Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gevurtz Menashe Partners With DoveLewis & Oregon Dress For Success

This fall, Gevurtz Menashe was a proud sponsor of two great local organizations: Dress For Success Oregon and DoveLewis.

In September, we partnered with DoveLewis animal hospital as an official vendor for the 20th annual Dogtoberfest, at Lucky Labrador Brew Pub, benefitting the organization’s blood bank. Our support included sponsored giveaways and information about pet protections and estate plans. The event featured community volunteers who washed, dried, and wrangled hundreds of dogs while their owners enjoy live music and Lucky Lab refreshments. All proceeds from the event benefited the DoveLewis Blood Bank.

This month, under the leadership of shareholder, Saville Easley, our firm partnered with OWLS and Dress For Success Oregon by participating in their annual fashion show fundraiser. Shareholders Shawn Menashe and Paige De Muniz each modeled professional attire from local Portland clothing boutiques  Mabel and Zora and The Lion’s Den Man’s Shop. This year’s fashion show raised over $5,000 for Dress for Success Oregon and garnered hundreds of articles of clothing through the event’s “Suit Drive.”
We continued our support by attending the organization’s annual Empowerment Breakfast on Wednesday, October 8th at the Sentinel Hotel. This year’s breakfast helped raise funds to support Dress for Success career development program which helps low-income women transition out of generational poverty.

Monday, November 3, 2014

GMLH Listed as 'Top 5' Law Firm by Vancouver Business Journal

This year, Gevurtz Menashe was recognized as one of the top five Largest Law Firms in Clark County by The Vancouver Business Journal.  Other firms in this ranking in S.W. Washington include Landerholm, Jordan Ramis PC, Miller Nash, and Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt. We are proud to rank among these firms and thank the Clark County legal community for their continued support.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gevurtz Menashe Welcomes Estate Planning Attorney – Stefan Wolf

We welcome attorney Stefan Wolf to Gevurtz Menashe this month.  Stefan has practiced law for the last four years and has successfully administered numerous wills, trusts, gift tax returns, estate tax returns, and probate cases. He received his B.A. from Whitman College and his J. D. from Lewis & Clark Law School, where he graduated Cum Laude. He will continue to handle estate planning matters such as asset protection planning, beneficiary representation, estate and gift taxes, probate, wills and revocable trusts. Stefan’s passions are traveling, skiing and spending time with his family. If it weren’t for his loyalty to the city of Portland, Stefan would prefer to be living in Kauai – but really, who wouldn’t?

Read more about Stefan HERE.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kathryn Smith Root Receives Oregon Women Lawyers’ 2014 Katherine H. O’Neil Volunteer Service Award

We are proud to announce that our friend and colleague, Kathryn Smith Root, received the 2014 Oregon Women Lawyers’ Katherine H. O’Neil Volunteer Service Award. Kathy is a true and dedicated leader who has devoted her professional career to assisting others. Her 30 years of managing various charitable and professional pursuits, pro bono counseling, and work as a family law attorney made her the perfect candidate. This award recognizes sustained contributions of service in an identified position with OWLS or an OWLS chapter, the Oregon Women Lawyers Foundation, the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations, the National Association of Women Lawyers, or the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.

Kathryn is also a proud founder of OWLS. Her ongoing commitment  to promote women and minorities in the Oregon legal profession is profound. Kathryn is a sought-after mentor, and currently serves as Chair of the OWLS Foundation Advisory Board. Congratulations, Kathryn on this well-deserved honor!

Read more about Kathryn HERE.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Financial Aid Considerations for Children of Divorced or Never-Married Parents

Whether a divorce was amicable, angry, or somewhere in between, divorced parents can face extra challenges when trying to help their college-bound children apply for financial aid. This article offers some suggestions for divorced and never-married parents to try to help reduce the anxiety and stress that can accompany what can be a complicated and confusing process.

