Portland Divorce Lawyers Blog | Goldberg Jones

Child Support and Predictive Analytics

Pennsylvania is leading the charge in child support enforcement

Child Support enforcement

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Child Support Enforcement success in recovering financial support payments may be paving the road for change. Federal guidelines require that States secure at least 80 percent of support owed by non-custodial parents. Currently Pennsylvania is the only State in the union to achieve this benchmark.

In fact, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Child Support Enforcement has met or exceeded all five of the performance standards that the government uses to determine the effectiveness of State child support enforcement programs.

An article published on www.govtech.com reports:

Pennsylvania is the only state currently meeting or exceeding all federal guidelines, said Dan Richard, bureau director, in an interview with Government Technology. But despite that distinction, officials felt there was room for improvement. They wondered if data they already had access to could potentially help bring about more reliable support for families.
”Families need a reliable, consistent source of income, particularly when it comes to child support," Richard said. "You want to know that the payments will be steady, so that you can use them to meet the ongoing daily needs of the child."
custody and support

credit: 401(K) 2012

So what is Pennsylvania doing that the other forty-nine states aren’t? The Pennsylvania Bureau of Child Support Enforcement has employed a tactic that has been used in the private sector for years, but is relatively new to the public sector —predictive analytics. The bureau has implemented a system that evaluates and scores the likelihood of non-custodial parents going into arrears on support payments. Using historical information collected from thousands of child support collection cases, the bureau is able to create a formula that can indicate the likelihood of on time payment.

The predictive data is based on an algorithm that uses 20 different variables like age, employment status and history, residential stability, and number of current support cases to evaluate and assign a score that estimates the probability that support payments will be made in accordance with the support orders.

The www.govtech.com article goes on to explain:

“Once the basic information about a case is put on the computer, you can press a button and it will automatically calculate a score that projects the likelihood of payment,” Richard said. “From a policy point of view, and a programmatic point of view, it was a major initiative. But from a technological point of view, it was not a major leap, and it was implemented at a modest cost.”


The goal of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Child Support Enforcement is not to single out individual or alienate non-custodial parents. Instead the program strives to provide children and their primary caregivers reliable and predictable income that will promote a safe and stable environment for the kids.


Before Divorce, what should I do?

What you need to know before divorce

You’ve made the decision to divorce and you’re probably anxious to get the ball rolling — but before you spring into action and start filing papers and serving your spouse, take a moment to channel your inner boy scout and be prepared.

Divorce can be complicated and difficult —having your proverbial ducks in a row can go a long way towards achieving the most desirable outcome possible, and minimizing stress.  Once divorce seems inevitable, many men pack their belongings and move out thinking that they are making life easier for themselves and their kids. Unfortunately, vacating the home and leaving the children in the physical care of your soon to be ex-wife can create additional challenges when it comes time for the courts to award custody and spousal support.

Keeping custody

The court will review the status quo of the parenting when deciding the custody arrangements. By leaving the kids in your wife’s custody you are establishing that she is the primary caregiver and that the children’s best interest is served by residing with their mother. This can become a major hurdle to overcome if you want to see your children more frequently than every other weekend and the occasional holiday.

As difficult as it might be, it is important that you continue to reside in the same home with your children until you and your soon-to-be-ex can work out a parenting plan and schedule.

Now that you are hanging tight for the kids, it is imperative that you continue to be an active participant in their lives. Stay (or get) involved with their daily activities, take them to school, help with their homework and get to know their teachers and friends. The courts first concern in custody cases is to act in the best interest of the children and to cause as little disruption to their daily lives as possible. If you are already actively embedded in your child’s daily life, the court will want to maintain that relationship, so long as it is healthy and positive.

Understanding spousal support

Remaining in the house will also be relevant when the time comes to calculate spousal support. Many men erroneously vacate the marital home and unintentionally establish a precedent of spousal support. Frequently the scenario will play out like this: the man will move out to try and make things easier for everyone involved. He rents his own apartment or crashes on a buddy’s couch, yet continues to financially support his kids and soon to be ex-wife in an effort to create stability for the children. Then three, six, or more months down the road, a judge is deciding how much to award in spousal support. The judge will use the fact that the father has been supporting two households as an indicator that he is capable of continuing that level of support; not necessarily considering dad’s standard of living has been reduced to sleeping on his friend’s floor and living off the dollar menu at a fast food restaurant.

The calculation of spousal support can often feel like a crap shoot. There is a great deal of discretion left to the judge and the financial implications can be devastating if an accurate picture of the financial situation isn’t presented. Unlike child support, there isn’t a firmly established structure for determining the final cost. It is essential that you work with an experienced family law attorney to ensure an equitable amount of spousal support is awarded —in some cases, it’s the husband cashing the spousal support checks.

