Children are the youngest and most vulnerable group of people. Depending on their ages, they do not have the ability or access to provide food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities for themselves. As kids become pre-teens and teenagers, they can do more things for their self-care; however, some laws regulate their abilities to establish completely independent lives from their parents.
Each parent has the right and responsibility to take care of their children. Oregon law also entitles each parent to the custody and control of their child.
State law gives both parents equal rights and does not favor the mother over the father when determining child custody. The court may order joint custody or sole custody arrangements.
In joint arrangements, both parents share custody of their child. They may have equal legal and physical custody where they make decisions for their child, and the child lives in each parent’s residence for the same length of time. A joint arrangement could mean shared but unequal legal and physical custody. One parent may have the authority to make specific choices without consent or notice to the other parent. The child may live primarily at one parent’s residence and periodically stay in the other parent’s home.
Under Oregon law, both parents must agree to a joint custody arrangement. If they do not, the court cannot order joint child custody. The judge then must assign sole custody to one of the parents. The custodial parent makes the decisions regarding the child and has sole physical custody. The noncustodial parent receives parenting time with the schedule outlined in the parenting plan.
The child custody order may also require one parent to pay child support to the other.
In a sole custody arrangement, the noncustodial parent usually has to provide financial support to the custodial parent. However, in some cases, courts may order a parent in joint custody to pay child support.
The United States Census Bureau reports that in 2020, nearly 7 million parents had a formal or informal child support agreement with the other parent. The data shows that over 4 million received child support payments during the year, with 40 percent paid irregularly. A parent should obtain a formal support order through the court, the Oregon Division of Child Support, or an administrative process. With a formal agreement, the parent can seek enforcement of the payments through the state legal or administrative agencies.
Child support is a payment for the support of the children for a set time, including money and health insurance. It is not a payment to see or have contact with the child. The parent must pay the ordered child support even if the other parent withholds the required visitation. Oregon law states that parents must take their children when they legally cannot take of themselves. Parents are responsible for their child’s necessaries, expenses, and educational costs.
Parents may seek a child support award if they are unmarried, in the process of divorce, divorced, legally separated, or ending a domestic partnership. However, parents who never married each other must take additional steps in the child custody and support case. They must establish that they are the legal mother and father of the child.
A person can confirm their status as the legal mother by delivery of the child, adoption or court judgment. Oregon law presumes that the person married to the legal mother at the time of the child’s birth is the legal father. Adoption and voluntary acknowledgment of paternity also determine who is the legal father.
Oregon has guidelines to calculate the amount of child support payments the obligated parent must pay, such as:
- Each parent’s income
- The obligated parent’s share of childcare costs
- Each parent’s parenting time credit
- The obligated parent’s out-of-pocket cost for child care and health insurance
Generally, a parent pays child support for their minor children until they reach the age of eighteen or become emancipated minors. However, some child support obligations extend after the children are adults. The court order may require a parent to provide support and maintenance for adult children ages 18 to 21 while they attend school.
Oregon law defines a child attending school as a person who is:
- Is unmarried;
- Age 18 to 21 years old;
- Making satisfactory academic progress at the school; and
- Taking a course load that is at least half the load of full-time enrollment
A qualified school for an adult child is one of the following:
- High school, community college or a four-year college or university; or
- Vocational or training program designed to prepare the child for gainful employment; or
- High school equivalency course
The child must provide written notice to the parent ordered to pay the child of the intent to attend or continue to attend school. The notification must occur before reaching 18 years old and include the name of the school and the expected graduation date or the date the child will stop attending classes.