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We often get asked about family law and divorce. There are a lot of variations – married or unmarried couples, with or without children. This is one topic the court has forms for. The trick can be finding the right form.

The Washington County Circuit Court’s forms page has several “Family Law” forms. Dissolution is the term they use for divorce, while legal separation leaves the parties married. There are also forms for unmarried parents. If you find forms that look right for you, read the instructions to be sure. There are other family law forms as well, for things like modification or custody enforcement.

A resource for information about family law in Oregon is OregonLawHelp – Family. This site from Legal Aid discusses a variety of topics including divorce, custody, child or spousal support, etc.

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If you’ve never had a document notarized before you might have questions on the process and what you need to know. Read on for answers to some of these questions.

How Do I Find a Notary Public?

The Oregon Secretary of State has a list of active notaries here, but there is no search function and it is basically a database of names and addresses. You could sort by city, but the interface is clunky and not user friendly. There are several websites that have notary directories and some of the notary associations have directories that you can search. Many banks and public libraries offer notary service for their customers.

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How did we answer that? Can I have a lawyer in Small Claims Court

I had someone come in a few days ago asking about suing someone in Small Claims Court and wanted to know if they could have a lawyer with them. They also wanted to know what was special about Small Claims Court.

Small Claims is a part of civil trial court where the amount claimed is $10,000 or less. Additionally, lawyers are not allowed, on either side, to participate in small claims hearings without the judge’s permission. People can talk to a lawyer at any time to help with the claim and to prepare for the hearing.

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How did we answer that? Public Records and Finding a Will

We received a public records request through the County’s online public records portal. The question was whether the County had a relative’s will. There are two questions here: what is a public records request for, and how can I find a relative’s will.

A public records request is any attempt to get access to a record of a government or public entity. In Oregon, state law provides a broad right of access to records generated by or for public entities. The Attorney General has a Public Records and Meetings Law Manual. That explains Oregon’s laws in greater detail. Many public entities have a portal where you can submit a public records request. If not, you should be able to contact the entity. Some records may already be easily available. For example, city or county codes or ordinances, or public meeting minutes, may already be on the organization’s website.

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Imagine this: A patron comes into the law library at 4:40 and says “I’m being sued, and I need to file a response before 5:00 today. Do you have the form for that? Oh, and I need help filling it out.” We would really like to help this person, but realistically this may not be possible. Unfortunately, patrons usually do not know what services we provide. Read on for information on what law libraries can and can’t do and how to get the most from your visit.

Don’t leave your research until the last minute. Leave enough time to handle any problems that might arise. In our example, the patron assumes that there is a fill-in-the-blank form that they can use, and that law library personnel can help them fill it out. Oregon does not have many fill-in-the-blank forms and law library employees cannot help patrons fill out forms. We would direct the patron to possible sources of templates that they can use to create their own document, and to resources that might help them to fill out the form. They probably wouldn’t have time to do all that in less than 20 minutes and get it to the court before they close.

Along those same lines, make sure you can devote time to research your questions. Law library personnel can’t do research for you. We can point you to resources that might be useful and show you how to do the research yourself.

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How did we answer that? Contract Law

We got an email asking for assistance with contract law, specifically breach of contract. The email specified a dollar amount, which was greater than can be claimed in Small Claims Court, so we limited our response to resources in Civil Court.

Our first suggestion was to start with Nolo press self-help book. We recommended Contracts: The Essential Business Desk Reference and Represent Yourself in Court: Prepare and Try a Winning Case.  We suggested these titles for different reasons. The first because it was about Contracts and might have substantive information on breach of contract. The second because it has valuable information about the court process and what someone is going to need to know if they represent themselves. Nolo books can be found at many public libraries, online via the State of Oregon Law Library, as well as many Law Libraries.

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How did we answer that? Service of process

A patron came in needing to serve someone with a civil lawsuit. However, they didn’t know the address or any other contact information. What other options did they have?

First, “service” or “service of process” is the legal term for delivering legal filings or documents to someone. The requirements for service are designed to make sure the person knows they are involved in the case and what is expected of them.

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Do you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at work? Then you might have access to free legal help that you didn’t even know about!

Many employers offer their employees an EAP as an extra benefit. Many EAPs offer some legal help as part of the package. It could be as simple as articles on legal topics to free legal consultations to discounts on attorney fees.

Some EAPs offer articles on various subjects such as criminal law, immigration, and consumer law. They may also offer forms for specific states and might include various Power of Attorney forms and Wills.

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How did we answer that? Identity Theft and Freezing Credit

We had a librarian reach out to us for guidance in helping their patron with a question. Their patron asked for assistance with freezing credit and the librarian was unsure where to direct them.

As we were working with the librarian and not the patron directly, we were unable to ask follow-up questions. However, from what the librarian sent us, there were two questions/directions for information and resources that we wanted to share. The first being how to find information about if there had been a breach/identity theft and the second being information on freezing credit.

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The recent wildfires in Oregon, and tragic fire in Maui, are salient reminders that such disasters can affect any of us. They also have legal implications after the fact. Here are some resources in Oregon for those affected by natural disasters, and for those who want to prepare for such possibilities.

Preparation for Disasters

Preparedness Resources, Oregon Disaster Legal Services

Contact Information