Every Divorce Lawyer Knows Every Case is Different
WE UNDERSTAND THAT ENDING A MARRIAGE IS NEVER EASY
Going through a divorce is almost always an emotionally trying time. However, divorcing couples who have children face unique issues that can make the process even more challenging. Indeed, child custody and parenting time issues are often some of the most contested aspects of an Oregon divorce. In most cases, both parents want to spend as much time as they can with their children, and naturally, want to maintain some level of control over how the children are raised.
Zealous Advocates. Supportive Professionals.
At Gearing, Rackner & McGrath, LLP, our dedicated Portland divorce attorneys understand the emotional impact of divorce, as we have been helping clients in Oregon and Washington with their family law issues since 2005. Our child custody attorneys have extensive experience advocating on behalf of our clients to create workable parenting plans that effectively address and advance their interests. To best represent our clients, we walk the fine line between skilled negotiation and aggressive litigation, depending on the relationship between the parents and other relevant facto
Oregan Parenting Plan Statistics
- Across the United States, approximately 43 percent of marriages end in divorce
- Multnomah County has the highest rate of divorce in Oregon, with approximately 2,500 divorces each year. This accounts for almost 20 percent of all Oregon divorces
- In Portland specifically, 12.8 percent of residents are divorced.
- For marriages that end in divorce, the average length of a marriage is just under eight years.
- The average age for a first marriage is currently, 26.9 for men and 25.3 for women.
- Over half of all custodial parents have either a legal or informal child support agreement.
- Almost 90 percent of these agreements are formal agreements
- Nearly 70 percent of custodial parents who have child support agreements receive child support from non-custodial parents.
What Is an Oregon Parenting Plan?
At its most basic level, the primary purpose of a parenting plan is to outline the amount of time a child will spend with each parent and which parent has the legal authority to make the important decisions that will affect the child. If divorcing spouses can agree on a parenting plan, the court will generally accept the plan without modification. Given that parents know their children better than anyone else, courts prefer to have the parents work out the details of a parenting plan. If the parents cannot come to a mutually acceptable plan by talking through the issues, mediation may be an effective option. However, if the parties are unable to agree, the court will devise a parenting plan.
Parenting plans provide several benefits to both parents and children, including:
Children will spend time with each parent according to a regular and predictable schedule
Parents may have fewer disagreements because the details of the parties’ arrangement have already been worked out and documented
Parents are better able to plan because they will know what to expect
By including the non-custodial parent in the process, they may feel more vested in the child’s life
To better understand what goes into a parenting plan, it helps to have some background in Oregon child custody laws.
The Basics of Oregon Child Custody
Oregon law provides for two types of custody over a child, physical and legal. Both physical and legal custody can be either sole or joint.
Physical custody refers to where a child lives. If a parent has sole physical custody, a child will reside only with that parent and may visit the other parent pursuant to the parenting plan. Parents with joint physical custody will each have the child spend a significant amount of time at their home.
Legal custody refers to having the legal responsibility of caring for the child and the authority to make important life decisions on behalf of the child. These decisions may include where the child goes to school and whether they are a member of any religious group. Having legal custody also allows a parent to make medical decisions for a child. If a parent has sole legal custody of a child, then that parent can make decisions regarding the child without the input or agreement of the other parent. However, the non-custodial parent generally has a right to be informed as to the child’s school performance and healthcare issues. Parents with joint legal custody share the right to decide on behalf of a child.
An Oregon family law judge will not order joint physical or legal custody of a child unless the parties agree to the arrangement. In the vast majority of cases, a court will award sole physical and legal custody to one parent, and the other will get parenting time.
One of the most basic elements of a parenting plan is the child’s weekly schedule. To realize the potential benefits of a parenting plan, parents should be realistic and detailed when coming up with the times a child will spend with each parent. This includes providing specific days of the week and times that a child will spend with each parent. Parents can be as creative as they would like; however, the plan should provide the child with some consistency. If a couple has multiple children, each could have a different weekly schedule depending on their school and activity schedule.
One of the first and most important decisions that should be included in an Oregon parenting plan is where the child will live. Typically, a parenting plan will name one parent’s home as a primary residence. This decision will impact whether a child stays in the same neighborhood, where a child attends school, among other things.
A common area of contention among divorced spouses relates to getting children from one parent to the other. By coming up with a mutually acceptable plan in advance, parents may be able to head off the majority of these disputes. Typically, this aspect of a parenting plan will include where parents exchange the children and which parent is responsible for pick-up or drop-off. One of the most common arrangements is for the parent who is ending their time with the children to drop them off at the other parent’s home. Parents can specify front-door or curbside pick-up. Alternatively, parents can arrange to exchange the children in a neutral place.
