Seven Pitfalls That Can Destroy Your Divorce & Custody Case


Oregon Family Law Attorneys

We've prepared a list of seven things that we have seen destroy someone's chance for a good result in a divorce or custody case.  

The following list explains why they are problems, and gives potential solutions on how to fix them if they arise. 

This list should not be considered legal advice. Please contact an attorney to get advice for your specific legal situation.

PROBLEM: Not only do you not have income, the Court won't cut you any slack. 

You can't outsmart the system.  If you voluntarily quit your job, there is a high likelihood that the Court will simply consider you to be "under" employed.  That means the Court will "impute" you an income -- say that you are capable of earning a certain amount -- which typically ends up being the amount of your previous employment.  Also, if you voluntarily leave your job, the odds of being able to collect unemployment drop significantly.

SOLUTION: Keep your job, even if you don't like it, at least for now.  

You are better off financially if you earn $5,000.00 per month and need to pay $500.00, than earning $0.00 per month and needing to pay $500.00.  

We understand that facing a child support or spousal support award can be frustrating and difficult.  It's easier to work toward a resolution to those issues with an income, than to face a resolution without an income and no ability to maintain security.  

You do not want to find yourself in arrears on a child support or spousal support Judgment because you're jobless.  You may end up losing your driver's license, or worse, be found in contempt of court and face severe sanctions.

Pitfall #2:  Quitting Your Job.

PROBLEM:  If you don't file the right paperwork on time, you can lose automatically. 

Almost all court documents have deadlines.  A typical response deadline, for example, is 30 days from the date of service (although sometimes deadlines can be shorter). 

If you don't file paperwork in the right amount of time, the other side can win automatically with a "default judgment".  That means they get everything they asked for because you didn't respond formally.  It can be extremely difficult to reverse a default judgment.  

SOLUTION:  The moment you get paperwork, pay strict attention to deadlines, and file your response well in advance of those deadlines.

Ignoring the paperwork will not make it go away.  Instead, summon the strength to confront the paperwork, and use that energy to figure out what you want to ask for in your response, to protect yourself and your children.

Pitfall #3:  Ignoring The Paperwork.

PROBLEM:  A spouse doesn't want to give up certain property, so they hide it, gift it, or try to sell it to avoid dividing it in a divorce.  

Doing this can constitute fraud.  Additionally, once it is discovered (and it almost always is), there is a significant chance the party behaving badly will lose all interest in the property, or be required to pay the full value of the property to the other spouse.

This can have significant impact with respect to retirement and investment accounts.  You can potentially lose the whole thing if you intentionally hide it. 

SOLUTION:  Play by the rules.  

When going through the process of document exchange ("discovery"), come to terms with the idea that when two people are married, they share assets and debts.  That means property and debts are disclosed.  If you want to make an argument that certain property should be kept separate, there are ways to legally do that.  If you need to sell property, make sure that you and your spouse are both informed and have an agreement.

Pitfall #4:  Hiding Or Selling Property.

Pitfall #5:  Rushing To Get Divorced.

PROBLEM:  Long term impacts on your future.  

This happens when someone wants to get divorced so badly they choose to ignore big issues like retirement accounts and spousal support, just to get it done.  What follows is usually buyer's remorse a few months later, when they realize those agreements can't be undone.  

The emotional aspects of a divorce can be powerful, particularly when there is infidelity.  This often enables one spouse to manipulate the other into giving up a fair division of property, custody, parenting time, the right amount of spousal support, etc.  

SOLUTION:  If you've made the decision to get divorced, start by learning how to  compartmentalize your emotions, and to adopt a forward looking plan.

Recognize and understand that the process of divorce can be emotionally taxing, and as opposed to simply giving up, give yourself the tools to deal with the divorce so things are done fairly.  Start mapping out a plan on where you want to be in six months.  Figure out what you want parenting time to look like. Create a full budget for yourself financially so you can make better financial decisions for your future.  The plan is the key and will help you reach better long term decisions.

Pitfall #6:  Not Securing Finances.

PROBLEM:  Losing access to the financial accounts. 

When you are preparing for a divorce, there is something to be said about making sure one spouse doesn't walk off with all the cash accounts if they exist.  What happens if one spouse transfers all savings, checking and other accounts over to a separate financial institution, and stops depositing their paycheck into the joint account?

SOLUTION:  If you know you are going to need money for life necessities, for your children, or for help hiring an attorney, it can make sense to secure your finances before they swept out from under you.  Sometimes that means transferring money first.

