I love helping people through difficult court cases. Saying this at a social gathering can be a conversation stopper, but it’s true. I previously blogged about my passion to help, and about helping one particular client through a very difficult case, and having the court award him $25,000 from his ex wife for his legal bill. Many people in his situation would have given up, but he didn’t.
One of the most satisfying cases I’ve worked on in the previous 19 years involved helping a father wrongfully cut out of his children’s lives regain time and his relationship with his children. His ex-wife intentionally interfered with his parenting time, and had been playing games with his time since the divorce over 6 years ago. Over the course of 6 years and five different hearings, false allegations were debunked, attorney fees were awarded; and the court tried different sanctions to gain mother’s compliance with previous orders. Never in 19 years of practice have I seen a parent so relentless in destroying the other parent’s relationship with the children. He’d exhausted himself financially trying to get parenting time going. He thought about giving up and walking away, but ultimately didn’t. Instead, after much soul searching, he agreed to go forward with the final hearing. I am truly glad he did, and I believe the children will be thankful when they are adults. In addition to getting his legal fees paid, the Judge put mother on probation until the children are 18. She has to report to the judge every other month to talk about how she is complying with the parenting plan or face jail time.
If he had given up he wouldn’t see his kids at all. He wanted to. Watching his struggle, counseling and encouraging him, and standing by his side until the court did the right thing was one of my most satisfying experiences as a lawyer. Period.
By Sean Stephens
Other Popular Articles and links from the Oregon Divorce Blog
- Top 10 questions to ask a divorce lawyer in the first consultation.
- At what age can a child decide custody/parenting time?
- Contempt Of Court for Parenting Time Violations
I have had many divorce clients ask when is the divorce final? People in divorce want closure and finality, and many expect the divorce to be final at trial, or when they sign the judgment of dissolution of marriage, or when their spouse signs the divorce judgment. Courts enter Divorce Judgments signed by Judges into the Oregon Judicial Information Network (OJIN), and frequently the entry date in OJIN is several days after the Judge has signed. The correct answer is that the marriage is dissolved when the Judge signs the judgment of dissolution of marriage. (See ORS 107.115). In many cases this happens weeks or months after a divorce trial if there are disagreements as to what should be in the judgment.
Now you know!
By Sean Stephens
In February, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled on a case I filed. The ruling addressed two issues: The calculation of a military pension; and use of the child tax exemption. The Court refused to rule on the child tax exemption issue due to lack of preservation and invited error. The opinion has an interesting discussion of those two issues. The Court did agree with me that the highest pay grade should be used to calculated the division of a military pension regardless of the date of divorce. The opinion can be read here: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A146655.pdf
I love my work as a divorce and custody lawyer. I get funny looks saying this sometimes, but it’s true. The reason I chose this challenging work is a basic desire to help people. One of the biggest satisfactions I get is really helping people who are at a disadvantage in court. Most divorce cases settle within the range of what is fair. Most people take good advice from good lawyers. However, some people misuse the court system to try to increase costs, make the case unpleasant and difficult for everyone involved, and pressure the opponent into an unfair settlement.
Last year I represented a client who was in a much worse financial position than his spouse. He had limited access to money, and was kicked out of the home he had lived in for years. The other party was difficult, obstructionist, intentionally increased his legal costs, took positions not supported by Oregon divorce law, filed false criminal and civil charges against my client in an effort to get him to “go away” and settle for nothing, and at least doubled what my client’s bill should have been. Her hope was that his resources would be exhausted, his lawyer would quit, and he would give up and go away with an unfair result. We gave his wife multiple chances to settle for what was fair, all of which were rejected.
The case should have settled, but the other party’s position made it impossible to settle. I took the case before the judge standing by my client’s side. I exceeded his goals, and far exceeded what he would have received had he taken one of his’ ex’s “offers.” I had a lot of personal satisfaction in helping him persevere and getting a good result from the court.
This week, the trial court let us know that the other party had to pay $25,000 of my client’s legal bill because of her conduct during the case. It’s money he shouldn’t have had to spend, and I am happy to be a part of leveling the playing field for my client, and putting him in a better financial position. I feel fortunate to be in a position to help people like him persevere, not give up, get a good result, and get vindication at the end for the other side’s bad behavior. Cases like this are one of the reasons I love what I do.
By Sean Stephens
Oregon Supreme Court family law cases are few and far between. Props to our lawyer Dan Margolin for having review granted on a case of first impression. The attached video is Dan’s oral argument at the Oregon Supreme Court on Lisa Matar and Azzam Harake (S060064)(A143331)
The issue on review is “Are agreements not to seek modification of a child support award enforceable or do they violate public policy.”
A link to the video of the argument is here.