It is also important to consider naming another one or two individuals who can pick up or drop off the children in the event the parent is unable to do so. These individuals must be known by the children and named in the agreement.
Vacation and Holiday Schedules
Parents of school-age children should determine the child’s weekly schedule when school is not in session. This includes both summer vacation and holidays on which schools are closed. In terms of a summer schedule, parents can either keep it the same or modify the schedule. One common modification involves allowing each parent an opportunity to have an uninterrupted vacation for a period of weeks.
When it comes to holiday weekends, parents are free to either keep the same weekly schedule. However, this may mean that children end up splitting their holiday weekends between both parents. More commonly, parents will come up with a detailed arrangement, outlining where the children will go for each holiday (it may not make sense a child to end up staying with their father over Mothers’ Day weekend).
Determining which parent has decision-making authority regarding a child is a crucial aspect of a parenting plan. The parent with whom the children are physically with will make the day-to-day decisions related to the care and control of the children. This includes emergency medical decisions. However, the parent with sole legal custody will have the authority to make all major life decisions affecting a child. Parents have the option of agreeing that the custodial parent will either discuss or inform the non-custodial parent of all major life decisions or those related to a certain issue.
Children often participate in activities other than school, such as sports, clubs, music, religious organizations and social activities. Often, both parents want to be involved in these activities, and courts support such involvement. However, non-school activities should not interfere with either parent’s scheduled time with the children. A parenting agreement may provide that the parent whose time is impacted by a non-school activity be allowed to coordinate with the other parent to avoid unnecessary interference.
Even the best parenting plans cannot avoid every disagreement. It is helpful to include in a parenting plan the preferred method for resolving these disputes when they arise. Typically, parents will first try to work out the issue on their own. But if this does not end in a resolution, the parties can specify how they want to proceed. Often, parents will agree on a specific neutral third-party, such as a mediator or counselor to help them work through the issue. However, parents can also agree to let the court resolve any dispute. Of course, this option may introduce an unwelcome amount of uncertainty, negating some of the benefits of a parenting plan.
Make-up and Missed Parenting Time
Inevitably, a parent will miss their scheduled time to be with their child, either due to work or a family or medical emergency. The general rule is that parents are not entitled to make-up, missed parenting time. However, the parties are free to state otherwise in a parenting plan. Parents may agree to different rules for different situations. For example, there may be no make-up time if parenting time was missed due to the parent’s schedule, and make-up time may be allowed if parenting time was missed due to a child’s illness.
Communication is critical in any parental relationship. This is especially the case for divorce couples raising children. Parents can avoid potential issues by setting forth how they want to communicate. For example, parents can agree to have open communication regarding the children and can provide “rules” such as what times of day are appropriate to call.
Parents understandably want to have a say in who is caring for their children. Thus, it is critical that a parenting plan provides the name of approached alternate caregivers, such as babysitters, daycare providers, grandparents or other family members. Parents can also include the names of people who are not permitted to watch children.
Oregon law requires that either parent provide notice to the other parent if they plan on moving more than 60 miles away. Parents can specify what amount of notice is required in the event of a move, and can provide other rules in the event of one parent’s future move.
Unless there is a court order stating something to the contrary, both parents have the following right of access to information regarding their children:
◦ School records
◦ Government agency and law enforcement records
◦ Medical, dental and psychological records
◦ The other parent’s address and contact information
◦ Any changes in the health of the child
What If One Parent Has Safety Concerns?
If one parent is worried about the safety of a child while in the care of the other parent, the concerned parent may pursue a safety-focused parenting plan. A safety-focused parenting plan can be based on one of three situations. Each situation will result in a different type of safety-focused parenting plan.
If one parent fears that a child cannot safely be left alone with the other parent, then a supervised parenting time may be appropriate
If one parent believes that a child can safely spend limited time with the other parent under certain conditions, then unsupervised parenting time with no overnight visits may be appropriate
If one parent is concerned for their own safety when around the other parent, but not concerned about a child’s safety, then unsupervised overnight visits may be appropriate provided there are public pick-up and drop-offs
Contact an Experienced Portland Family Law Attorney for Immediate Assistance
If you are contemplating an Oregon divorce, or are already in the process, you will likely have questions about parenting plans and child custody issues. The dedicated Portland family law attorneys at Gearing, Rackner & McGrath, can help. We have extensive experience working through all types of complex and contentious familial situations to come up with workable parenting plans. If we are unable to work out an agreement with your former spouse, we will zealously advocate on your behalf, prioritizing what is most important to you. To learn more about how our award-winning attorneys can assist you in working out an Oregon parenting plan, call us at 503-222-9116 or contact us through our online form.