This fall some 21 million students are expected to attend American colleges and universities. This is an increase of about 5.7 million since fall 2000. 1 For the 2012–13 academic year, the average annual price for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board was $15,022 at public institutions and $39,173 at private nonprofit institutions.2 These costs don’t include school supplies, clothing, transportation, food, equipment, etc.  The average 2013-2014 tuition increase was 3.8 percent at private colleges, and 2.9 percent at public universities.3     These figures are substantially higher than the general inflation rate and higher than the average increase in personal income.
Unfortunately, as college costs increase, aid available to students has failed to keep pace. 4      This makes it even more important to apply for federal aid early and correctly.  To be eligible for federal student aid, the student must, among other things, demonstrate “financial need.”  Financial need means the difference between the cost of attendance at a school and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). 5    Aid is based on the concept that it is primarily the student’s and his or her family’s responsibility to pay for the education.  An independent student (over 24 years old; married; has dependents of their own; parents deceased; working towards masters or doctorate degree; emancipated; active duty or veteran of U.S. armed forces) will only need to report his or her own information. (If married, they will also need to report a spouse’s information).  A dependent student is assumed to have the financial support of parents and thus, that parents’ financial information is required. 6       A “parent” is defined as a biological or adoptive parent.  It doesn’t matter if the student doesn’t live with his or her parents, the student must still report information about them.  For dependent students’ with divorced or separated parents, it can be confusing to know which parent’s financial information to use.
Here is what you need to know if you are divorcing, divorced, separated or never married and have a child applying for federal aid   [Note: Consistent with the Supreme Court decision holding Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, same-sex couples must report their marital status as married if they were legally married in a state or other jurisdiction, without regard to where they live or where the student will be going to school]:

•    If you were never married or are widowed, only your financial information is considered.

•    If you are divorced or separated and don’t live together, the financial information considered is from the parent with whom the child has lived more during the past 12 months.  If the child spends the same amount of time with each divorced or separated parent, the financial information of the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months (i.e. child support) is considered.

•    If you are a stepparent who is married to the legal parent whose financial information is considered, your financial information will also be considered. See Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info

•    If you still live together, both parent’s financial information is considered.

Applying for federal aid can be complicated.  For more information visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/.  

In addition to helping your student apply for federal student aid, you can also contribute to your child’s college expenses through the following:

•    A Section 529 Plan is a special type of education savings account that offers certain tax benefits.  Funds within a 529 Plan account grow tax free, much like a 401(k) or IRA.  Withdrawals from the account may also be made on a tax-free basis, so long as the withdrawals are used for qualified educational expenses (tuition, fees, books, room and board, etc.).  Contributions to a 529 Plan are not deductible from federal income taxes, but many states (including Oregon) offer a state income tax deduction.

•    Contributions to 529 Plans constitute gifts under federal gift tax law.  If the contributions, together with all other gifts you have made to the child in that calendar year, total less than $14,000, the 529 contribution will qualify for the annual gift tax exclusion and does not need to be reported on a gift tax return.

•    One benefit unique to 529 Plans is that contributors may elect to use up to five years of annual gift tax exclusions for one contribution.  For example, you could contribute up to $70,000 to a 529 Plan today for your child without making any taxable gifts.  To make this election, the gift must be reported on a timely filed gift tax return (which is due April 15th in the calendar year after the gift is made). 

•    In addition to the tax benefits of 529 Plans, the Internal Revenue Code provides that amounts paid directly to an educational institution for tuition expenses escape gift tax completely.  That means that payment of your child’s tuition bill does not count toward the $14,000 annual limit.  There are two important rules to consider when making tuition payments. First, to qualify for the exclusion, the payment has to be made directly to the educational institution; you cannot give the money to your child.  Second, the exclusion only applies to amounts for tuition expenses, so to the extent that payments for books, room and board exceed $14,000 per child per year, they will constitute taxable gifts.

Written by Paige De Muniz, Shareholder (Family Law), and John Christianson, Of Counsel (Estate Planning)

1 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), January, 2014.
2U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), March 2014.  
3The College Board, http://www.collegeboard.org
4The College Board, http://www.collegeboard.org.
5Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.ed.gov/glossary#Financial_Need.
6Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.ed.gov/glossary#Financial_Need.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shawn N. Menashe Receives Avvo.com ‘Clients Choice’ Award

Each year, Avvo.com presents a few lawyers with its ‘Clients' Choice’ Award, based on both the quantity and quality of client online reviews that the attorney receives. This year, we are proud to promote family law attorney and Gevurtz Menashe’s Managing Shareholder, Shawn N. Menashe as a 2014 recipient of the Avvo.com ‘Client’s Choice’ Award. This award is given to attorneys who have reached a 10-out-of-10 “excellent” rating on Avvo.com’s website and who have received a large number of overwhelmingly positive reviews written by recent clients. Well done, Shawn!

Shawn N. Menashe has been practicing law for more than 10 years and is considered to be one of the top family law attorneys in the Portland legal community. He received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Oregon School of Law in 2003. Upon admittance to the Oregon State Bar, he joined Gevurtz Menashe, the family law firm founded by his father in 1982. Today he is Managing Shareholder of the firm, where he proudly leads a team of 25 attorneys with exclusive practice in family law and estate planning. Shawn has served as chair of the ABA young lawyer’s family law section as well as a variety of local bar sections and community non-profit boards. His practice focuses on a broad range of family law issues including high asset and complex divorce, alternate dispute, child support, custody/parenting time, paternity issues, and relationship agreements. For Shawn, practicing family law is rewarding because it allows the opportunity to make a positive difference in people's lives—during a time they likely need it most. Check out Shawn’s recent Avvo.com reviews or read more about him HERE.

