Family Law

A family law attorney, probably more than in any other area of the law, is a “generalist” with knowledge of many areas of the law, such as real property, retirement planning and assets, family dynamics, trials, business valuation, bankruptcy, employee benefits, taxes, etc. I have had the privilege of gaining knowledge in each of these areas and more during my practice.  I have focused in recent years on mediation and uncontested divorces because I believe that, when families go to court, only the attorneys win.  In some cases you need a strong advocate on your side.  Many times face-to-face mediation and negotiation with your spouse will save time, money, and the distress of a protracted court battle.

Common questions about family law…

Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)

What is a prenuptial agreement?
Before marriage, people may sign an agreement that determines their rights and duties regarding their property and support obligations. The agreement becomes effective when the marriage takes place. It is enforceable if it does not violate public policy or the law. Both parties to a prenuptial agreement must fully understand the effect of the agreement, including the legal rights they may be giving up.

What are the grounds for divorce?
Oregon has adopted the concept of no-fault divorce, making it generally unnecessary to prove cruelty, adultery, etc. , in order to obtain a divorce. An allegation that you and your spouse have developed irreconcilable differences will suffice.

What is a legal separation?
Although in some instances a legal separation is possible, it is not generally used. If you are not ready for a divorce but want to talk things over with someone, consider counseling services rather than legal services. If you are physically separating from your spouse but not filing for divorce, there is no legal paperwork you can obtain to verify that status. You might want a legal separation if your religious beliefs prohibit divorce. A legal separation costs about the same as a divorce and involves the same issues. You are still married after a legal separation. You cannot remarry without getting a divorce.

What is mediation?
Mediation is one or more private counseling sessions in which a trained mediator tries to help you and your spouse reach an agreement. All mediation proceedings are private and confidential. Neither party is required to agree to any solutions proposed by the mediator. If you are able to reach agreement on some or all of the issues, a written summary of that agreement is usually sent by the mediator to the lawyers for both parties.  One advantage of using a trained lawyer as a mediator is that they can write up and present all the various documents which must be filed with the court to finalize your divorce.

Domestic Partnerships

Domestic Partnerships

If you live with your partner without being married, you must take certain legal steps if you want to make sure that you and your partner have rights and obligations similar to those that married couples have. A  partnership contract can be used to establish the rights and duties of each person in the relationship. A  will can be used to provide for the distribution of property at death so that property does not  automatically pass to legal family members. Partners may purchase homes with a right of survivorship. As of February 2008, gay and lesbian couples (but not opposite sex couples) are permitted to “register” as  “domestic partners” under the Oregon Family Fairness Act. Partners must file with the county clerk a “Declaration of Domestic Partnership” that is signed and notarized by both parties and pay a filing fee.

Once registered, the parties to the registered domestic partnership (or “RDP”) are entitled to any privilege, immunity, right, benefit or responsibility that the State of Oregon provides (but not those  provided under federal law) or imposes to the same degree as parties to a marriage.  In order to terminate a RDP relationship, a petition to dissolve the relationship must be filed in state court and a judgment of  dissolution must be entered. Spousal support may be available depending on the circumstances. The partners’ property will be divided legally based upon rules used in dissolving marriages.


The act of adopting a child establishes a parent-child relationship between a child and an adult or adults who are not the biological parents. An adoptive parent takes on the same rights and responsibilities as the biological parent. When a child is adopted, the birth parents’ rights are terminated and the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents. Adoption is permanent. Adoption generally concerns minor children but persons over age 18 may also be adopted, with their consent. A formal home study may be required.

Because adoption affects important parental rights, these cases can be procedurally complicated and competent legal advice and representation is strongly advised.

If you’d like more detailed information, please email our office () and we will send a PDF document with more detail as an attachment in an email. When you contact us, please make sure to include your name. We will NEVER give or sell your name or email address to any third party for any reason.

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