that the non-custodial parent be awarded alternating weekends and an equal division of holidays and school vacations.

She wants to move to another state – how will I see the kids?

This is not an easy situation. Oregon law allows for a provision in a divorce decree that restricts either parent from removing the children more than 60 miles from the family home without advance notification to either party. This gives the non-moving party an opportunity to resist the move through the courts. In many cases, allowing the children to relocate out of state is an acceptable outcome for the children. For example, a mother with no immediate family in the area, divorcing a workaholic husband not closely connected with his family, may justify a move with the children back to an area where the mother and children will have extended family support. The father can travel or bring the children to him for his parenting time. However, the costs of travel can be quite large and child support may be reduced to assist the father with those additional costs.

It is important to remember that as in life, there are trade-offs with most decisions. You will want to think about the ramifications of an out of state move before doing so. It is not unusual for the parent who moves away to pay for transportation for the children’s visits, but this is determined on a case-by-case basis, driven in large part by the income of the parties. It is important that issues such as these are covered in your divorce, and we have the experience needed to make you confident that you have come to the best agreement possible.

What’s this “Children Coping With Divorce” class?

In divorce cases where children are involved, most counties have an education program to help parents help their children through what can be, at the least, an unsettling event in their lives.

When does joint custody work best?

• When parents can maintain a civil, business-like relationship and arrangements are planned around the children’s needs and developmental requirements.
• When schedules are predictable and stable but flexible enough to change when circumstances dictate it.
• When parents live in physical proximity to each other.
• When parents are careful to support and not undermine each other, regardless of their own feelings.
• And, when financial resources are available to maintain two full residences.

What is joint custody anyway?

Joint custody assumes a working civil relationship between the parents of the children. If the mom and dad can talk to each other, be reasonable with each other, and discuss the needs of the children in a non-aggressive and honoring fashion, then joint custody may be a sound way to resolve custody. The court will not order joint custody unless both parties agree. If one party dominates the other through control, abuse, or significant differences in personality, then joint custody would not be a workable alternative and sole custody would be ordered by the court.

Joint custody involves both parents in helping to make the major and not so major decisions in the lives of the children. These decisions include education, religious upbringing, major day-to-day decisions, medical care, etc. Even if joint custody is not agreed upon and one party is granted sole custody, the non-custodial parent may still have significant rights concerning parenting time and access to involvement in the child’s life. That might include access to school events and records, but the primary decision-making would be left with the sole custodial parent.

Will I get custody of my children?

This is the first question that most mothers ask us. The law does not favor either the husband or the wife with respect to the children, but custody is determined by what is in the best interest of the children. To figure out “what is in the best interest of the children,” the court looks at many factors, including who has been the primary parent of the child, the history of the raising of the children, and any issues of poor parenting by either the mother or the father, An example might be where one parent has a problem with alcohol, drugs or verbal and physical abuse of the spouse or the children. It would be unrealistic for a spouse who is an abuser of a spouse or of the children to reasonably expect that a court is going to award them custody. But, it is important to know that contrived allegations of abuse would be viewed by the court as inappropriate and would count against the person making these false claims.

The Court is interested in what is in the best interest of the children and will consider their ages, their relationships with their parents, their relationship with peers in school, and what is in their long-term interests.

Typically, an unemployed housewife that has been the primary care provider for her children since birth has a much stronger case to be given custody. The more active fathers are in raising their children, the stronger their case for custody. A mother who has raised the children during their early years, but who has shared parenting more equally as the children got older, creates a more difficult decision for awarding custody.

Courts require that the parties attempt to resolve their differences through mediation first. If that is not possible, then custody can be determined with the aid of a custody study completed by an outside professional. Lastly, the court will hear testimony from witnesses and the parties in order to determine custody if it cannot be resolved through mediation or the custody study.

Why use a lawyer? I’ve got a book on do-it-yourself divorce.

Do-it-yourself books can make for useful reading and background, but it can be extremely expensive to change or unwind a poorly done DIY divorce. Cleaning up a mess is much more expensive than hiring a lawyer initially. You know the old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

While there are cases where it can work out well, the risk that the settlement is unfair is great, and cleaning up the mess is a costly affair. Although we understand that divorce is not a cheap process, it is important to do it right the first time.

I need my ex’s medical insurance… help?

Asking for your ex to cover the cost of your medical insurance may be a part of your divorce settlement, and you are entitled to COBRA insurance if you were covered by insurance while you were married. Medical insurance can be a big cost to divorced couples – make sure you ask your lawyer about ways to protect yourself.

My ex is bound to hide assets, what can I do?

We can help. The court requires a full disclosure of assets, and that means nothing is allowed to be hidden. That is called fraud and Judges hate liars and cheaters. Write a list of anything you think your ex-spouse might be hiding. We will work hard to make sure you are treated fairly and with respect.