Focus on finances

credit: rafael-castillo/Flickr

The second biggest concern of many men facing divorce is protecting their finances.  While you should anticipate that the marital assets will be divided to some extent, there are a few things you can do to help keep your head above water through the divorce. For many people getting finances in order can be tricky business. Talk with a divorce attorney to understand how divorce will affect your financial picture and will be able to give you specific advice on how to protect your assets.

Separating accounts and credit cards is a good place to start. Paying off credit cards and loans in full and then closing the accounts will limit your responsibility after the divorce. Any loans or credit cards that are outstanding, even if the asset is awarded to your soon-to-be ex, can come back to haunt you if your ex stops making payments. This can wreck havoc on your finances and your credit score.

Also, it can be beneficial to open your own checking account, savings, and retirement. Having your finances in order is essential if you are considering divorce. This is one area that it is imperative that you have a clear understanding of your circumstances and how dissolving your marriage will affect your financial lifestyle. Many attorneys will answer questions over the phone for free, take advantage of this service and get specific answers to your unique situation.

Along with having your finances in order, it is important to get important documents organized prior to filing for divorce. Documents like tax returns, pay stubs, retirement plans, wills and insurance will be necessary during the divorce and having your them located and organized is helpful. Additionally, not having to dig through piles of papers and forms to find a document at the last minute is an excellent way to keep your stress level at a minimum.

Proceed with caution: using social media

One area that is frequently overlooked by men preparing for divorce is social media. Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. are great platforms for sharing your life with your friends. However, if you are going through a divorce, those tweets, photos and status updates can be used as evidence in your case. While security settings can keep some of your content private, they aren’t infallible. For the duration of your divorce keeping personal information and photos off the Internet can be helpful. And, at all cost, stifle the urge to comment on your soon-to-be-ex on any social platform. If you need another reason to clean up your social media, check out the blog post by our San Diego office about a Connecticut judge that ordered a couple to swap Facebook passwords.

Divorce and custody answers

Making the decision to divorce is not an easy task, but preparing for the process is a step that shouldn’t be overlooked. Going into the divorce with a plan and a strategy can save you financial and emotional pain in the near and long term. The above are just a few areas that need to be addressed early —for more specific suggestions and additional information about finances, custody and legal documents, give our managing attorney, Colin Amos, a call. He will personally answer your divorce questions over the phone at no charge and with no obligation.


Custody Battle

A lesson from Scorpions drummer, James Kottak


TMZ is reporting that Scorpions drummer James Kottak has filed legal documents petitioning for primary custody of his teenage son under allegations that his ex-wife is an alcoholic and unfit to parent —she claims she has been sober since January, 2012.

In a recent radio appearance, our Portland managing attorney, Colin Amos, addressed the issue of substance abuse in custody cases and how you can proceed to protect your relationship with your child. Colin advises that if substance abuse is suspected, establishing evidence of the use is important. This can be achieved by asking the court to order a drug and alcohol assessment, getting family court services involved, and having a drug screen done like hair follicle testing and/or urinalysis. These tools can be used to eliminate the he-said she-said situation and establish any inappropriate substance abuse.

Substance abuse in custody cases can significantly affect the outcome and final decision of the court. Therefore, it is important to establish factors that will provide the best possible situation for the child early on. It is also essential to outline possible causes for concern and situations that aren’t promoting the best interest of the child.

Fathers play a crucial role in the lives of their children. It is imperative that if you are facing a custody dispute, or are petitioning for modification of the parenting plan, that you are aware of your rights and your options. Custody cases are often overwhelming for fathers that feel like they are at a disadvantage and having an aggressive advocate can help make the custody process easier. Listen to all of Colin’s advice in the clip below and then give us a call at (503) 731-8888. Colin will provide you answers to your custody and substance abuse questions over the phone at no charge.


No Substitute for Dad

The importance of fathers is frequently overlooked and underappreciated. A study was recently released that validates the impact a father has on his child's development and the role dads play in cultivating the well being of their kids.

The study, conducted by Ronald Rohner of the University of Connecticut, delves into the how the father child relationship is tied to psychological development and contributes to forming the child’s personality. Rohner’s study examined 36 separate studies from around the world to evaluate how rejection from parents shapes the personalities of their children.

Over 10 years of psychological and neuroscience research was analyzed. The results of that investigation revealed rejection can cause a reaction in the brain that is similar to experiencing physical pain. Rohner explained "unlike physical pain, people can psychologically re-live the emotional pain of rejection over and over for years.”

Rohner’s research scrutinized results from more than 500 independent studies. This extensive meta-analysis revealed the frequency of rejection from mothers versus fathers is essentially the same. However, the effect wields a greater impact when the rejection is from the father. The researchers at the International Father Acceptance Rejection Project expressed the possible explanation for this difference is: “children and young adults are likely to pay more attention to whichever parent they perceive to have higher interpersonal power or prestige. So if a child perceives her father as having higher prestige, he may be more influential in her life than the child's mother. Work is ongoing to better understand this potential relationship.”

