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Child Custody & Parenting Time

Family Law
Over the years, the legislature has refined many aspects of how child custody cases are handled. In almost all cases, they designed these changes to protect the interests of children in divorce. In fact, several of our own Gevurtz Menashe divorce and child custody lawyers helped to write and refine many of the laws that now govern child custody and visitation (now legally referred to as “parenting time”) in Oregon.

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Child custody & parenting time attorneys in Oregon

When determining the granting of a child custody or parenting time agreement in Oregon and Washington, a judge may consider such important factors as:
 
  • Emotional connection between the child and involved family members
  • The parents interest in and attitude towards their child
  • Any history of abuse or neglect that the child may have suffered because of one parent or the other
  • Whether the primary caregiver for the child is deemed fit to continue caring for them
  • How willing each parent is to facilitate the child’s healthy relationship with the other parent
  • A child custody case can involve consideration of the child’s own preference for one parent or the other, and testimony by expert witnesses or concerned family members may be heard.

In Washington, “decision-making” is the terminology used for determining who will make non-emergency medical, educational, religious and other decisions for the children. Generally speaking, joint decision making is the standard for parents who are divorcing with children in Washington. The residential schedule or parenting plan is the document which outlines where the child will be living when and with which parent. These terms are different in other states so it is important to discuss their significance with a lawyer licensed in Washington. Although child issues can be stressful and difficult for parents, it is important to maintain focus on what is in the best interests of the children and generally that includes contact and a continued, meaningful relationship with both parents. 
 

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

Child custody is divided into two kinds: physical custody (now known as “parenting time”) and legal custody. They are independent of one another, meaning that parents can have joint legal custody but follow a parenting time schedule where one parent only has the child 30% of the time. By contrast, one parent can have sole legal custody of the child but the parties can share parenting time equally.

Physical custody refers to which parent actually has the child at any one time. This is called “parenting time” which refers to the amount of time the children spends with both parents - also commonly referred to as “visitation rights.” The parenting time schedule for both parents is based on what is in the “best interest of the child.” The schedule can be determined by several factors including; the child’s needs and schedule, the location and distance between the parents’ residences, the parents’ work schedule. The parenting time schedule is set on a case-by-case basis, and can be shared equally or customized, depending on the circumstances of the family and best interests of the child.
 
Legal custody grants the custodial parent the right to make decisions regarding the upbringing of the child. As the child is a minor, the parent with legal custody may make decisions regarding their education, religious upbringing, and medical care.  Legal custody may be “sole” or “joint.”
 

Sole vs. Joint Custody

Sole custody or “full custody” is just as it sounds—a case where only one parent is granted the authority to make the major decisions of the child. With sole legal custody, the right to make major decisions for a child rests with just one parent. The reason one parent may be granted sole custody can vary, though often it may be that there is a clear “primary parent” who has traditionally been primarily responsible for the child-rearing responsibilities and decisions regarding the child. But sole custody is sometimes also awarded when the non-custodial parent is declared unfit or presents a danger to the child, sometimes because of substance abuse, domestic violence, or neglect. If the parties do not agree to joint custody, the court will award sole legal custody to one parent based on the “best interest of the child” standard.

Joint physical custody allows both parents to make decisions regarding the education, healthcare, and religious training of their child. With the designation of custody, there may also be “split custody.” Split custody occurs when some children are in the legal custody of each parent. If there is joint legal custody, the parents agree to discuss with each other what is best for their child and to make a joint decision. In Oregon, joint legal custody can only be awarded if both parents agree. A court cannot order joint legal custody if either parent objects.

 

Contact Us Today

Gevurtz Menashe maintains a cadre of specialized child custody lawyers in both our Portland and Vancouver office(s). They can help facilitate your divorce, explore your options for legal child custody, and and negotiate parenting time. Additionally, our estate planning attorneys can help you understand how changes to your custody and parenting plan may impact the guardianship of your children or your estate plan if anything unexpected should happen to you. To learn more or speak with an attorney about obtaining or modifying custody of a child, call our Portland office at 503-227-1515, 360-823-0410 for Vancouver or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
 

Call our Portland, OR offices at: 503-227-1515
and our Vancouver, WA office at 360-823-0410
or contact us to request a consultation.