Monday, June 29, 2015

Mark Johnson Roberts Interviewed by KOIN 6 news regarding US Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

On Friday June 26th, following the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, Family Law attorney Mark Johnson Roberts, was interviewed by Portland’s KOIN 6 News team. The story featured live coverage on the same-sex marriage lunchtime rally in Terry Schrunk Plaza, following the ruling. During the interview, Mark shared his perspective in terms of ‘what’s next’ for our country: “It gives us assurance the law won’t change underneath us which we really didn’t know for sure. If you’re married in one state and you go across state lines and you’re not married. With today’s rulings those days are over.” Click HERE to view the full broadcast.

Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage Nationwide by Mark Johnson Roberts

Our leading family law attorney on same-sex marriage issues, Mark Johnson Roberts, addresses today’s opinion and what it means for the future of our country:

“Today, in the much-anticipated decision in the consolidated cases of Obergefell v. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court held that marriage is a fundamental right under our national constitution—a fundamental right that cannot be denied to same-sex couples without running afoul of the constitution’s equality guarantees.

“Speaking for the Court, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy observed that “the constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.” One of those rights, the Court held, is marriage. The Court has recognized marriage as a fundamental liberty at least since the 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia, in which a unanimous Court ruled that the right of marriage could not constitutionally be denied to interracial couples.

“Following the Loving precedent today, the Court observed that American family life has expanded over the last 50 years or more to include many same-sex couples and their children. The continued exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in those circumstances created two classes of families in our country and demeaned those couples and their families. The Court’s decision today recognizes marriage in America for what it is—an ever-changing institution that provides comfort and support to the family, the basic foundational unit of our society.

Some will complain that the Court’s decision has foreclosed further debate on this issue, but truthfully, there is no further debate to be had. The national conversation about same-sex marriage, which began as long ago as the Court’s contrary 1972 decision in Baker v. Nelson, has ended as it must always have ended, with the recognition that American families are as diverse and wide-ranging as the American people themselves. On this great day, which, coincidentally, corresponds with the 46th anniversary of the modern gay-rights movement in 1969, Americans have a great deal to be proud and thankful for.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Top 10 Things To Consider When Getting Married in 2015

Top 10 Things To Consider When Getting Married in 2015

Should We Talk to an Attorney Before Getting Married?

There’s no question that 2014 transformed the practice of marriage in the Great Northwest and delivering great news for Oregon and Washington’s LGBT couples. With wedding season right around the corner—whether you’re in a same-sex or heterosexual relationship—couples are confronted with the legal considerations about whether, when, and how to marry. Making a commitment like this requires careful planning as marriage creates a long-term, complex legal relationship. Here are a few things to think about before “tying the knot” this year:

1. What happens when our relationship ends?

One of life’s truisms is that everything is temporary. You may not want to think about it when anticipating marital bliss, but even the strongest marriage will end with death or divorce.  Knowing that, what steps can you take to see that your wishes are carried out when such a crisis occurs?  A lawyer can help a couple contemplating marriage develop answers to this and other questions. 

2. What kind of a problem solver is my partner?

This is not really a legal question, but it is so important to your legal affairs that it must be considered.  Life seems incredibly happy when we are in love, but real life presents never-ending challenges and problems to overcome.  How does your partner react to life’s everyday troubles?  A person who responds with anger or frustration at minor inconveniences may not be the partner you want to have when a child gets in trouble at school.  If your marriage were to end in divorce, would your partner still want the best outcome for you? 

3. Do I need a premarital agreement?

Two of the key characteristics of state-sanctioned marriage are that the state prescribes a standard estate plan for married couples and it sets out the procedures and rules for getting divorced.  These general state-prescribed rules apply unless a couple agrees in writing that they want different rules by establishing their own estate plan or premarital agreement.  Couples who live together before marriage and have a domestic partnership need to investigate and understand what would happen under the state’s prescribed processes if their relationship ends and compare it to what would likely happen if they marry.   Married couples need to consider what might happen if they get divorced and determine what rules they want to apply. Premarital agreements can help define who gets what if a death or divorce occurs.  The process of exploring whether or not to enter into a premarital agreement can also serve as a tool for creating clarity in a couple’s financial dealings before they get married. 

4. What are we doing with property each of us owns separately?

In some circumstances, property owned by a person before marriage can be awarded back to that same person upon divorce, without a corresponding award to the other party.  Couples contemplating marriage should consider carefully what they want to happen with such property and make sure that documents of title are exchanged if needed to carry out the parties’ wishes.  A premarital agreement can address this as well.

5. How will my public benefits be affected by our marriage?

“Means-tested” public benefit programs, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), generally look to both spouses’ resources to determine eligibility.  This means that marriage may place some public benefits in jeopardy.  Careful planning before walking down the aisle is crucial to prevent disqualification or a disruption in benefits.

