Parenting Plans and Parenting Time

Parenting Plans and Parenting Time

Parenting is one of the most crucial public health issues facing society. It is one of the most significant variables examined in childhood illnesses and accidents, substance misuse, school disruption and mental illness. There is widespread acknowledgment from mental health professionals and healthcare providers that "frequent, continuing, and meaningful" time with both parents is beneficial to children from divorced or separated families. Despite this knowledge, many individuals face hurdles when creating and effectuating parenting plans in Oregon.

The negative impacts of high levels of marital and post-marital conflict can seriously impact the quality of parenting. Parenting plans can help the parties create boundaries, address concerns, and prevent disputes. The Portland, Oregon, family law attorneys at Gearing, Rackner & McGrath LLP have extensive experience working with individuals to manage all issues arising during a separation or divorce. Contact an Oregon parenting plan attorney at our office by calling 503-222-9116.

Basics of Oregon Parenting Plans

There were a total of 11,621 divorces in Oregon in the last reporting year. Many of these splitting couples have children, which can turn what is already a difficult experience into something entirely more stressful. However, even after a divorce is finalized, that doesn’t necessarily mark the end of parents’ issues, as ideally, parents will work together to raise their children.

Co-parenting with someone after a romantic relationship ends can elicit many feelings and challenges. However, co-parenting is crucial to children's development, stability, and overall well-being after a divorce.

In Oregon, parenting plans refer to the part of a court order that addresses custody and parenting time. These plans are written documents that state when children will be with each parent and how the parents will make decisions on behalf of the children. In some cases, parents may be able to agree without significant court intervention; however, in other cases, the parties may need to go to trial. Experienced attorneys understand that co-parenting plans and agreements are unique and no one-size-fits-all approach exists. A family law attorney can help individuals create and execute a parenting plan and go to trial if necessary.

What Is the Difference between Parenting Time and Custody?

While many use "custody" and "parenting time" interchangeably, these concepts have distinct meanings under Oregon's family law statute.


In Oregon, "custody" refers to a parent's legal right to make "custodial decisions" on behalf of their child. These decisions include housing, education, religion, and medical care. Oregon permits one parent to have "sole custody" or allows both parents to share "joint custody."

Typically parents share equal custody of their minor children until there is a court order. This applies regardless of whether the parties were married or not. Courts only order joint custody if both parties agree to joint custody. If the parties cannot agree, the court will review various factors when deciding which parent gets sole custody.

Oregon law permits non-custodial parents to participate in their child's education and healthcare. For example, a non-custodial parent can speak with their child's teacher and healthcare providers.

Parenting Time

In Oregon, "parenting time" refers to the actual time each parent gets to spend with their child. Parenting plans, whether agreed to or established by the court, must include the minimum amount of time each parent will have their child, including during school breaks and holidays.

Parents without custody are also permitted to make daily decisions for their children, such as their bedtime and what they will eat when caring for them. It is important to note that in Oregon, regardless of custody, both parents typically have the right to access their child's academic, medical, dental, police, and counseling records.

Safety-Focused Parenting Plans

In some situations, a safety-focused parenting plan may be necessary. Situations that may call for a safety-focused parenting plan include when the other parent has engaged in the following conduct:

  • Damaged property or hurt pets during an argument;
  • Threatened to commit suicide;
  • Physically hurt their spouse or children;
  • Threatened to kidnap or not return the children;
  • Sexually abused anyone; or
  • Has been arrested for threatening harm to anyone.

In these cases, a judge may order supervised parenting time.

Grandparent Visitation in Oregon

In some cases, the court may grant an order for reasonable visitation to a child's grandparent. This order may occur when the following facts are present:

  • The grandparent has established or attempted to establish ongoing personal contact with the child, and
  • The custodial parents have denied the grandparent a reasonable opportunity to visit the child.
  • A grandparent may petition for visitation during the parents' divorce, separation, annulment, or unmarried parent’s custody case.