Every financial situation is different, this is something you should speak with an attorney about before making a decision.  Prepare yourself for the idea that you might have to transfer money from a joint account to protect yourself financially.  The alternative is to potentially live without access to money you need for yourself and your children.  

PROBLEM:  Facing this alone without help and information you can rely on. 

Sometimes, a case does not seem to be very complicated at all.  And sometimes a case really is that simple.  Does that mean you should just file the papers yourself?  The decision to move forward with a divorce is not made lightly.  You only want to go through this one time, it makes sense to put yourself on the right path by speaking with an attorney at a consultation to get everything done correctly.  

SOLUTION:  Schedule a consultation as a first step.  There is no obligation to hire.  With consultations, you get what you pay for, otherwise something gets left out.  

Just like a good doctor, a good attorney will ask you many questions, and take the time necessary to make sure you are on the right track.  Make sure your consultation gives you an hour to address all the major issues you are potentially facing.  You don't want someone advising you on these important issues after only a 10 minute phone call.

The most important issue with proceeding through the divorce process is not necessarily knowing all the steps which need to be completed, it is knowing how to complete the steps in a way that protects you, for your unique situation.  This is the real reason why you hire an attorney, to make sure things are done right the first time and you don't have regrets. Fixing things is almost always far more expensive and difficult. Attorneys help people navigate the legal maze to safety.

Pitfall #7:  Not Hiring An Attorney.

I guide people through divorce and custody disagreements by listening and understanding first. Helping people find the best plan for their unique situation is always my first focus. 

Seeing the results of this planning process, where people have confidence about their decisions, is very rewarding.

Ryan P. Hamilton

Family Law Attorney

Our Family Law Attorneys

Daniel Strausbaugh

Family Law Attorney

I have a passion for helping people through difficult situations. 

Divorces and custody disagreements can feel overwhelming and confusing for people going through them, which is why I do everything possible to help people find the solutions they need and give them peace of mind.

Our Areas of Expertise


Child Custody

The results of a divorce are permanent, we know you need to handle this right the first time. We combine the process of understanding, planning and guidance to help you make the right decisions with every part of the divorce process.

As parents, we know that your children are the most important part of your life. We protect your parenting rights by taking the time to understand your specific needs, and then creating a parenting plan that outlines those needs.

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  • Temporary Custody
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As experienced Oregon divorce lawyers, we know what it takes to help people through divorce and custody disputes. It takes the right plan.

When it comes to divorce and custody, most people are overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. They don't know what their options are.  They feel that one wrong decision can cost them everything and need answers. 

We create divorce and custody plans that give people security and peace of mind for their future. Our clients don’t have to worry about making that one wrong decision, because we help them make all the right ones.

Divorce & Custody: How We Help

"I’ve had the good pleasure to work with Ryan as a colleague and refer my clients in need of family law services...

I continue to be impressed with his ability to assist clients with a thorough knowledge of the law and achieve great results for them."

David M. Blair

Attorney at Law

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“They took the time to understand my case, help me know what to expect in the hearing process, and made me feel very comfortable with the actual hearing”

– S.S.

“Throughout the entire process, they were very thorough, compassionate, and always had my best interest in mind”

– D.B.

“I have never sought legal advice until recently. I honestly was unsure and afraid of the whole process with this being my very first time seeking a lawyer. I sought 6 different law offices and found them to be the most genuine and most trustworthy”


Ryan Hamilton and his staff are well known for their professionalism while working through your personal family law issues. I have been told many times by my personal referrals to his firm that Sherwood Family Law made their experience in a difficult situation a pleasant one. I highly recommend Sherwood Family Law!

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Sherwood Family Law

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Sherwood, OR 97140

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Sherwood Family Law is nestled at the center of historic Sherwood, Oregon, and helps people throughout the Portland metropolitan area, including Washington County, Clackamas County, Multnomah County, Yamhill County, Portland, Beaverton, Newberg, Tigard, Tualatin, Aloha, Hillsboro, Tualatin, Lake Oswego, and Sherwood.

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Your first step to moving forward starts with a consultation at our office. 

The promise we make to anyone that comes to Sherwood Family Law, is that we will take the time to understand and empathize with where you are in life. When we understand where you are, we will help you create a plan on how to move forward and make your life better. If you get no value out of the consultation, we have a money back guarantee.

We will guide you step by step to a better place, so that you can worry less and have more peace of mind.  

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