The study calls attention to how vital a positive relationship between father and child is. Rohner summarized his findings by saying “that fatherly love is critical to a person's development. The importance of a father's love should help motivate many men to become more involved in nurturing child care.”

Rohner’s study confirms what most fathers already know: there is no substitute for a healthy father-child relationship. Being an involved and present father is essential to helping your child flourish into adulthood as a happy and well adjusted individual.


Can my ex-girlfriend use my past as an alcoholic against me?


Colin tackles a number of questions about child custody, divorce, and child support modifications this week on the radio. One Portland husband and father asks if his ex-girlfriend can use his past as an alcoholic against him. The caller asks:

I have a seven year old son with my ex-girlfriend. We have been separated for the last 6 months. I have him every other weekend and times during the week. She consistently jerks me around and changes the times. She says that if I mess with her she will use the fact that I am an alcoholic against me and I will only get supervised visitation. I habe been clean for 2 years. Is this true?

Colin answers that while his alcoholism may have been used against him in the past, if the father is clean and sober he needs to take control of the situation and file a petition to take control away from his ex-wife. She cannot use his past as a bargaining chip to violate his custodial rights. Colin elaborates in the clip below:

This we hear a lot because there is a lot of manipulation and coercion that goes on in child custody disputes. It is especially prevalent against guys who are often very nervous because they feel that the deck is stacked against them. Or, they feel that if they go into court they are going to lose their rights. However, this is not the way that it works.

This is perfect example of where you just need to  use a little logic.  She has been giving you the child every other weekend and she has been doing this for the last two years.  Now, all of the sudden, because you go to court, you are a danger around the child. The argument doesn't make sense and the court is not going to listen to it.

Family Court is there to support both a father's right and a mother's right to have a relationship with the child. People will make mistakes. It is not just about making the mistake.  What you do thereafter is important to the court. He has been clean for two years and he is going to be fine.

He needs to file a petition to take that control away from her. It will help him create an objective good parenting relationship with his child and keep her from continuing to jerk him around.

Colin answers the following questions in this episode:

My wife wants to use my past as an alcoholic against me. I am clean now. Can she do this? 0:36
We have been separated for 5 years and I don't know where my wife lives. Can I get divorced or do I need to track her down? 1:54
My wife left me for another woman. Can I get custody? 2:55
We have been married for 14 years, but don't have kids. Do I need to pay alimony? 2:36
How do you determine value of a stock option plan? Does my wife get it? 4:40

If you have questions about divorce, child custody or family law in Oregon, give Goldberg Jones a call. We will answer your questions on the phone for free.

Goldberg Jones | Divorce For Men

Call: (503) 731-8888




Should I get a legal separation and then get a divorce?

Father and Son Camping

Portland family law attorney, Colin Amos, talks family law and divorce for men. This week he fields a number of calls about divorce, legal separation, and how to get an annulment. One question from a Portland husband and father asks whether a legal separation or a divorce would be a better path to take. He asks:

I have been told that I should get a legal separation first and then get a divorce. Is this true? Does it cost more or less? What are you thoughts on this? 

Colin answers that this is a common misconception and that there are very limited situations that would warrant a legal separation instead of a divorce. As he elaborates in his comments below:

We hear this all the time. Many people believe that a legal separation is a stepping stone to a divorce. What I tell people is that you are just going to pay me twice for the same transaction.

Legal separation is a separate transaction that is almost the same as a divorce. However, at the end of the day, you are only separated and will still need to go through a similar process to covert the legal separation into a divorce.

The process, therefor, has a very limited purpose, for example, people who have religious beliefs that don't allow them to divorce or people who want to maintain health insurance coverage. But, the process is just as expensive as a divorce  if not more expensive.



Colin also covers the following FAQs this episode:

  • When do you need to call a Portland divorce attorney?
  • When I went through divorce, I didn't fight back and my wife got a default judgment. Is it possible now to change the visitation schedule?
  • My wife and I are ready for a divorce. I don't think we have anything to fight over. Do we really need a lawyer?
  • Should I get a legal separation first and then get a divorce?
  • I got married in Washington. Does community property mean that all of my property, including my house I have had for 15 years, become my wife's property?
  • My wife and I have been married for 6 months. Can I get an annulment?
  • My wife defaulted on a divorce. Can I re-open the divorce since it wasn't finalized?

If you have any questions about legal separation or any other family law matters in Portland or in Vancouver, give us a call. We'll answer your questions on the phone for free.

Goldberg Jones | Divorce For Men

Call: (503) 731-8888


My wife is having an affair on Facebook. Do I need to hire an attorney? Or, can I do this divorce on my own?


