Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Before You Leave: Legal Considerations for Traveling with Children

Traveling has become one of the most difficult challenges facing today’s “modern family” particularly when it comes to families of divorce. With spring break right around the corner, it’s high travel season for vacations.  Whether you’re gearing up for a fun-filled beach retreat, or a quick visit to grandma’s house, it’s important to know the legal procedures required for divorced parents with traveling children…including considering updating your estate plan.

Understanding Your Parental Rights

Do you know your parental rights when it comes to traveling? Do you have an updated parenting plan? If a planned trip by one parent with children infringes in any way on the other parent’s legally specified parenting time, the traveling parent must obtain authorization, preferably in writing, from the non-traveling parent.  Even if the trip takes place only during the traveling parent’s allocated parenting time, it is good practice to obtain a signed consent from the other parent.  The consent should confirm relevant logistical details, such as the dates of travel and specific locations of travel.  If the agreement is for “make-up parenting time,” that should also be confirmed in writing.  If problems are anticipated in obtaining a signed consent from the other parent, the parent who wants to travel should consult with an attorney as soon as possible, preferably well in advance of the travel date.  If problems actually occur, it may be appropriate to contact an experienced family law mediator and seek assistance from the mediator to work out a solution.

Prepare Your Child’s Passport Application

Do you or your ex-spouse plan on leaving the country? For a child under age 16, it is generally required that the child’s passport application be made in person with both parents or legal guardians present, unless one parent has been granted sole legal authority to apply for the child’s passport or the second parent has provided a notarized statement of consent on the U.S. State Department’s approved form.  Documents supporting the child’s passport application must also be provided at the time of the application.  The application form should be completed but not signed until the passport agent so advises.  To make it through the process without problems, a parent or other legal guardian who needs to acquire a child’s passport should start early and be well prepared—in some cases it can take a few months.  

The Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) allows parents to register their U.S. citizen children under age 18 in the U.S. State Department’s Passport Lookout System.  The Passport Lookout System then gives all U.S. passport agencies, as well as U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, an alert on a child’s name if a parent or guardian registers an objection to passport issuance for his or her child.  If a child’s information is registered, the registering parent should then receive advanced notice of the other parent’s attempt to obtain a passport for the child.  This notice may help prevent unauthorized international travel with the child. See link to the CPIAP website HERE.

Airline Requirements for Unaccompanied Minors

Will your children travel unaccompanied? It is fairly common for children to travel by airplane for parenting time with their long-distance parent.  According to the US Department of Transportation, most airlines will permit children who have reached their fifth birthday to travel unaccompanied under certain circumstances.  Children ages 5 through 11, flying alone, must follow special “unaccompanied minor” procedures. On some airlines, these procedures are required for unaccompanied children as old as 14.  On many airlines children ages 5 through 7 will only be accepted on direct or nonstop flights and an “unaccompanied minor” fee is often charged.  Airlines generally do not permit children younger than age 5 to fly alone.  Check the website for the airline the child will be flying for specific requirements.

Resolving Travel Disputes

If one parent wants to take a child on a trip outside the U.S. and the other parent will not agree to sign a travel authorization document, the parent who wishes to travel overseas should consult an attorney. Most likely, you will petition the court to order the other parent to provide authorization.  Mediation with an experienced family law mediator might also help resolve the conflict. Sometimes the other parent will agree to authorize the travel if the parent who wants to travel provides all the pertinent details about the trip, including the date when the children will return, and if that parent also offers to provide the other parent with a reasonable amount of contact with the children during the trip, including texts, phone calls and Skype, if at all possible.

Unless the applicable court order says otherwise, the travelling parent is not required to “check-in” with the other parent during their trip.  However, given today’s technology, communication is much easier to achieve and highly recommended.   By facilitating brief check-ins with the other parent, challenges down the road may be prevented allowing for more future family travel fun.

