The end of a couple’s relationship is likely to have a substantial impact on their children. Parents are faced with concerns about how much time they get to spend with their children compared to the other parent.
In such circumstances, you may be wondering whether your children are allowed to express their preferences in custody decisions such as where to live and with which parent. Oregon courts do not consider a child’s wishes every time. Custody determinations vary depending on the details and circumstances of each case.
Types of Child Custody in Oregon
Child custody in Oregon consists of physical custody and legal custody. Courts may award either joint or sole custody for each.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make key decisions on the child’s behalf regarding education, health care, religious upbringing and other important areas. Joint legal custody allows both parents to share this responsibility, while sole legal custody means only one parent has the authority to make decisions.
Physical custody refers to where the child will live, which parent will provide day-to-day care, and the amount of time they can spend with the child. Joint physical custody allows both parents to share time with the child, while sole physical custody means one parent will be the primary caretaker.
How Courts Determine Custody
A judge considers a wide range of factors when determining child custody. One specific element does not outweigh another. The court’s priority is to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child rather than one that is necessarily fair to both parents. Oregon courts may take the following criteria into account in custody matters:
- The child’s emotional bonds with siblings and other family members.
- The parents’ respective interest in the child.
- Whether there was abuse involved in any of the child’s relationships.
- The desirability for the child to maintain a relationship with each parent.
- Each parent’s willingness to allow the other parent to maintain a bond with the child.
- The parent who has served as the child’s primary caretaker.
The judge will also consider additional factors such as the parents’ finances, marital status, lifestyle and the social environment provided to the child. While neither parent is granted automatic rights to custody, Oregon courts try to ensure the child retains a sense of stability.
Children’s Preferences in Custody Matters
A judge has the discretion to take the child’s preferences into account depending on the facts of each case. Oregon courts generally do not consider the child’s wishes as there are no statutes that mandate such a requirement.
A judge aims to make sure that custody decisions reflect the child’s best interests. Many courts prefer not to ask children their preferences as it is seen as making them choose a side. Even though a child may prefer one parent over the other, that parent may not be equipped to care for the child. Additionally, courts do not want children to be a part of their parents’ disputes.
In Oregon, there is no minimum age at which a child’s input must be considered in custody decisions such as who becomes their primary caretaker. What matters more is their degree of maturity. The court is more likely to permit testimony from an older child who can express a mature and reasonable opinion than a younger one.
Either parent may request the judge speaks with the child, or the court can decide to do so itself. The judge has the authority to have a private conversation with the child if not involving the parents is believed to be in the child’s best interests.
An Experienced Oregon Child Custody Attorney Can Help
Every parent wants to protect their child’s future and well-being. A skilled Oregon child custody attorney can assist with ensuring the best interests of your child are protected. When parents are unable to agree on child custody, a lawyer can provide guidance through the custody process. Even if there are no guarantees that your child’s preferences will be heard, you can gain an understanding of how the court approaches custody matters.