Meeting with people at my law office in Gresham, I am often asked to look over papers or to ask me specific questions about a divorce or custody case where they are representing themselves. There are a lot of technical requirements to get a divorce final, which are in place to try and prevent problems later on, but these requirements do not always address important parts of the Judgment that will affect you or your spouse at a later time.
In any family law case, certain papers have to be drafted and filed with the court and then served on the opposing party. Certain procedures have to be followed to obtain the relief you are seeking. Some Courts have staff in their family law departments who can assist people in filling forms out correctly, however, these people cannot (or should not and are not qualified to) offer legal advice.
If you go before a Judge, however sympathetic that Judge may be towards you, they cannot provide you legal advice. While there are times where self-representation may be appropriate for your situation, there are also times where doing things yourself is very risky and may, in the long run, end up costing you more money – not to mention more emotional turmoil and misery than it would have if you were to hire a qualified attorney in the first place.
It is easier for me, and less expensive and stressful for you, to do things right the first time. I have represented many people who did it themselves the first time, and are now paying me to try and fix their mistakes.
Real estate transactions, bankruptcies, and retirement and pension account divisions can have important timeline issues.
Dividing retirement and pension accounts is a highly complex and financially significant issue, as these are often the largest assets in a marital estate.
The short term gain of saving money by not using an attorney when such assets exist is outweighed by the long-term impact of an unfair or unequal division of the asset. In Oregon, division of property is not subject to modification.
For example, if your spouse files bankruptcy following your divorce judgment, creditors for joint debts that your spouse was ordered to pay may be able to seek collection from you. The creditors are not restricted by the divorce court judgment. This is one example of what needs to be considered when deciding which spouse should pay what debts, and how the property should be divided.
As another example, where pension plans are involved – for instance, PERS, FERS, railroad retirement and military pensions – these are often the largest asset in the marriage and thus the division of it is crucial. They require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to be entered following the divorce judgment. The language in the divorce judgment dictates what the QDRO orders. Spousal support is subject to modification, and needs to be evaluated with that in mind and also in the context of property division. These are things that have to be handled carefully with an experienced family law attorney at your side.
In an uncontested divorce case I prepare and file the necessary paperwork including the judgment and have it submitted to the court within a few days. Depending on the county it can take from a few days to a couple of months until the judge signs the divorce judgment. Most counties require parties in cases involving children to participate in a parent education class before a divorce or custody judgment is signed and entered. In some counties, like Multnomah County, it is just a one-time session that takes a few hours.
If you live in Gresham, you don’t have to travel far to see me – our law offices are at 1300 NE Linden Ave., near downtown Gresham.
Ken A. Kissir, PC, Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 184
Troutdale, OR 97060
Many things can happen after a divorce judgment is entered and finalized, including changes in beneficiary designations, health insurance and life insurance, the rights of parents regarding medical decisions and schooling, military benefits including a former spouse’s right to health insurance, parenting time rights, tax dependency exemption rights, and money awards, to name just a few, that must be provided for correctly in the Judgment for you to be able to enforce your rights and protect yourself later on. When retirement accounts are divided by way of a qualified domestic relations order (to comply with the plan administrators and IRS regulations) the wording in the Judgment can make a huge difference in how the division works.
If you have children, the reality is that a divorce is never really over. The other person’s personality will not change (or if it does, not for the better), and things rarely “settle down,” as clients have predicted to me over the years. When your spouse obtains a significant other, that person will now be involved. Again, this is rarely for the better. Preparing for this, your General Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, or for Custody and Parenting Time, should be drafted for damage control as much as anything else. My goal is to do everything I can to help you not have to call me in the future. Sometimes this is unavoidable, and I’ve represented some good and well meaning people over the years, from the time their child was an infant to when they were about to move out of the home, because the other parent has been so unbearable and difficult to deal with. Again, property prepared and drafted Judgments can make a world of difference in the future.
The Oregon-based divorce and family law firm of attorney Ken A. Kissir offers experience and qualified legal advice for all family law matters. He represents clients dealing with separation, divorce, family law and custody matters, in Gresham/Troutdale and the surrounding Portland Metro area. He is licensed in Oregon, Washington and Federal Courts. Ken Kissir practices in Troutdale, Portland, Gresham, Oregon City, Fairview, Multnomah County, Clackamas County, Washington County, and other locations.