At Posey Legal, P.C., we work with both married and unmarried parents on all matters concerning the custody, parenting time, and financial support of their children. Every family is unique, and we strive to help parents develop a co-parenting plan to that suits their particular circumstances, while also balancing the need for predictability and flexibility. The goal is to create a plan that will serve their family’s needs well after the legal proceedings have concluded.
Oregon Law and Child Custody
In Oregon, it is a common misconception that a designation of sole or joint custody is determinative of how much time a parent has with their children. Simply put, custody is about making important decisions about the child’s non-emergency medical care, education, and religious upbringing. Custodial medical decisions could include selection of primary care doctors, or whether to begin or discontinue certain medication. Custodial educational decisions might include selection of the school in which the child will be enrolled, or whether to engage a tutor. Custodial religious decisions might whether a child will practice a certain faith or attend a specific worship services.
This decision-making authority is either shared equally by both parents through a designation of joint legal custody, or one parent retains this authority through a designation of sole legal custody.
If parents share joint legal custody, then they make these decisions together and neither parent is able make a custodial decision, or change an existing decision, without the mutual agreement of the other parent. In order for joint legal custody to be awarded by the court, both parents must agree to share it. If either parent does not agree to share joint legal custody, then the court will make a determination as to which parent should be awarded sole legal custody.
Oregon law sets forth a handful of factors for the court to consider when assessing which parent should be awarded custody. Oregon law expressly gives no preference to either parent on the basis of their gender.
Courts encourage parents to reach agreement on matters pertaining to custody and parenting time. As a practical matter, parents are more likely to abide by a parenting plan that they helped shape. Children benefit from co-parents who communicate effectively and are willing to compromise to reach agreements related to their care and upbringing. Custody and parenting time decisions can be extremely personal, and most families prefer being able to resolve disputes in these areas in private rather than submitting them to a judge to resolve in an adversarial environment. Families can find help resolving these conflicts outside of court through mediation or the Collaborative process.
However, there are some instances in which court involvement in the custody and parenting time situations may be unavoidable. For example, cases involving physical violence, restraining orders, extreme power imbalances, or substance abuse may require court intervention. Cases in which one parent wishes to move out of state with a child may also need to be resolved through the court. Having the assistance and guidance of an attorney can be crucial to navigating the contested custody and parenting time litigation process.
One of the most important documents you and your co-parent will need to create is a parenting plan outlining the parenting time schedule and co-parenting rules. A good parenting plan includes details for the regular, routine schedule, a plan for sharing or alternating holidays, and provisions for extended time to take vacations (or even staycations).
Parenting plans are meant to be flexible to allow the parents to make adjustments as needed, and parents should be mindful of the need for flexibility when interpreting and implementing their parenting plan. When parents agree to deviate from the written plan, they are free to do so. Essentially, the written parenting plan can serve as the fallback plan. If parents are unable to agree on a deviation, they can revert to following the written plan.
In addition to details about the schedule, parenting plans can include provisions addressing:
- How the parents will communicate with one another about the children.
- Parameters for communicating with a child during the other parent’s parenting time, and how a child can initiate communication with a parent during the other parent’s time.
- Details around the exchange of the child and how transportation responsibilities will be shared.
- Parameters around scheduling activities for a child.
- Agreements around the introduction of new significant others.
- Notice requirements around domestic and international travel.
- How the parents will resolve disputes that may arise in the future.
- As with a custody determination, if the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will establish one for them.
Family Law Attorneys at Posey Legal, P.C. Assist Clients in Resolving Custody and Parenting Time Issues
Every family is different and there is no one-size fits all approach. At Posey Legal, PC, we will help you navigate the available process options to find the best fit for your unique family, creating a pathway to success that will help you achieve your goals for your children.
Contact us for a consultation where we help you figure out what your best next steps are.