The toughest cases of hiding assets involve self employed business owners who deal in cash. How do you account for every dollar? Is it worth it? Why am I struggling so much and my ex has so much money? We can require full disclosure and if we need, we will take depositions to see if your ex is hiding assets. No one can say the other person won’t lie, but if they do and are exposed, the courts are very helpful in correcting fraud.

People forget or don’t realize that when they file for divorce, they are under the immediate control of the court. We can get orders to help minimize hiding and fraud.

What is spousal support, and will I get it?

Oregon State considers divorce as “no fault.” That means that as far as the court is concerned, it is irrelevant if your spouse cheated on you and ran away with your best friend. When a court looks at your case, the Judge will make a determination on spousal support by looking at many factors including the length of the marriage, the age, health and earning capacity of each party. These are just a few considerations. There are many more.

There is no law that guarantee that you will receive spousal support. There is a law that allows spousal support under various circumstances. If the court determines that spousal support is appropriate, the Judge will set it at a level and duration that will encourage each party to become independent of each other as soon as that is reasonably possible.

In all spousal support cases, the court will try to make the financial situation “not too disproportionate from that which you enjoyed during the marriage.”

That means that even if your spouse earned $50,000 while you stayed at home and cared for the kids, you can expect a judgment that aims to make both your lifestyles similar.

The court will want you to become independent as soon as possible, but factors such as age, health, education, absence from the workforce, needs of the children, and length of the marriage will assist the court in making its decision.

Without question, on the issues of spousal support, you need an attorney.

It is also important to know that the amount of spousal support, like child support, can change if circumstances change, like a raise, or loss of a job etc.

How do we split our personal property?

There are many parts to most divorce settlements, and personal property division is just one element. The easiest (and by far the cheapest) way is to hire an appraiser who can value the property of each person. With an appraisal of values a division of property is far easier. Neither party feels that they are getting ripped off. The courts do not like to decide who gets the CDs and who gets which DVD, so a good attorney will encourage you and your ex to settle minor property issues outside of court. An attorney can also help you understand the decisions that need to be made when dividing your personal property. It is almost always cheaper to pay an appraiser a few hundred dollars than it is to spend time, money and energy debating the division of personal property.

How does the attorney get paid?

We only get a percentage of all that we recover for you. This percentage varies from 33% to 50%, depending on whether the case is resolved before trial, by trial, or upon appeal. Handling personal injury claims can involve significant costs for medical records, expert witness reports and fees, depositions, filing fees, and other costs. These costs can range from as little as $100 to several thousand dollars. Generally, these costs are taken out of the settlement or award after being advanced by my office. Ultimately the client is responsible for these costs if for some very unlikely reason there was no settlement or an adverse verdict.

What happens when the other driver is not insured?

As many as one third of all drivers on the road are not insured. To protect yourself and your passengers from an uninsured driver, you can buy uninsured and underinsured coverage. The amount of coverage is up to you when you buy your policy. You can always up the limits later, but it will not apply to an accident that occurs before you increase the coverage. This coverage is usually called uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and you pay for it each time you send your premium to the insurance company. Your insurance agent can help you here. Your insurance company, on an uninsured motorist claim, must pay you for your pain and suffering, future medical costs, lost wages, and impaired earnings if they apply to you. If you are making this type of claim, you will be treated as a “claimant.” To the insurance company that is the definition of a person making a claim against them. Even though this type of claim is being made to your own insurance company, you will probably be made to feel like you are asking for too much money.

Please remember, in this type of claim, your own insurance company will attempt to settle your claim as low as possible. It is in their best financial interest to pay you as little as they can. You need an attorney more now than ever before, you just don’t realize it. Many of my clients have consulted me as a result of rude and degrading treatment by their own insurance companies in uninsured and underinsured claims.

I want a million dollars – can you help me?

Sure, but if you can walk into my office, then your case is unlikely to be awarded $1M. Believe me, if we can, we’ll try. The better approach is for us to assess the value of your claim. We do this by our experience, legal data and assessment tools available to us. It is better to negotiate realistically than to aim for “pie in the sky.”

Who pays for my medical bills and my pain and suffering?

