Divorce: An Overview

Family Law Attorney Vanessa Childs protects and advances his clients’ rights and interests in divorce proceedings throughout the Portland area, whether at the bargaining table in a mediation or collaborative law process, or in the courtroom in a traditional trial setting.

Mediation, Collaborative Law and Litigation

Different couples take different paths to arrive at a divorce.  A divorce is a legal process which begins with the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage in court and becomes final when the court enters a decree granting the divorce.  Depending upon the complexity of issues at trial, the hostility of the parties toward one other, and the valuation of property and its characterization as community property or separate property, this process can be costly, time-consuming, and emotionally devastating.

There are alternatives to litigation, however.  Mediation is a process where the parties work out their differences between themselves with the assistance of a trained mediator who facilitates communication.  Collaborative Law is an option wherein the parties and their attorneys agree in writing that they will resolve the divorce in the best interests of all concerned without resorting to the courts or other legal processes.

Each process has its own unique benefits.  Portland Family Law Attorney Vanessa Childs is experienced in all approaches, can help you determine which method is best for you.

Legal Separation

California has a six-month requirement to establish residency. Gaining a legal separation (also known as a marital separation or divorce separation) in California requires much the same process as does getting a divorce. You have your attorney petition the court and serve your spouse with legal notice. A California resident can get a legal separation and have the agreement cover all aspects of the relationship except that it does not change the marital status. Why would someone want a Legal Separation? Most commonly, a Legal Separation is desirable when one of the spouses wants to stay married for religious reasons; wants the advantage of deductibility of spousal support payments for income tax purposes, or wants to maintain various insurance coverage’s.


A divorce may be based on the “no-fault” ground of irreconcilable differences between the parties, which does not require one party to prove fault or misconduct on the part of the other spouse.

Property Division

Classification of property is an important step in the division process.  The court has jurisdiction only over the community property of the marital estate, defined as any asset acquired or income earned by a spouse during the marriage.  A spouse’s separate property is property acquired before the marriage, as well as gifts or inheritances acquired during marriage by one spouse alone.

The job of the court is to divide all of the marital property as equally as possible.  Obviously, some assets such as a single automobile or a marital home that is shared by both spouses cannot be divided equally unless they are sold and the proceeds then split between the parties.  The court may award different assets of roughly equivalent value to the parties.  For these reasons, valuation questions are often sticking points and can often become quite contentious. Your attorney’s job is to help his client these complex financial issues that often arise within the process of divorce.

Child Custody

In a divorce case, the court will make decisions as to both legal and physical custody of minor children.  Legal custody is defined as the right to make decisions about the child, while physical custody is defined as having actual custodial care.  Custody can be sole or joint, depending upon many factors affecting the best interest of the child. Oftentimes the court will take into account whether there is any history of domestic violence in the family.

In the case where sole custody is the outcome, a visitation plan will be hammered out that will specify when and how long the child will reside with each parent.  When deemed necessary, the court might order visitation to be supervised either by a professional outside agency, another adult, or the custodial parent.  In the most extreme situations, the court may deny visitation rights altogether.

Child Support

Generally, the court will order the higher earning parent to pay a monthly support amount to the parent with less income. In most cases the parent with primary physical custody will be the recipient of child support.  This obligation will continue until a child reaches the age of 19, reaches the age of 18 and is no longer a full-time high school student, marries, becomes an emancipated minor or dies.  The amount of support is calculated according to a statutory guideline that takes into account a number of factors but can be challenged by your attorney.

Spousal Support (Alimony)

While spouses have an inherent obligation to financially support each other during a marriage, the goal with an order of spousal support — also known as alimony or maintenance — is that the party receiving spousal support will become self-supporting within a determined period of time.  Support can terminate earlier if the receiving party remarries, and sometimes if the party cohabits with another an the paying spouse has their attorney seek a modification.   Whether or not spousal support will be granted and how much will be ordered is based upon a variety of factors, including the length of the marriage, the age and health of the spouses, the unique needs of each spouse, and the calculated expenses related to the adequate support of the children.

Paternity (Father’s Rights)

Under the Uniform Parentage Act of 2002, a lawsuit can be brought to establish or challenge paternity at any time, although it is typically used during child support proceedings where issues of custody and visitation are being decided.  Only a legal (biological) parent has a legal obligation to support the child financially, and only a legal parent has a legal right to custody and visitation.  If paternity is challenged, the court may order genetic testing to determine the issue once and for all.

Premarital Agreements

Premarital Agreements or “Prenuptial Agreements” allow spouses to decide — prior to marriage — how issues of property division and potential future support will be handled in the event of divorce.  A premarital agreement must be in writing and must be signed by both parties in order to be valid.  Moreover, it must be agreed to voluntarily after a full and fair disclosure of the assets and liabilities of both spouses.  Each party (each spouse) must be represented by an attorney in the transaction or at least have the opportunity to have the agreement reviewed by independent legal counsel before signing and if they do not seek independent counsel so state and agree that they had the opportunity but declined.

Family Law Attorney Vanessa Childs is experienced in all areas of Portland Family and Divorce Law and can provide you with the best representation possible. We are here to support you in circumstances such as:

  • Legal separation
  • Dissolution of marriage
  • Pre-nuptial agreements
  • Division of Assets & Property
  • Pre-nuptial agreements
  • Post-nuptial agreements
  • Child custody disputes
  • Spousal and child support
  • Child visitation
  • Enforcement of existing court agreements
  • Modifications to existing court agreements
  • Domestic abuse

Contact Us Today

To find out how an experienced Portland Family Law Attorney can assist you and your family, contact me, Attorney Vanessa Childs today. Call me at 888-900-9078.

Childs Law ~ Vanessa Childs, Esq.

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