Colin Amos from Goldberg Jones answers questions from Portland and Clark County about divorce, child custody, and how to pick the right attorney. One father writes in to ask if he really needs an attorney.

My wife has been having a Facebook affair. This is not the first time. I am done. We have two kids and I have a small retirement plan. My house is underwater. Obviously, I don't have much money. Do I really need to hire and attorney? Or, can I do this divorce on my own?

Colin's answer is that it depends on the scenario. While in many simple cases don't need an attorney, Colin suggests that you at least have an initial consultation to get an expert opinion and warnings about the common mistakes you can make.

We are seeing that scenario all the time with people getting online and getting into trouble. The reality is that sometimes you have tough cases and tough facts -  especially in cases where you have kids, retirement or anything of importance. If you try to go in there on you own, there are so many dynamics against you. The court process is confusing and she might get an attorney who can create some real problems. You might end up with a bad a result simply because you didn't protect yourself.

So, I would always recommend you at least consult with an attorney to see all the mistakes that people make and help yourself avoid those mistakes. There are many common mistakes that you can avoid just by educating yourself. So, at least consult with an attorney, then make the decision whether or not you should hire an attorney thereafter.

Click below to see the whole episode:

 Other topics addressed in this episode include the following questions:

  • What should I look for in a divorce attorney? Why should you choose Goldberg Jones?
  • When do I need to hire a divorce attorney? Can I do it on my own?
  • I've been served with a restraining order. What can I do to contest the order?
  • My kids are grown and out of the house. Should I pursue a legal separation or a divorce?

The Portland divorce attorneys at Goldberg Jones pride themselves in being a resource for men facing divorce. From our free phone answers to our discounted in-person consultations, we work hard to make sure you are informed about the best path for your divorce. If you have any questions about family law, divorce, or child custody in the Portland area, give us call at: (503) 731-8888


How to Avoid Setting a Bad Precedent when Separating – Portland Divorce Lawyer’s Advice for Men


Colin Amos leads off this week's interview with some important issues for men to consider when separating. He answers a question by a local husband and father.

My wife and I have been in counseling and it has been suggested that we consider separating from each other. I have a daughter and my wife doesn't work. This will pinch us financially. So, I am reluctant. Is there anything else I should be concerned about?

Colin's answer is "Hell Yes!" Once you are separated, you need to be careful not set bad precedent. Listen to his explanation below:

Colin also addresses the following questions in this episode:

  • Can I my wife take my kids and move to California? Can she file for divorce out of Oregon? Can she keep the kids with her? Can I make her bring the kids back?
  • Who pays the taxes in a separation agreement? What happens if you were never married?
  • How can you void a marriage?
  • When you have temporary custody order, can you get the court to change the order to provide child support to the husband?
  • If you are not the primary parent in a custody agreement, how can you get the custody agreement changed? Do children over 12 have a say in a custody agreement?

Remember, if you have any questions about family law, child custody, or divorce in Portland or Southern Washington. Give us a call and we will answer your questions on the phone for free - (503) 731-8888


Is Leaving the House in my Name Sufficient? When do I need a Pre-nup?


In his most recent radio interview, Colin Amos talked about pre-nups,  Portland Divorce for men, and child custody. He took questions from callers and questions that were submitted to our website.

One question he answers asked about separate property and when to get a prenup. The question read:

I plan on getting married in a few weeks. I have a house in my name, some investment accounts, and a retirement account. I plan to leave all of these assets in my name and only open up a joint account for our joint expenses. Do I need a pre-nup to keep our assets separate?

Colin elaborates in on this and other issues in this radio interview:



Many of people feel that keeping their assets in their own name will protect those assets from being divided in a divorce. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily how it works and without the protection of a prenuptial agreement there is no way to guarantee your asset will be safe.

We get questions about pre-nups and protecting assets all the time from prospective husbands. Unfortunately, too  many of them are from men heading into their second marriage. Nevertheless, we are committed to giving you quality answers on the phone and through our consultations, feel free to call us with any questions about Portland family law and divorce for men. Call - (503) 731-8888


When is the Best Time to Start a Divorce or Modify Custody in Portland?


If you have children who are in school, you may consider starting the process before the end of February. Colin Amos, managing attorney for Goldberg Jones and Portland divorce lawyer, explains why in this radio interview:





Modifying a custody arrangement is not an overnight process and courts are less likely to make changes in the middle of the school year. If there is any dispute over custody,  it could be up to 6 months before you have a resolution.

Starting earlier in the year puts you in best position to get custody modified, your divorce settled, and your children in a stable position to start a new school year. If you are a father facing divorce, you have legal rights. Goldberg Jones is dedicated to help you protect your rights. If you have any questions about child custody or divorce in Oregon, give Colin a call at - 1-800-DIVORCE