Estate Planning Considerations

Do you have an updated will? Traveling carries with it the risks of illness, injury and other unexpected conditions.  Before heading out of town, spring breakers should review their wills and estate plans to make sure they have properly planned for these risks.  Wills and revocable trusts should be reviewed and updated so that proper fiduciaries are appointed and distribution plans reflect current wishes.  Travelers should also consider who they have named under their durable powers of attorney and health care directives.  Depending on the trip, it might make sense to name a different (or alternate) person to serve under these documents.  If traveling without minor children (or if minor children are traveling alone), parents should ensure that non-parent caretakers are properly authorized to consent to medical treatment on behalf of the children.

If you are planning your next vacation and would like to learn more about your parental rights and or updating your estate plans, we are here to help! Contact us or give us a call at our Portland office: 503-227-1515. For Vancouver call: 360-823-0410.

By Kathryn S. Root, Shareholder and John J. Christianson, Of Counsel

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Divorce Advice: Key Conversations to Have Before You Head for Divorce

No one plans on getting divorced. We marry with the expectation that love will last, but sometimes it doesn't always work out that way. Work, kids, life—so many pressures intervene and alter our expectations of what a relationship should be and how our lives will unfold.

How to know if youre ready for divorce

Two key questions confront us as we contemplate divorce. First, is the relationship worth saving? And second, what will life after divorce be like? Choosing some trusted advisers—a "divorce team," if you will—can help you discover the answers to these and other important questions.  
Talk to a mental health therapist.  If your partner won’t go, go by yourself.  Most relationships end because of poor communication, and communication skills can be learned. A therapist can help you to identify the root causes of the dysfunction in your relationship and to decide whether the problems can be solved and how. 
Talk to a friend.  Our friends are our best resources for seeing our lives from a neutral perspective. Is your partner abusive? Do they have a substance abuse problem? Can you change the ways in which you respond to each other? Or is one or both of you unwilling or unable to change?
Talk to a lawyer. This can be a frightening prospect at first, but a divorce lawyer will talk through your situation and provide the information that is applicable to you and your circumstances. How will your property be divided? What are the likely support arrangements? Who will care for the children? How will the other parent be involved? What is the cost? What ways are available to pay for the divorce? Deciding on an attorney who can help you through the process is important. Our firm’s attorneys provide regular counsel to all types of families and situations. You can call your state bar association for a referral as well.
Talk to a financial planner.  Most families can’t really afford to divorce and maintain the same lifestyle afterward. It costs more to maintain two households. Your life after divorce is likely to be more financially constrained, at least initially. A financial planner can take the information you discover from talking to the divorce lawyer and help you understand how you will live on less. 
Talk to another lawyer. Estate planning is one of those life tasks that we put off too easily. Divorce is a key time to revisit our estate plans, and there’s no need to wait.  Sit down with an estate planning lawyer at the beginning so that you have a plan. Start changing beneficiary designations and the like when it makes sense to do so; don't wait for the entire divorce to unfold before making these changes. 
It is scary to confront the possibility of divorce, but the reality is a lot easier if you have proper support. Start working now on putting together your team. The worst thing that can happen is, you’ll never need them. But having your advisers assembled will help you make the big decisions that lie ahead. 

Contact a divorce attorney to learn more

If you would like to learn more about the divorce process, any one of our divorce attorneys can help. You can read more about them here. If you are ready to schedule an appointment with a family law lawyer in Oregon or Washington, please call 503-227-1515 for a Portland divorce attorney, or a Vancouver attorney at 360-823-0410

By Mark Johnson Roberts, Of Counsel

Monday, February 23, 2015

Albert Menashe comments on new Oregon Governor Kate Brown

Albert Menashe comments on new Oregon Governor Kate Brown.  KGW News Channel 8, February 15th, 2015.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mark Johnson Roberts: An Oregon Trailblazer

Last Month, the Oregon State Bar unveiled its diversity storyboard exhibit; a wall-sized timeline that tracks 100 years of challenges and success for minority lawyers and judges in Oregon. As a follow-up to that event, the Oregonian featured our own Mark Johnson Roberts in a slideshow of “a few Oregon State Bar members who helped create a more diverse justice system by serving as pioneers in some way.” Mark’s piece recognizes that he was not only the first openly LGBT president of the Oregon State Bar when elected in 2006, but he became the first openly LGBT president of any state bar association in the country. An Oregon trailblazer? We certainly think so! To view the digital slideshow click HERE.