Shawn Menashe avvo.com clients' choice award 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Who Gets the House?

If you are going through a divorce and own a home, chances are you are trying to decide what to do with the house.  Should you keep it, sell it, or let your spouse have it?  There are several things to think about when making this decision which can have immediate, as well as long-term, effects.

In Oregon, the allocation of property between spouses in a divorce must be “just and proper.”  ORS 107.105(1)(f).  In general, this means that an asset acquired during the marriage should be divided equally between the spouses.  Assuming your home was purchased during the marriage, this means both you and your spouse will receive one-half of the equity value in the home (the current market value minus and outstanding mortgage or other indebtedness secured by the house).  If you keep the home, you will owe your spouse his or her one-half share of the equity through a cash pay-out (sometimes obtained through a refinance) or through an award of other assets.  If your spouse keeps the home, he or she will owe you 50% of the equity, either in cash or through other assets.  And if neither of you keep the home, the home will be sold, with the net proceeds typically being divided equally between spouses, depending on the allocation of other assets and debts.

In determining what to do with the home, you should explore the following:
  1. Do you know what your house is worth in the current market?  You should get a comparative market analysis or appraisal done of your home to determine its likely current market value.  If you owe more than the house is worth, can you afford to pay the shortfall or will you need to explore a foreclosure or short sale?  Meet with a real estate agent to learn how long houses like yours are taking to sell in your area so you can think about how the mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc. will get paid while the sale is pending.  The real estate agent should also be able to give you an idea of how much you should you budget for necessary repairs to make the home marketable.
  1. What type of living situation do you really need?  If you have children and need multiple bedrooms or bathrooms, explore the cost and availability of rentals in your area.  It might make more sense to rent versus being financially tied to a non-liquid asset while you figure out what your needs will be after the divorce.  Renting may make sense given the needs of your post-divorce life-style.  For example, if you are now going to be a single parent, do you want to be responsible for household repairs and maintenance or would you prefer being able to contact the property manager to have those tasks done?
  1. Can you really afford the home?  In addition to discussing this with your divorce lawyer, meet with a financial advisor who can help you review your monthly budget.  Explore not only the cost of the monthly mortgage, but also the cost of maintenance, utilities, property taxes, etc. in determining whether you can afford to keep the home.  You also may need to determine whether you can qualify to refinance the mortgage into your own name. Typically the other spouse will not agree to remain on the loan indefinitely and the court can order the sale of the home if you are unable to refinance as a way of removing your former spouses name from the loan obligation.
  1. What assets are you giving up in order to keep the house?  The goal is to make sure the liquidity of the assets you are get from the divorce match your needs.  Again, meet with a financial advisor and/or CPA to determine the various tax consequences that could result from selling or trading assets and liabilities during divorce.  For example, if you decide to keep the house now and intend to sell it later on your own, you may have to pay significant capital gains tax and real estate fees while selling during a divorce essentially splits these costs with your spouse.  If you’re giving up a pension or other retirement asset to keep the house, you should understand the long-term consequences (i.e. pre-tax contributions and tax liabilities) before doing so.
  1. Is there a benefit to getting rid of the home and moving on?  If you shared this home with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, there might be emotional and financial benefits to selling the home.  It might be a financial benefit not to be tied to a non-liquid asset and to receive cash and/or retirement assets instead.  It might be an emotional benefit not to be reminded of your past every time you sit down in your kitchen or living room.  There is typically an emotional cost you should try to account for when making these types of decisions in your divorce.

Regardless of what you do, try to have as much information as possible before making any final decision.  Given the long-term ramifications of these types of decisions you want to make sure you have the right experts involved.  Ideally, you will want to explore your options with your divorce attorney, financial advisor, and/or accountant in order to make well-informed and educated choices regarding your property division.

Written by Paige A. De Muniz, Shareholder.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Ten Questions to Consider before Marrying", Mark Johnson Roberts and John Christianson in PQ Monthly

Mark Johnson Roberts, Family Law, Of Counsel and John Christianson, Estate Planning, Of Counsel, author, "Ten Questions to Consider before Marrying" in the August 2014 edition of PQ Monthly.  You can read the article online, HERE.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Albert Menashe featured on KGW News, commenting on high conflict divorce and therapy

Albert Menashe was featured on KGW News, Channel 8, adding expert input on the tragic Jessica Smith case.  Albert specifically commented on high conflict divorce and therapy.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Gevurtz Attorneys Selected as Best Lawyers 2015!

