Divorce is Complicated


Divorce is complicated, emotional and difficult for everyone involved.

What a shocker!!!

The emotional components of a divorce usually start with issues of custody and parenting time. There is often a loss of trust in the other parent and the emotional loss of the relationship, which makes agreeing about the children difficult. Too many times people expect their lawyer to be able to guide them on these emotional issues as well as the legal issues. Let me tell you, just giving good legal advice is tough enough, but attempting to be the emotional counselor is asking too much of any lawyer. The solution is to get a support system, including professionals, to help you deal with all of the issues you face. The children also have their own issues of loss, change, and a complete upset in their lives, so a counselor for them would be a valuable tool as well. Besides, it gives them someone other than you to talk to; someone to talk about their issues and advise without all the luggage the parents bring to their advice. Here is a simple list of common issues that must be decided in many divorce cases.

Child custody
Parenting time
Child support
Spousal support
Determining the value of assets
Distribution of the assets between the parties
Determining the debts
Distributing the debts
Real estate valuation
Vehicle values
Retirement accounts
Valuation of retirement accounts
Distribution of retirement benefits

Almost each item listed above has a compete subset of issues that are relevant to that issue. It pays to be prepared when you come to see me. I suggest you call in advance so I can send you an intake questionnaire and a sample spreadsheet so you can gather information to make your process more orderly, successful, and less expensive.If you have been served with divorce papers, you are already a few months behind the curve. The filing party has usually been thinking and planning for several months in advance of filing. You can catch up, but you will need help.

Boring but Important: Mandatory Discovery

In divorce actions, it is required that each party supply the other with certain information. This arises out of the mandatory discovery statute ORS 107.089. It is designed to create an obligation of disclosure so as to prevent the hiding of assets from each other. The better prepared you are to meet these discovery requirements, the better off you will be in reaching an agreement that is acceptable to both parties. No one, including the court, wants people to agree to a divorce and then discover that the other was hiding assets. It just complicates a difficult situation. There are remedies for intentionally hiding and secreting assets, but the purpose of the discovery statutes is to help reduce having to go back into court to clean up a mess created by hiding assets.

Spousal Support Is Important to Consider

Did you know that if you do not have spousal support awarded in the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, you cannot go back and get it later? Let me explain with an example. Assume a longer term marriage, say 8-20 years. Of the two parties, one has been the primary breadwinner and makes $75,000 or more a year. The other has just started to work in the workforce and earns $24,000. But you are feeling pretty good about yourself, you are making some money and getting by; just barely, but getting by. Instead of seeking spousal support you agree to a Stipulated Judgment, which does not provide for spousal support. Six months later, you lose your job (not your fault) and you have no income. You cannot return to court to seek spousal support. You are out of luck. NOTHING.

Spousal Support Is Not All Bad

For those who are obligated to pay spousal support, did you know that at this time it is deductible against your income? For example, assume you earn $4,000 a month and must pay $1,000 a month in spousal support. Your income is taxed on $3,000 a month; not $4,000. You can then make adjustments to your withholdings, so to adjust your net income in order to meet your tax obligations, pay your spousal support and still have some net income for yourself. It is not easy, but at this time, the Federal government is subsidizing your spousal support. Talk to your accountant if this is an issue for you.

Why Is Not Relevant

The reason for the divorce is NOT important to the court. I know he/she cheated on you; I know that he/she left you for another he/she or both. It doesn’t matter to the court. Egos are hurt by the choices and reasons for divorce, but the court doesn’t care. It is frustrating to all people in divorces that they cannot complain to the court about why they are getting a divorce. They want their moment in court but rarely does it matter.As in most things in law, there are some exceptions to the rule above, but they generally revolve around the issue of custody and parenting time of the children. When the issue causing the divorce affects the ability of one of the parents to meet the needs of the children, then and only then will a court listen.

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