There are four potential sources to cover costs for you and your passengers:
1. Your own auto insurance. In Oregon, the PIP (Personal Injury Protection) statutes and your insurance policy provide that your own insurance must pay for reasonable medical treatment, up to $10,000 worth during the first year only, and up to $1,200/month in lost wages. These amounts may vary depending on your own policy, but these amounts are the basic PIP minimums. You are not restricted on the medical provider you choose. You are not restricted to your normal health insurance provider. To claim through PIP, you must submit a PIP application through your auto insurance company and you must co-operate with the insurance company. They may ask you to sign a release of medical information, and they may ask you to submit to an independent medical examination.
2. Your medical insurance through work. This is a good option if you do not have auto insurance, and your health insurer will try to recover your costs from the at fault driver through your settlement or trial. You need to cooperate with your insurance company.
3. Your own pocket. The least desirable option.
4. Responsible party pays (the other driver’s insurance company). The responsible party is under no obligation to pay your expenses unless they agree to it or are forced through the courts. Most companies will not agree to pay anything until the case is settled or the jury has returned a verdict. This is also not a good option – do not count on this kind of payment. The one exception to this is when a pedestrian is hit. An injured pedestrian is covered by the insurance policy of the responsible driver under the terms of the PIP statute (Oregon).

When do I need a lawyer?

From the beginning. Gathering information and preserving evidence is crucial. We know what to do and how to do it. We know the questions to ask and the answers to seek. Insurance companies do not always need to know that you have hired an attorney, until the time is right. We can help you get the settlement that you deserve.

Why don’t I just settle with my insurance company?

Insurance adjusters are trained to get people to accept too small of a payment, too soon. Don’t trust them. I have seen so many cases where injured people, still hurting and in treatment, have signed a settlement with their insurance company only to find out they will need surgery and they cannot get out of their settlement.

Can I see a chiropractor?

Yes you can, but remember, in all injury cases, especially those settled without trial, there is a priority of acceptable medical professionals. We generally recommend that injured parties seek the treatment of a medical doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). Although many Chiropractors (DC) give great relief to their patients and understand whiplash better then MD’s, adjusters discount their treatment. We like to see MD or DO treatment in conjunction with a chiropractor or even better, with a referral from a MD or DO. The main secondary level of treatment is now a referral to physical therapy by your doctor (MD, DO or DC).

Adjusters and defense lawyers (paid by the insurance companies) will try to discredit alternative medical treatments such as massage therapy, holistic medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture. Our first priority, however, is to get you well, so if these treatments work for you, then pursue the

I think I’m hurt, but it isn’t really all that bad; just a few aches and pains in my neck, back and hips. What do I do?

Get medical treatment from your own doctor as soon as possible. Your health is your first concern. Consult your doctor because some soft tissue injuries may not show for several days, or even weeks. Don’t be put off by someone saying, “Oh, it’s only a whiplash or minor strain.” Get professional evaluation and treatment. Remember that the typical ER doctor, after making sure you have no broken bones, will send you home and tell you to ice the area and take Advil. They generally only look for major injuries like broken bones, severe bleeding, concussion and hidden internal bleeding injuries. Once those possibilities are eliminated, you are no longer an “emergency,” which is why you need to see your own primary care doctor.

Your doctor will check you for mild or severe injuries and aches and pains. Sometimes it is hard to know the extent of your injuries because adrenaline can block pain. While soft tissue injuries usually show up within 24-48 hours, it can take up to two weeks or more for symptoms and pain to appear. Soft tissue injuries are real. They need appropriate treatment and assessment. Seeing your local doctor establishes a trail of reasonable treatment, and that is important in case your injuries require more treatment and cause you pain and suffering in the future.

Make sure that you get the treatment you need, and always follow your doctor’s advice.

What should I do when I’m in a car crash?

The first thing to think about is your health and safety, as well as the health and safety of your passengers. Call 911 or have a witness call 911 if you think someone might have been injured.

Don’t get out of your car immediately unless there is a danger of fire or explosion. Sit for a minute and take some deep breaths. Compose yourself. If you are safely able to get out, then do so, realizing that you will need to be alert and share information with the other people. Be prepared to ask questions of the other driver such as name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, insurance company, owner of the car and license plate number. You will need this to make your report to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

I’ve been hit!

• Remain at the scene.
• Exchange information with the other driver if you are able.
• It’s OK to express emotion, but try not to lose your cool.
• Avoid saying such things as “I know it’s my fault” and “I’m not hurt.”
• Listen very carefully to what the other driver says and write down statements that help establish responsibility for the accident.
• Get witness names, addresses, and phone numbers. If possible, get their driver’s license number as it is much easier to find someone later than using a social security number.

Record the details!

If it is a major accident, do not move the cars – wait for the police. If you can, take pictures of the accident scene.

Take a look at both cars and note their positions relative to the road. Sketch a quick diagram. Take notice of where the cars are placed relative to the lanes of traffic, the center lane, intersection, stop signs and traffic signals. Make a note about the weather, too – was it clear and sunny? Foggy? Rainy? Is there any debris on the road? Are there any skid marks? If so, step them out and record the distances.

PLEASE – write it all down. With every passing day, you will remember less and less. And always write it down assuming that the other party could read it at any time.

File an accident report with the DMV within the required time, usually 72 hours. If you have been hospitalized, someone else can file it for you until you are capable of filing your own version.