Bestlawyers.com, an esteemed online attorney directory, has published it’s annual 'best lawyers' for 2015. This year ten of our attorneys are honored as "Best Lawyers". A number that has doubled since 2012. 

This year’s list includes: Shawn Menashe, Albert Menashe, Eric Larson, William Howe, Julia Hagan, Robin Wright, Zach Fruchtengarten, Dylan Cernitz, Craig Cowley and Marshal Spector. The Best Lawyers designation is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey in which attorneys are divided by geographic region and recognized for professional excellence in their practice area(s).

“I am extremely proud of the quality of law being practiced by all of our lawyers. The accolades our lawyers continue to receive are a reflection of the pride we have in what we are doing,” said Shawn Menashe, Managing Shareholder. “Since the beginning, our firm’s greatest asset has always been our people. We are proud of all of our lawyers and the quality of legal service we provide to our family law and estate planning clients throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho.”

Congratulations to each of you on this well-deserved honor!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Staff Spotlight: Kimberly Lyons

This quarter we are pleased to recognize our estate planning legal assistant, Kimberly Lyons, for her volunteer work with The Aperture Project. The Aperture Project is an organization that connects children through photography and writing; broadening their world view while promoting tolerance and understanding. The mission of The Aperture Project is to create positive community connections among young people with diverse backgrounds.

As a hobby photographer, Kim is passionate about Aperture’s mission, showing children how photography can be used as a vehicle of communication with the potential to expand world views and help celebrate our differences as people, while also discovering ways in which we share common ground. Using her organizational skills, passion for photography, and experience in non-profit grant writing, Kim serves as the Director of Fund Development for The Aperture Project.

This summer, The Aperture Project will host a scavenger hunt to encourage North Portland youth to explore and connect with the rich history of their community in St Johns. The event will be held on August 9th from 10:00am to 3:00pm. Visit www.apertureproject.org to learn more.

Way to go, Kim! Thank you for all you do to make our firm and the Portland arts community a better place for our youth!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

GMLH Rocks the Race for Justice!

On June 14th Team Gevurtz Menashe joined dozens of other members of the Oregon legal community to support St. Andrew Legal Clinic. This year’s 14th annual Race For Justice raised more than $125,000 to help meet the legal needs of low and moderate income people with family law concerns. SALC helps bridge the gap for families who do not qualify for Legal Aid and cannot afford to hire a private attorney. Over the course of four weeks, the GM team raised over $1,300 in pledges among our personal networks. Way to go, team!

For more information, visit SALC at http://www.salcgroup.org/. To donate to SALC, call 503-281-1500 or click here for more information.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Multnomah County eCourt Transition Attorney-Assisted Mediation Program

A big shout out to our Multnomah County Circuit Court volunteer attorney-assisted mediators, Julia Hagan, Saville Easley, Bill Howe, and Craig Cowley for their participation in and commitment to the success of the Multnomah County eCourt transition Attorney-assisted Mediation Program. This spring, in preparation for Multnomah County Circuit Court’s eCourt filing transition, several of our family law attorneys partnered with Multnomah County as volunteer trial assignment mediators. The transition to eCourt required extensive staff training sessions which reduced the number of slots available on the trial assignment docket. The goal of this temporary program was to reduce the number of matters actually needing judge time by triaging cases on the docket and requiring participation in attorney-mediated discussions.

Parties to divorces, custody actions, or support modifications who are unable to settle their dispute and have come to the end of the legal action are typically scheduled to be assigned to a judge for trial. Instead, during this 10 week experimental program, they were diverted to meet first with an assigned neutral attorney-mediator. In each case, the parties met at the courthouse at the scheduled time with the attorney-mediator. The attorney-mediator  listened to each side, provided them with information, and offered them guidance toward reaching an agreement. Not every case settled using the attorney-mediator but most did, making the program very efficient. Thank you to everyone who helped make this program a success.

To the Multnomah County Court Staff — A special thank you for your hard work and dedication implementing our new eCourt system. Your efforts make a big difference in our legal community. Thank you for your time and energy this year to get the new system in place. We truly appreciate you!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Travel Tips: Your Parenting and Estate Plan Checklist

Traveling has become one of the most difficult challenges facing today’s “modern family” particularly when it comes to families of divorce. Summer continues to be high travel season for vacations, and whether you’re gearing up for a fun-filled beach retreat, annual summer camp, 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.