Factors During Custody Determinations

While Oregon courts encourage a child's relationship with both of their parents, the overarching consideration in all custody determinations is what is in the child's best interests. Some factors the court will review when making custody determinations in Oregon include the following:

  • The emotional connection between the child and other family members;
  • The parent's attitude toward the child;
  • The importance and desirability of continuing an existing relationship;
  • Any abuse between the parents;
  • The preference for the primary caregiver of the child;
  • Each parent's willingness to facilitate and encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent.

Judges will only consider a parent's conduct, marital status, income, and the social environment if those factors are causing or may cause emotional or physical harm to the child. Judges may also consult with expert witnesses such as child psychologists, teachers, and counselors when making these decisions. In some cases, a judge may consider a child's wishes. However, parents should speak with their attorney and discuss the impact of making a child testify.

Factors During Child Support Determinations

Oregon maintains standardized guidelines for calculating child support. The guidelines consider factors including the following:

  • Income,
  • Spousal support,
  • Parenting time percentage,
  • Health insurance,
  • Education costs, and
  • Childcare costs.

The court, administrative law judge, or administrator has the final authority to determine the amount of a child support obligation.

The Importance of Parenting Plans

According to state records, nearly 14,000 children under 18 were affected by divorce in Oregon. Given these significant numbers allocating parenting time in a parenting plan following a divorce has important implications for children and their parents. While there is little disagreement that children benefit from shared-care arrangements, studies show that children's outcomes after a divorce depend upon other factors, such as the children's temperaments, pre-divorce arrangements, and experiences. Studies also show that children benefit when parents can establish plans without extensive litigation. Further, children whose parents were highly involved pre-divorce benefit from continued involvement from both parents. These findings highlight the importance of individualized parenting plans that address a family's specific needs and unique dynamics.

What Should be Part of a Parenting Plan?

Relationship dynamics change, especially when parents enter new relationships or have additional children. Parenting plans can be general or detailed, and while some couples do not see the need for detailed plans, these plans can reduce future conflict. Individuals should consult with a family law attorney to determine what should go into their parenting plan. Some things to include in a detailed parenting plan include the following:

  • Regular parenting time schedule;
  • Holiday and school recess parenting time schedule;
  • Locations and details of how child exchanging will occur;
  • Safety parameters such as boundaries regarding firearms, drugs, and childcare providers;
  • Wellness parameters like rules about bedtime, sleeping arrangements, and screen time;
  • Boundaries and rules around parent communication;
  • Dispute resolution processes between parents;
  • Schedule for communication between a child and the other parent; and
  • How minor and major parenting plan modifications should occur.

Families and children have individualized needs, and it is essential to create parenting plans that address the evolving nature of children and families. However, the most important thing to consider is that an effective parenting plan should maximize continuity in the children's lives, promote positive parent-child relationships, and allow for change over time. Parents can help their children escape the adverse effects of separation and divorce by keeping these considerations at the forefront of all parenting plan agreements.

Modifications to Parenting Plans

In some cases, modifications to a parenting plan may be necessary. Both parents can agree, or either parent can file a motion to modify an aspect of a parenting plan. The court can address modifications to custody, parenting time, and support. However, the court will only modify a parenting plan if the party requesting the change shows a substantial change of circumstances since the last order. Further, the change must be in the best interests of the child.

Are You in the Process of Dealing with a Complex Child Custody or Visitation Issue?

If you and your former spouse disagree about who should have custody of your children, when visitation should occur, or any other matter related to the care or custody of your children, an attorney at Gearing Rackner & McGrath, LLP can help. Our Oregon and Washington child custody attorneys have more than 100 years of hands-on experience helping clients navigate the complex and emotional custody process. We recognize that the stakes couldn’t be higher for you, and will do everything possible to ensure your interests are protected at every step of the process. To learn more, and to schedule a no-obligation consultation, give us a call at 503.222.9116. You can also reach us through our online contact form.