Thousands of divorces occur in Oregon every year. Before the court terminates a marriage, the couple must resolve particular issues. Common issues include property division and distribution, allocation of debt liability, spousal support, child support, child custody, and parenting time. When judges make determinations regarding children, they must ensure that the decisions are in the children’s best interest.
Parents may seek custody of their minor children in a divorce case. According to Oregon law, both parents are entitled to hold custody, care, and control of their children. The state’s policy also assures that minor children must have frequent and continuing contact with their parents.
Once a divorce suit begins, a spouse usually files a petition for the dissolution of marriage. The filing spouse is named the petitioner, and the other spouse is called the respondent. All children born or adopted during and before the union must be documented in a petition. The petitioner must reference, with the expected date of birth, any child conceived during the marriage but not yet born. The petition must also add adult children ages 18, 19, or 20 years old as parties to the case if they are not married or emancipated.
Oregon law has two types of child custody arrangements – joint custody and sole custody.
In joint custody, parents share the responsibility of making significant decisions on behalf of their child. Common topics for discussion include a child’s residence, education, health, and religion. Although both parents have equal decision-making authority, the joint custody arrangement may designate one parent’s home as the child’s primary residence. Also, the court order may give one parent the power to decide specific issues regarding the child even though the parents share custody.
Both parents must agree to have joint custody. If the parents agree to a collaborative arrangement, the court cannot order custody to only one of the parents. Also, the court cannot grant such an arrangement unless the parents agree to the terms and conditions of the joint custody.
When parents do not agree to joint custody, the judge must grant sole custody to one parent. In an exclusive custody arrangement, the custodial parent has the power to make significant decisions for the child.
When the court approves or orders child custody, it applies the following factors to determine what is in the best interest and welfare of the child:
- The emotional connections and relationships between the child and other family members;
- The parents’ interests in and attitude toward the child;
- The desire to continue an existing relationship between parent and child;
- Whether one parent is abusive to the other;
- Establishing which parent is the primary caregiver for the child;
- Preference to the primary caregiver if the court deems such parent fit
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to assist and support a close and continuing connection with the other parent unless it would put the child’s health and safety in danger
The parents or the court also establishes a general or detailed parenting plan. The available plan outlines each parent’s responsibilities and the parenting time terms. It must contain the non-custodial parent’s minimum parenting time and access to the child.
The detailed parenting plan may set forth the terms of :
- Communication and Information Access
- Making Decisions
- Living Schedule
- Birthdays and Holidays
Both parents must comply once the court order sets the conditions for child custody and parenting time. The terms of the custody and visitation remain in effect until the court modifies or terminates the order.
During the joint or sole custody, the custodial parent may decide to move to another state with the child. Many families choose to move due to a new job, seeking better healthcare, pursuing education, or housing affordability. However, a parent cannot move to a residence more the sixty miles away from the other parent without reasonable notice of a location change. The parent wanting to move must also give the court a copy of the notice. The custodial parent does not have to provide notice when the court does not order parenting time to a non-custodial parent who committed abuse. However, the custodial parent must provide information and notification to the court.
The non-custodial parent may seek help from the court to stop the other parent from taking their child out of the state. If the custodial parent plans to move immediately or shortly, the other parent can ask the court for a temporary restraining order to prevent the child from moving to another state. The temporary restraining order lasts up to 10 days unless the court or the party it is against agrees to extend the time. The judge may grant the order if a physical change of living quarters violates and causes immediate or irreparable harm to the non-custodial party.
The parents may go to court to let a judge determine if the child can move to another state. The court may stop the ex-spouse from moving to another state with the child if it is not in the child’s best interest.