Parental Consent to Children’s Travel
If a planned trip by one parent with children infringes in any way on the other parent’s legally specified parenting time, the parent who wants to travel 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.

Passport Issues
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
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 who are 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. The the most likely action will be to petition the court to order the other parent to provide the needed 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 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, such  communication is often quite easy to acomplish and is highly recommended.   By facilitating  brief check-ins with the other parent, challenges down the road may be prevented thereby allowing for more future family travel fun.

Estate Planning Considerations
Traveling carries with it the risks of illness, injury and other unexpected conditions.  Before heading out of town, summer vacationers should review their 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.

Kathy Root is a nationally recognized expert on interstate and international divorce and child custody disputes.  She often becomes involved in cases where a parent and child travel or relocate to another state or foreign country.  John Christianson is rising star among estate planning attorneys in Portland. He helps clients plan for the future by ensuring that their assets are distributed in accordance with their wishes and in a tax-efficient manner.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Congratulations to our 2014 Oregon Super Lawyers & Rising Stars

Gevurtz Menashe is excited to announce fifteen Oregon Super Lawyers for 2014—and two rising stars!

Top 10 Oregon Lawyer (#3 Super Lawyer in Oregon): Albert A. Menashe

Top 25 Oregon Women Lawyers: Julia Hagan and Robin Wright.

Top 50 Oregon Lawyer: Dylan M. Cernitz, Julia Hagan, Eric C. Larson,  Albert A. MenasheShawn N.  Menashe, and Robin Wright.

Oregon Super Lawyers also honored these Gevurtz Menashe attorneys for 2014:  Craig Cowley, Of Counsel, Robert Demary, Shareholder, Saville Easley, Shareholder, Kelly Evans, Associate, Zach Fruchtengarten, Shareholder, Bill Howe, Shareholder, Mark Johnson Roberts, Of Counsel, Kathryn Root, Shareholder, Marshal Spector, Of Counsel, Alex Sutton, Shareholder and Steven Zipper, Shareholder.

We are also excited to announce our "Oregon Rising Stars", John Christianson, Of Counsel, and Tiffany Jensen, Associate!

Congratulations to everyone! 70% of our attorneys made a peer-endorsed list of "bests" in their practice areas of family law and estate planning.

Read more on the Super Lawyers website HERE.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Shareholder News: Kathryn Smith Root

We are pleased to announce that Kathryn Smith Root has been named a Shareholder of Gevurtz Menashe. Kathryn received her Juris Doctorate from Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College in 1984. She became Of Counsel with the firm in April of 2012. Kathryn focuses her family law practice on divorce and post-divorce cases involving complex property and financial issues, interstate and international child custody disputes, Hague child abduction matters, and relocation. She is a leading authority on interstate and international custody in the US, having handled more than 100 contested interstate custody cases. Kathryn also litigated the first petition filed in the United States District Court for Oregon under the Hague Convention in 1997, and she is highly knowledgeable about international divorce and child custody disputes. Congratulations Kathryn!

Read more about Kathryn Smith Root HERE.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Congratulations To Mark Johnson Roberts, the 2014 MBA Professionalism Award Recipient

We are proud of our friend and colleague, Mark Johnson Roberts, as the recipient of the 2014 Multnomah Bar Association Professionalism Award, the organization's highest honor. Mark accepted the Professionalism Award on Friday, May 30, 2014. His nomination for the award was supported by numerous attorneys, judges, and law students from across the legal community.

Mark's history of service to the bar is extensive. He represents Oregon lawyers as the State Delegate to the American Bar Association.  He is a past president of the Oregon State Bar, a past president of the National LGBT Bar Association, and a past chair of Oregon’s Professional Responsibility Board. Mark has spent years serving the Portland community and advocating for marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples in Oregon.

Check our photos from the annual awards dinner on the MBA website HERE. It was a truly wonderful evening! You can also watch Mark’s riveting, two-time standing ovations acceptance speech HERE.
BIG Congratulations, Mark on this well-deserved honor!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mark Johnson Roberts featured in Oregonian, '‘Financial Implications For Same-Sex Marriage"

Mark Johnson Roberts was featured in The Oregonian’s Business Section article, ‘Same-sex spouses get clarity planning for retirement and inheritances.’ The article provides a great analysis of the financial implications as result of the overturn on Measure 36 by United States District  Judge Michael McShane. Specifically, Mark provided clarification on same sex domestic partnerships, dissolutions, and Qualified Domestic Relations Orders. You can view the full article HERE or read Mark’s in-depth analysis of Oregon’s new marriage equality laws—and what they mean for same sex couples and family law attorneys in Oregon. You can also learn more about Mark HERE.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Marriage Equality Comes to Oregon



