FAQs about Family Law

Basic answers to divorce, child-custody and other family law questions

Family law attorneys possess litigation and negotiation skills. They must have mastered time management so they can handle the daily needs of clients, and they must be sensitive to client concerns and able to handle difficult financial entanglements. Although the attorneys at Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. are aggressive client advocates, they also possess the backgrounds, personalities and people skills to achieve the best outcome with limited court proceedings. The following is a list of some of the basic questions clients should know before moving forward with divorces, custody cases and other family law matters.

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Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. has been protecting families and their futures for more than 80 years. To speak with a compassionate family law attorney regarding your questions, contact the firm online or call 503-222-3531 to schedule a consultation.

  1. What is a “no-fault” divorce?
  2. What factors does the court consider to divide marital property in Oregon and Washington?
  3. Are divorce plaintiffs entitled to part of the stock given to a spouse as a gift during a marriage?
  4. How do Oregon and Washington divorce laws apply to alimony?
  5. How are savings accounts divided during divorce proceedings?
  6. How do divorced parties handle a potential IRS inquiry about tax returns filed by a former spouse while still married?
  7. Can a divorced party appeal a property division court ruling in Oregon or Washington?
  8. Can a custodial parent deny visitation under Oregon or Washington state law?
  9. Can same-sex partners in Oregon or Washington petition for visitation rights with a child born during their relationship?


1. What is a “no-fault” divorce?

Oregon has “no-fault” divorce, which is a divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences — i.e., there is no reasonable chance to save the marriage. Washington is also a “no fault” state. When both parties agree on property and debt division and child custody and child support matters, the divorce can be finalized as soon as 90 days after the case is filed. In the case of divorce disagreements, an attorney from Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. can assist in either Washington or Oregon.

2. What factors does the court consider to divide marital property in Oregon and Washington?

In both Oregon and Washington, assets and debts acquired during a marriage, known as marital property, are divided equitably by the two parties’ agreement or in a divorce court. Property can also include any inheritance or gifts received prior to or during the marriage. Both states’ laws presume the couple made equal contributions in acquiring property, unless proven otherwise. Meeting with a divorce attorney at Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. can save a divorcing couple significant time and money in determining assets, property values and other details in divorce proceedings.

3. Are divorce plaintiffs entitled to part of the stock given to a spouse as a gift during a marriage?

If the stock transferred to a spouse due to his or her compensation for working for a company, a divorce plaintiff may be entitled to a portion of the stock in the division of property. If a spouse received stock as a gift, it may be his or her separate property. In most states, gifts are considered separate, non-marital property and are generally not subject to division in a divorce. Oregon and Washington divorce attorneys can help determine and protect financial assets in these types of personal business disputes.

4. How do Oregon and Washington divorce laws apply to alimony?

A state court can order payment of alimony, also known as spousal support, from one spouse to the other depending on various circumstances and considerations during the marriage. There are three basic types of alimony that may be granted:

  • Transitional spousal support provides a means by which a recipient can gain education or vocational training.
  • Compensatory spousal support is awarded when one spouse made a significant financial or other contribution to the other spouse that allowed him or her to gain education or vocational skills or develop a career.
  • Spousal maintenance may be awarded as a contribution by one spouse to the support of the other for either a set or an indefinite period. The court considers factors such as length of the marriage, age of the spouses, standard of living, earning capacity, and needs and resources of each spouse.

5. How are savings accounts divided during divorce proceedings?

In most states, a person's separate property owned before marriage remains that person's property after a divorce as long as it hasn’t been commingled — combined with marital property. Any money put into a joint account during the marriage will most likely be considered marital property. If spousal parties properly can identify the funds and trace their movements back and forth through the account, monies should remain separate property and be returned when the divorce becomes official. When money is withdrawn to pay mutual expenses, however, the division becomes very difficult, and the account may wind up marital property. These days, it is advisable for spouses to keep separate accounts.

6. How do divorced parties handle a potential IRS inquiry about tax returns filed by a former spouse while still married?

Federal tax law includes “innocent spouse” relief and Oregon and Washington state laws follow federal law in this case. This means that if a taxpayer files a joint tax return but divorces, legally separates or lives apart from a spouse for one year, the taxpayer may limit or even avoid liability if he or she can prove that the other spouse caused the tax problems. An “innocent spouse” must not have had any “actual knowledge” of the former spouse's tax violations. A family law attorney from Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. can help untangle these situations and, if necessary, bring in a tax specialist to consult on the case.

7. Can a divorced party appeal a property division court ruling in Oregon or Washington?

All states have a '”statute of limitations” — a period after the finalization of the divorce during which a party may file a notice of appeal to an “unjust” decision. However, the decision is not considered unjust simply because one party does not approve. In Oregon, the aggrieved former spouse must file a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeals and send a copy of the notice to the trial court and to the former spouse and the former spouse’s attorney, within 30 days from the date the trial court issued divorce judgment. In Washington, the same conditions apply.

8. Can a custodial parent deny visitation under Oregon or Washington state law?

No. Parenting time, which dictates when the child will be in the care of each parent, is part of the custody order mandated by the courts. A parent can ask for a change in a parenting time schedule without having to show a substantial change in circumstances, but he or she would have to show that a different parenting time schedule is in the best interests of the child. In all custody proceedings, it is advisable to have an attorney advocate, as most involve complex circumstances and considerations.

9. Can same-sex partners in Oregon or Washington petition for visitation rights with a child born during his or her relationship?

Legal same-sex registered domestic partnerships have existed in Oregon since February 2008, and generally, all Oregon state laws that apply to traditional divorce apply to the dissolution of same-sex registered domestic partnerships and custody matters.

Washington is one of nine states that recognize gay marriage. In general, all Washington state laws that apply to traditional divorce and child custody apply to the dissolution of same-sex marriages, including same-sex marriages initially obtained in other states.