Collaborative Divorce in Oregon
How collaborative law can help your Oregon divorceBy Andrew Brandt | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on July 11, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorneys Jaye W. Taylor, Myah Osher Kehoe and Joel J. Kent
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For divorcing couples who can’t get along in marriage, getting along during the divorce process is a big ask. But it is a lot cheaper than going the combative route.
“You’re not going to solve your emotional frustrations, and you’re not likely going to teach the other party a lesson by going through a divorce,” says Jaye Wickham Taylor, a family law practitioner with Buckley Law in Lake Oswego.
“An awful lot of people think that if the judge only knows what a scumbag the other party is, they’ll feel better, and the outcome will be fairer. But every state in the United States is a no-fault divorce state right now: terrible behavior, extra-marital affairs—all those kinds of things for the most part—are not even admissible in court.”
To Taylor, the key is providing fact-based evidence, as well as recognizing that the point of a divorce is to sever financial ties and move on.
Collaborating on Separating
The collaborative divorce process is becoming an increasingly popular option. Though each client still has his or her own collaborative law attorney, this process helps couples avoid court and is more “like a team approach than litigation,” says Myah Kehoe, a Portland-based solo practitioner.
“It helps them consolidate the number of experts,” she says. “Instead of having two different financial professionals, you have one.”
And those experts don’t come cheap.
“If an appraisal is $5,000 to $10,000 when one side does it, then the other side has to get an appraisal—and that’s another $5,000 to $10,000,” says Joel J. Kent, a family law attorney at the law firm Stahancyk, Kent & Hook in Bend. “And I’m not talking attorney fees; I’m talking the cost of the appraiser.”
Taylor suggests that you can make a “quick, reasonable settlement offer” early on with your collaborative divorce lawyer, just in case your spouse is as ready to get the divorce over with as you are. “You could get a quick counter offer, know how far apart you are; you can maybe settle five out of 10 issues,” she adds. “That can save a lot of money.”
Sometimes it’s even possible for couples to come up with an agreement before they meet with an attorney. It’s called the kitchen table model.
“You just sit down at the kitchen table, negotiate everything, and bring it in to have someone draft it,” says Kehoe. “And then have another attorney review it, to make sure everything is there.”
But Taylor is wary of this model. “Don’t just try to settle on your own or with a mediator who’s not in your corner,” she says. “Talk to an attorney first and be informed when you try to settle.”
When Best Friends Are Not
Expect full disclosure of financial documents, too.
“People should understand that the opposing spouse is going to see all your credit card purchases and all your bank statements,” says Taylor. “Whatever you’re doing with your debit card, it’s going to be available to your ex.”
Kent notes that it’s cheaper to lay everything out on the table right away rather than risk sending lawyers back to court multiple times over whether or not someone is entitled to see a specific document. “Some choose to withhold discovery or documents about what assets exist,” he says. “Eventually, it all comes out anyway.”
If a divorce does head toward litigation, however, Kent recommends that some clients use a reference judge—a for-hire judge, often retired, who can preside over your trial.
“Each county in Oregon has a panel of people who can be reference judges,” he says. While it might take a court three months on a discovery issue—or you may not be offered a judge on your original court date—with a reference judge, “you can schedule a time, and you’ll have that time. And although the parties have to pay for the reference judge, the money saved by having the reference judge is enormous—especially on higher-asset cases.”
Finally, your best friend who’s been through a divorce might not be your best friend when it comes to divorce. “Everybody you meet has been through a divorce, or knows somebody who’s gone through a divorce,” says Taylor. “They tend to give really useless advice. They are experts, but only in their own divorce.”
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