This week, as Oregon celebrates 20 official years of Pride NW, our community has a lot to reflect on.  For at least ten years, LGBT Oregonians have been mired in controversy over whether they could marry.  In 2004, Multnomah County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, only to be ordered to stop issuing them in the ensuing court case.  The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the 2004 marriages were invalid from their inception.  In the meantime, voters approved Ballot Measure 36, which amended Oregon’s constitution to prohibit the contracting of same-sex marriages in the state, as well as the recognition of same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere.  And so it remained the law in Oregon for almost ten years.

In 2013, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of United States v. Windsor.  Edith Windsor was a New York widow, married to Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007. After Thea’s death, Edith was forced to pay about $350,000 in estate taxes.  If she had been married to a man, Edith would have had an exemption. However, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages, made that exemption unavailable to her.  The Court held this discrimination by the federal government violated the liberty interest protected by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court started by observing that DOMA was unique in the scope and extent of the federal regulation it imposed upon marriage, a legal relationship historically left largely to the states to regulate under our federal system of government.  The law’s unusual character, the Court held, prompted a close examination to determine whether constitutional protections had been satisfied in its enactment.

Looking to the merits of the law, the Court found its purpose was to impose a disadvantage and a stigma upon those who enter into same-sex marriages.  That purpose, the Court held, was improper under the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal treatment under the law.  “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

The Windsor decision prompted a re-examination of Measure 36 at the state level in Oregon.  First, Oregon’s Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, concluded Measure 36 could not constitutionally prevent Oregon from recognizing same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere.  She so advised the state Department of Administrative Services, which directed all state agencies to begin recognizing same-sex marriages from other states and countries.  However, the state policy change affected only agency operations and not the courts, local governments, or private actors.  Measure 36 remained the law in those respects, and continued to bar same-sex couples from actually marrying in Oregon.

Next, a federal court lawsuit was filed in Eugene and assigned to Judge Michael McShane.  McShane is one of only a handful of openly LGBT judges in the entire federal system.  The plaintiffs in the case, Geiger v. Kitzhaber, sought a declaration that Oregon’s marriage laws, including Measure 36, were invalid under the federal constitution because they denied the right of civil marriage to same-sex couples, and they sought an injunction prohibiting future enforcement of the marriage laws in that respect.  On May 19, 2014, Judge McShane agreed the challenged laws violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and issued the requested injunction.

The court summarized the harmful effects of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, holding that “[t]he laws frustrate[d] the plaintiffs’ freedom to structure a family life and plan for the future.”  The state’s effort to ameliorate those harmful effects by adopting registered domestic partnerships as an alternative, the court observed, had been in many ways ineffective.  The state’s marriage laws also prevented same-sex couples from accessing the many benefits accorded to married couples by the federal government.  The laws “leave the plaintiffs and their families feeling degraded, humiliated, and stigmatized.”

The court observed that the state – as opposed to the federal – government had the right to define marriage, but that it must do so within constitutional limitations.  A state’s marriage laws, thus, “must advance legitimate state interests, and not a mere desire to harm a particular class of citizens.”  The court looked to the Windsor decision for the principle that a state’s marriage laws must not degrade or demean certain couples in violation of their right to equal protection.

Plaintiffs presented claims of both gender and sexual orientation discrimination, but the court concluded the claim of gender discrimination was not well founded.  “The state’s marriage laws discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, not gender.”

The court next examined each of the possible legislative rationales for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, and found them wanting.  Tradition, the court held, could not be a legitimate government purpose.  “Mere moral disapproval of a particular group of citizens is not a legitimate reason for intentionally withholding rights and benefits from that group.”  The state’s interests in protecting children and promoting stable families, while legitimate, were disserved by the law and not supported by it.  “Creating second-tier families does not advance the state’s strong interest in promoting and protecting all families.”  Finally, “any governmental interest in responsible procreation is not advanced by denying marriage to gay and lesbian couples.  There is no logical nexus between the interest and the exclusion. * * * The state’s interest is in a child’s well-being regardless of the means of conception.”

Since “no legitimate state purpose justifies the preclusion of gay and lesbian couples from civil marriage,” the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and enjoined the future enforcement of Oregon’s marriage laws to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying.  The court’s order was effective immediately, and same-sex couples began marrying in Oregon that same day.  The National Organization for Marriage has filed an appeal.  It also sought a stay of McShane’s decision, which the Supreme Court denied on June 4, 2014.