6. Will we have children?  How?

Whether to have children is a key decision most couples make.  It’s best to talk the issue out thoroughly before tying the knot.  LGBT couples, in particular, may need to consider some kind of assisted reproduction, since adoption options can be limited.  In vitro fertilization and surrogacy may be available, although both are expensive and filled with legal uncertainty.  Donor insemination is cheaper, but carries its own set of legal difficulties.  Consultation with a lawyer skilled in the field of assisted reproductive technology (ART) can be helpful in understanding these issues.  Under no circumstances should you perform your own insemination without talking to a lawyer first. 

7. Will one of us provide most or all of the other partner’s financial support?

Many couples rely on one partner primarily to keep the home and raise the children, and the other to primarily provide financial support.  These arrangements affect financial support obligations and child custody questions in ways that you may not fully understand or appreciate.  It makes sense to talk to a lawyer before putting these financial aspects of your relationship into action.   When you get divorced is not the time to realize that the financial arrangements you willingly entered into with your spouse may result in paying alimony for the rest of your life. 

8. How will we handle debt?

A certain amount of debt (primarily home mortgages, car payments, and student loans) is common and acceptable in most families. The buildup of unsecured credit card debt, however, can place an unreasonable financial and emotional strain on even the strongest relationship.  Be sure you understand your partner’s spending and savings patterns and ensure that they are compatible with your own.  Also, understand that by marrying, you may become liable for your partner’s basic financial support, whether or not you agree with their spending habits. 

9. What if I get an inheritance?

Unlike some states, Oregon has a specific process by which an inheritance or a gift can be kept separate from the marital estate and largely or completely kept intact by the spouse who receives it.  Consulting with a lawyer will help you understand how to be in the best position to try to keep your inheritance free of the divorce process.

10. How will marriage affect my estate plan?

In most circumstances, the act of marriage automatically revokes the married couple’s existing wills.  All couples contemplating marriage should consider reviewing and updating their estate plans with a qualified attorney.

Written by John Christianson, Of Counsel (Estate Planning) and Mark Johnson Roberts, Of Counsel (Family Law)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dos and Don’ts – How to Talk to your Children About Divorce

Children and Divorce

How to Talk to Your Children About Divorce?

As family law attorneys, we often have clients who have questions about how and when to talk to their kids about the divorce.  Whether a child is a toddler, in high school or an adult out of the home, a child of parents going through a divorce will likely have many questions.  Below is a list of 5 things we tell our clients to think about when talking to their kids about their divorce:

Present a united front

Ideally both parents will be on the same page about when and how to tell the child.  This kind of news should come from both parents at the same time so the child can ask questions and feel supported by both parents.  If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are not in a good enough place to talk with your children together, at least discuss how the both of you are going to approach the conversation and the timing of when this discussion should occur.

Remind them divorce is not their fault

Children will often blame themselves as the reason their parents are separating.  It’s very important to explain to your child that he or she had absolutely nothing to do with the divorce and there’s nothing he or she could do (or could have done) to prevent the divorce from happening.  Remind the child that both parents love him or her and will continue to love and support the child as parents, even if the two of you aren’t married anymore.

Do not involve them in the divorce process

The divorce process can be a long and difficult process for both parents, but you should not involve your child in any way.  If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are disagreeing about child custody or parenting plan issues, the last thing you want to do is involve your child.  Do not talk about what you’re disputing or your frustrations with your child.  This means taking your divorce attorney calls in private, not talking about court or judges in front of your child, storing pleadings or paperwork in a safe and secure place and not sharing any details about the actual process or decisions getting made with your child.  All you need to tell your child is that you and your spouse are handling things and the child does not have to worry about “what will happen” because things will get resolved.

Do not vent to them about your emotional or financial stresses

When you’re going through a divorce you’re going to be dealing with a lot of emotional and financial stresses.  Lean on your own family and friends or mental health professionals to help you through this – not your children.  Chances are there will be times when you’re upset with your soon-to-be ex-spouse and might not have very nice things to say about him or her.  The last person you should be sharing your irritations with is your child.  Remember, your ex-spouse is always going to be your child’s mother or father and your child may resent you as he or she grows older if you talk disparagingly about a parent who they love and identify with.

Involve a professional

Even if your child is happy and healthy, a divorce can be a very stressful and challenging time for any child.  Your child may not feel comfortable sharing with you everything he or she is feeling or going through.  Enrolling your child with a child psychologist or counselor is a great way to allow your child to get the support they need.  Even if your child only meets with a professional once or twice, it’s important to give your child the opportunity to have a safe place to share their fears, worries, anger, or sadness with.  You may also learn some valuable tools and information from your child’s psychologist or counselor that will help you better support your child through the divorce process and afterward.
The stress of a divorce can be reduced by choosing a highly experienced divorce attorney to help guide you through the process. If you are looking for an attorney with extensive divorce experience, contact us today. Call our Portland office at (503)227-1515 or our Vancouver office at (360)823-0410 to request a consultation today.