Read more about Mark HERE.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Saville W. Easley Joins the PLF Board of Directors

Congratulations to Saville W. Easley as a newly appointed board member for the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund, effective January 1, 2015.   As an independently managed subdivision of the Oregon State Bar, the PLF is governed by a board of directors appointed by the OSB Board of Governors. The PLF first began operation on July 1, 1978, and has been the mandatory provider of primary malpractice coverage for Oregon lawyers since then. The PLF Board is comprised of nine members from across Oregon. Seven of their directors are Oregon attorneys and two are public members.   Saville was also recently elected as the chair of the Oregon State Bar Local Professional Responsibility Committee, and vice president of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Oregon Chapter.  Saville also serves on the Multnomah County Bar Association Professionalism Committee. 

Saville Easley is a shareholder at Gevurtz Menashe and has been practicing law for 23 years.

Read more about Saville HERE.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gevurtz Menashe Welcomes Family Law Attorney – James D. Lutes

Gevurtz Menashe is pleased to share the announcement and warm welcome of our new associate family law attorney, James D. Lutes. James received his bachelor of science degree in journalism from University of Oregon and his juris doctorate degree from Willamette University in 2013. Prior to joining Gevurtz Menashe, James practiced family law in Vancouver. James will continue his practice handling divorce, custody/parenting time, child support, contempt, and modifications for clients with legal matters in the state of Washington. When he’s not advocating for his clients, you will likely find James on the rugby field or at the horse races. In true Northwest fashion, he spends his fall and winter months cheering on the Oregon Ducks and Portland Trailblazers. James also has a passion for travel. If he could live anywhere in the world, he’d choose an adventure among the koalas and kangaroos in Sydney, Australia.

Read more about James HERE.  Link to OregonLive announcement HERE.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights? Understanding Grandparents’ Rights in Oregon.

Grandparents’ Rights in OregonGrandparents’ rights in Oregon are complex and difficult to understand. Do grandparents have visitation rights with regard to their grandchildren? Can grandparents take custody of a child? While there are no specific laws governing grandparents per se, there is case law addressing the rights of third parties who have established “emotional ties creating a child-parent relationship.”  These third parties can be related or non-related to the child. Grandparents, stepparents and other relatives or legal guardians can be vital to a child’s well being in situations where parents are either unable to properly care for a child or are absent altogether from a child’s life.  In these situations understanding your legal rights as grandparents, both in regards to visitation and custody, is essential.
Grandparents’ rights in Oregon are difficult because there is a presumption that the legal parent (mother or father) acts in the best interest of the child.  Thus, if a parent objects to grandparents having visitation or custody of a child, the grandparent must overcome the presumption the legal parent’s decision is in the best interest of the child. This is very difficult to do because the law puts great weight on parents’ rights to make decisions about their children. In determining whether to award custody or visitation to a grandparent, the court may consider several factors such as whether the grandparent has been the child’s primary caretaker; whether it would be detrimental to the child if the relief is denied; whether the legal parent has fostered and/or unreasonably denied the relationship between the child and the grandparent; and whether the legal parent is unwilling or unable to care adequately for the child.

In 2011 (See link HERE), the Oregon Court of Appeals denied the grandparents’ petition for visitation rights of their grandchild, despite grandparents being the child’s foster parents for over a year when the parents were unable to care for the child.  The court found grandparents had not proven the child would face a "serious present risk of harm" if visitation were denied. Grandparents also did not show the child's relationship with his parents would not be harmed if their request for visitation were granted.

The above result is not uncommon in Oregon but every case is very different due to the unique set of circumstances families face. If you are a grandparent or another third party with questions about visitation or custody of a child you should contact Gevurtz Menashe today. Our qualified attorneys specialize in many areas of family law, including third party custody and visitation rights, in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.  Call 503-227-1515 for our Portland office or 360-823-0410 for our Vancouver office today!

Paige De Muniz, Shareholder