So what does this all mean for the great state of Oregon? Following Judge McShane’s decision, Oregon LGBT couples are now confronted with many new and wonderful challenges – such as the decision of whether and when to marry.  As in all cases, making a momentous decision like this should always be approached with careful planning.  Celebrations aside, marriage does create a long-term, complex legal relationship between two people that is much easier to get into than it is to unravel.  This is particularly true for LGBT couples who have already been together for many years, and may or may not have an existing domestic partnership.  It’s important to plan carefully before entering into a new legal relationship as a new marriage may not reflect the way the couple has conducted its affairs in the past.

One of the key aspects of marriage is the protocol established by the legislature for divorce.  That protocol provides, in general terms, for the division of the couple’s property between them and for their mutual support and maintenance after the dissolution.  These provisions in the law can be modified by the parties in a premarital (formerly called a “prenuptial”) agreement.  Same-sex couples considering marriage should confer with a lawyer to see whether a premarital agreement is appropriate to their circumstances.

Within the estate planning context, marriage affords a number of benefits that are not available to domestic partners.  For starters, federal gift tax issues are implicated when making gifts in excess of the annual exemption (currently $14,000).  Married couples are not subject to this limitation; they are allowed to make gifts to each other in an unlimited amount without gift tax consequences.  This is significant, especially because gifts can take many forms.  Consider the relatively simple act of adding another person’s name to the title of a shared asset (e.g., bank account, house or car).  Married couples can do this without gift tax implications, but domestic partners who do so may be making taxable gifts.

Similarly, married individuals receive favorable treatment under federal estate tax laws.  Under current law, the estate tax exemption is $5.34 million per person.  To the extent an individual’s estate exceeds $5.34 million, a 40% tax will apply.  This limitation does not apply to married couples, but it does to domestic partners.

Since 2010, federal estate tax law has allowed a married couple to share estate tax exemptions with each other.  In effect, this process—known as “portability”—allows a married couple to transfer up to $10.68 million on the death of the second spouse without incurring any estate tax.  Domestic partners are unable to elect portability and must utilize more sophisticated planning techniques to achieve the same result.

In Oregon, the act of marriage automatically revokes the married couple’s existing wills.  Therefore, all couples, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, who are contemplating marriage should consider drafting a premarital agreement and review and update their estate plans with their attorney.

 As the dust continues to settle, and new and complex cases emerge, we’ll learn more about the lasting effects of this decision, as well as the deeper impacts it will have on the great state of Oregon – both legally and financially.  From a legal perspective, we should hope equalizing same-sex marriage will be a relief to our LGBT couples but most importantly, we hope they will consider their long-term financial and estate planning as they consider their decision to marry.

Read Oregon Federal District Court Judge Michael J. McShane’s full opinion HERE.
Written by: Mark Johnson Roberts , Of Counsel, Family Law. and John J. Christianson, Of Counsel, Estate Planning

Friday, April 25, 2014

Staff Spotlight: Nakia Bradley-Lawson

Each quarter we like to shine a bright light on the accomplishments of our amazing office staff. This quarter we are excited to recognize legal assistant, Nakia Bradley-Lawson, for her contributions to the Portland legal community. Nakia is a proud advocate for the nonprofit law firm, Youth Rights & Justice, where she sits on the Development Committee and facilitates their annual fundraising endeavors. She is also involved with Portland’s Dress for Success chapter as a personal shopper. Nakia has spent 13 years in the legal industry during which she has been an active contributor to the Campaign for Equal Justice and the Multnomah County CourtCare program. Nakia has taken an active leadership role in NALS (National Association of Legal Professionals) as the Director of Education and Public Relations for the State of Oregon. She was recently awarded “Member of the Year” 2014 by the organization.

Way to go, Nakia! Thank you for all you do to make our firm and the Portland legal community a better place!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gevurtz Menashe Among '100 Best Companies To Work For' By Oregon Business Magazine

What makes a great place to work? This year, we’re proud to have our own workplace recognized as one of the “Top 100 Companies To Work For In Oregon” of 2014, by Oregon Business Magazine. Our firm ranked #22 in the Medium-Sized business category. For the first time we joined  some of the top corporate names in Oregon business, including, DeLap, Ninkasi Brewery, and Sussman Shank.  Gevurtz Menashe was one of three law firms to make the list this year. The annual 100 Best list is based on the confidential input of employees who answered 25 questions about workplace satisfaction in areas including benefits, management, trust, work environment, and career development. This year, more than 11,000 Oregon workers evaluated 248 employers. As a company which has served Portland families for over 30 years, we believe in our work, our people, and our clients, and are excited to be part of this year’s “100 Best” list!

