When a married couple decides they no longer want to be together, the process of ending their relationship is not only hard on them but the entire family. Divorce is a complicated, frustrating, and sometimes very emotional process, and when Oregon child custody issues are thrown into the mix it can often be more than some can bear. Although divorcing or separating parents may try to come to an agreement about the custody of their children, they may not be unable to come to a mutually beneficial agreement, at which time the court often has to intervene with most Oregon family law issues.
Types of Oregon Child Custody Arrangements
It is the general consensus that whenever possible both parents remain active in their child’s life. Because of this, many family court systems encourage parents to create their own Oregon child custody agreement that works for both them and the child and one that keeps both parents equally involved. If the parents are able to come up with this agreement on their own and it upholds the best interests of the child standard, it is generally approved by the judge.
Should the parents have a hard time coming to an agreement, the court may order the parents to use mediation to complete their agreement. This is when a third neutral party helps the parents resolve their issues in order to create an Oregon child custody agreement. Often times, having this neutral party present during negotiations helps the parents see the issues more clearly and also helps them avoid injecting too much emotion into the process of creating a custody agreement.
In the event that the parents cannot come up with an agreement, even with the help of mediation, the court is tasked with creating an agreement for them. In most states, there are two different types of custody – joint custody and sole custody. In a joint custody situation, the parents would equally share the responsibility of housing and caring for the child. Joint custody is then broken down further into joint legal and joint physical custody. Joint legal custody means both parents have an equal right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, education, and medical needs.
Sole custody is when one parent has the primary task of housing and caring for the child and the other parent receives varying degrees of visitation. Depending on the situation, a parent may receive weekend and overnight visitation time with the child or, if it is a domestic violence, abuse, or other negative situation, the parent may only receive hourly supervised visitation. If the situation is severe, it is possible that one parent has sole custody and the other parent has no visitation.
How Child Custody Decisions are Made in Oregon
Like most other states in the country, Oregon uses the “best interests of the child” standard when it comes to making custody decisions in court. When a judge is making a decision in such a case, he or she evaluates all of the factors pertaining to the best interests of the child including:
- The emotional ties between the child and both parents
- The emotional ties between the child and other family members
- Each parent’s interest and willingness to parent
- How bonded the child and each parent are
- Each parent’s lifestyle
- Each parent’s income and earning capacity
- Each parent’s living situation
- Any and all accusations of child abuse or other forms of domestic abuse from either parent
- Willingness of each parent to encourage a positive and loving relationship between the child and the other parent
All factors listed here are evaluated equally by the judge when he or she makes a decision in a Oregon child custody case. While this is a standard upheld by law, there is one exception to this standard, which is if either parent has committed any form of domestic violence or sexual abuse. Under Oregon law, a parent is not required to cooperate with a parent who has committed acts of violence against him or her or the child in the case, and a parent who has taken steps to keep the child safe from domestic violence on behalf of the other parent is not considered uncooperative.
Under Oregon state law and the “best interests of the child” standard, it is generally not in the child’s best interest for an abusive parent to have sole custody or even joint custody at any time. In these situations, the court often presumes that the abusive parent is not fit to have custody of the child unless the parent is able to convincingly prove otherwise.
Child Custody Modification in Oregon
In some cases, even though the original custody agreement worked for all parties, there may come a time when an adjustment needs to be made. This often happens as children grow older and their needs change and even as the parents transition into the different stages of their lives. Should both parents agree on the changes that need to be made and they uphold the best interests of the child standard, the judge will likely agree to the modification and make it a legally binding part of the current custody agreement. When the parents do not agree, the process is different.
When one parent wishes to make a modification to a Oregon child custody agreement, that parent carries the burden of proof as to why the modification is needed and how the change will benefit the child. Family courts generally do not like to approve every modification request, as constant changes to the custody agreement creates instability in a child’s life. Should the parent be able to prove the modification is necessary despite the other parent’s protests and can also show the modification benefits the child, it is more likely to be approved by the judge.
Custody and Relocation in Oregon
When parents have a sole custody agreement, relocation becomes a very touchy subject. It is possible at any time that the parent with sole custody will wish to relocate to a different area, either for a job opportunity, educational opportunities for them or the child, or to be closer to a support system of family and/or friends. Often times, the parent without sole custody protests the relocation, at which time the judge needs to decide.
Since the court does not want to make any unnecessary disruptions to the child’s life, it evaluates a number of different factors in order to make its final decision. Some of these factors include:
- The reason for the relocation
- The relationship between the child and both parents
- The reason the other parent is protesting the move
- The current child custody in Oregon agreement
- The benefits the child will see from the relocation
- If the relocation upholds the “best interests of the child” standard
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