Oregon law provides two types of custody arrangements: sole custody and joint custody. To receive joint custody, both parties must agree. If both parties do not agree, the court will designate one party as the sole custodial parent.
Where Can I File for Custody and Parenting Time?
An Oregon court has jurisdiction to make a custody and parenting time determination if:
- Oregon is the child’s home state when the initial pleading is filed; or
- Oregon was the child’s home state within six months of the date when the initial pleading was filed and the child is currently in another state, but a parent or person acting as the parent continues to live in Oregon.
If the parties agree on joint custody, both parents share rights and responsibilities for major decisions regarding the child, including the child’s residence, education, health care, and religious training. In a joint custody arrangement, the child does not have to spend equal time with each parent. One parent may provide the primary residence for the child and may have the power to make decisions about specific matters, while both parents retain equal rights and responsibilities for other decisions.
The custodial parent is the person who has primary rights and responsibilities to supervise, care for, and educate the child. Parenting time under a sole custody arrangement can be equal or unequal. The primary consideration in determining child custody is the best interests and welfare of the child. When determining custody, the court gives great weight to the child’s primary caretaker.
Many factors are considered by the Oregon family law judge when determining what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests, including:
- The emotional ties between the child and other family members
- The parties’ interests in and attitude toward the child
- The desirability of continuing an existing relationship
- The abuse of one parent by the other
- The preference for the primary caregiver of the child
- The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child
Modification of Custody
In order to modify custody, Oregon law requires that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the last custody judgment. The substantial change in circumstances must be unanticipated and must affect the custodial parent’s ability to appropriately care for the child. The parent seeking to modify custody must also show that the modification is in the child’s best interests.
Alienation and interference with the parent-child relationship of the non-custodial parent may be a sufficient basis to modify custody. The factors the judge must consider in determining whether a custody modification is appropriate are the same factors used in determining the initial custody award, and include:
- Emotional ties to family members
- Interests and attitude towards the child
- Desire to continue the relationship
- Willingness and ability to facilitate a close relationship between the other parent and the child
The judge can also consider gross moral misconduct of the custodial parent that has or may have an adverse impact on the child.