The 100 Best winners and their rankings are published in the March 2014 issue of Oregon Business. View the list  HERE.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Gevurtz Menashe Named 'Oregon’s Most Admired Companies' By The Portland Business Journal

Gevurtz Menashe is honored to be selected as one of Oregon’s Most Admired Companies by the Portland Business Journal.  Our firm ranked in the top 20 in the professional services category this year. Companies on this list are chosen annually by more than 500 executives in a range of industries from across the state.  These executives are asked to complete a survey indicating which organizations they believe are the most admired in Oregon. This recognition is truly an honor.

We continue to be proud of the service we provide our clients and thank the legal community for your continued support.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Mark Johnson Roberts Receives the 2014 MBA Professionalism Award

This month, we are thrilled to congratulate our own Mark Johnson Roberts as the recipient of the 2014 Multnomah Bar Association Professionalism Award. The MBA Professionalism Award is the organization's highest honor and recognizes candidates who exemplify the standards set forth in the MBA Professionalism Statement:

"Professionalism goes beyond the observance of the legal profession's ethical rules and serves the best interests of clients and the public in general; it fosters respect and trust among lawyers and between lawyers and the public, promotes the efficient resolution of disputes, and makes the practice of law more enjoyable and satisfying."

Johnson Roberts has been practicing law for 24 years. His nomination for the Professionalism Award was supported by numerous attorneys, judges, and law students from across the legal community.

Mark's history of service to the bar is extensive. He represents Oregon lawyers as the State Delegate to the American Bar Association.  He is a past president of the Oregon State Bar, a past president of the National LGBT Bar Association, and a past chair of Oregon’s Professional Responsibility Board.

In addition to his bar activities, Mark has spent years serving the Portland community and advocating for marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.  After 20 years of activism with Basic Rights Oregon and others, Mark and his partner of 30 years, Jay Roberts, were at last able to celebrate their marriage in Washington state this last December.

BIG Congratulations, Mark, both on your marriage and on this well-deserved honor!

Read more about Mark HERE.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Life After Windsor

It has been just eight months since the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in U.S. v. Windsor (570 U.S. ____ (2013)), but the effects of the decision have been significant and widespread.  In Windsor, the Court partially invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Enacted in 1996, DOMA contained two key provisions intended to “defend” marriage: section 2 of the Act gave individual states the power to recognize, or not recognize, same-sex marriages validly performed in other states or jurisdictions; section 3 specifically defined marriage as between one man and one woman.  In Windsor, the Court invalidated section 3 of the Act, but section 2 remains in place. 

While Windsor made it clear that federal law now recognizes same sex marriages, it left us with the question of how the marital status of same-sex couples will be determined.  Does “marriage” require residency in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages?  Or are same sex couples who marry in states that recognize same sex marriages considered married for purposes of federal law?  Since Windsor, federal agencies have been left to promulgate rules to flesh out this issue.

Most agencies, including the IRS, have adopted the “state-of-celebration” rule, meaning any same-sex couple that marries in a jurisdiction where same-sex marriage is recognized will be considered married under federal law.  For example, if a gay couple from Oregon marries in Washington state (which recognizes same-sex marriages), the IRS will consider the couple to be married for all purposes of federal tax law.

Windsor presents a myriad of opportunities and challenges in the areas of family law and estate planning—particularly during tax season where insurance, gift and estate taxes are concerned.  Issues such as spousal support, property division, qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs), pension and military benefits are also implicated.  For states like Oregon, which recognizes same-sex domestic partnerships but does not recognize same-sex marriages, proper planning is essential, and your estate planning and family law attorney(s) can help you further navigate the complex and ever-changing rules.

Written by John Christianson, Of Counsel, Estate Planning.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Shareholder News: Paige A. De Muniz

This year, we are pleased to share the announcement that Paige A. De Muniz has been named a Shareholder. Paige received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Political Science from the University of Idaho, and her Juris Doctorate, with a Certificate in Dispute Resolution, from Willamette University College of Law in 2008. She started with the firm in the fall of 2008. Her practice focuses on a broad range of family law issues, including divorce and complex asset cases, custody and parenting time, child support, grandparent and third-party rights, paternity issues and domestic partnerships. Paige a member of the Oregon State Bar, Oregon Trial Lawyers Association and Oregon Academy of Family Law Practitioners. She is also a Board Member for the Multnomah Bar Young Lawyers Section and serves on the development committee for the YWCA of Greater Portland. Congratulations Paige!

Read more about Paige De Muniz HERE.