Custody and Visitation
Custody of children is established in divorce, legal separation, paternity, guardianship, or psychological parent proceedings.
There are two types of custody: sole custody and joint custody. Each situation is unique regarding the amount of parenting time to the mother and the father. The type of custody granted also affects which parent has the final say in major decisions about the child's upbringing, such as education, religion, and medical care. In Oregon, joint custody requires the agreement of both parties. However, even noncustodial parents have significant rights including access to a child health and school records.
In determining custody and visitation issues, the court looks to the best interests of the child. This is a complex standard and involves consideration of parental capacity, which parent has had custody of a child during a separation, the attachments of the child to the parent, and other issues. Mothers and fathers are not to be treated differently in the process, but often a parent who has been the primary day-to-day caretaker of the child will be favored.
Reasonable and consistent visitation (also known as parenting time) for the non-custodial parent is preferred in most situations, regardless of the nature of custody. The custody and visitation arrangements will be described in a parenting plan, and parents will be encouraged to jointly agree to such a plan. Most courts require a parenting plan in any judgment that provides for custody of a child. Oregon law does not mandate any particular schedule, but frequently a court will refer to guidelines adopted in a particular county. Oregon has published guidelines for parenting time of children at various ages. See the link below:
Upon filing a case involving custody, Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and other counties now mandate parenting classes that discuss these issues in detail. These classes can be attended alone or with the other parent.
Low cost or free mediation is required in most counties and can be helpful in most cases. More complex cases may require an evaluation by a psychologist or social worker. All concerned should seek to minimize involving children in custody and visitation disputes, except in consultation with an attorney or counselor.
Whether issues are mediated or litigated, parents faced with custody or visitation issues should obtain professional legal advice.
Kramer & Associates