Third-Party Child Custody in Oregon
The relationship between a child and their grandparents is important. Grandparents provide children with a unique perspective on life that a child's parents may not have yet developed. Grandparents are often unburdened by other concerns such as career advancement, and can spend true quality time with their grandchildren. Unfortunately, a grandparent's relationship with either of a grandchild's parents may interfere with them being able to spend time with their grandchildren. Alternatively, there may be several reasons why a grandparent may be seeking primary legal custody of a grandchild. At Gearing, Rackner & McGrath, LLP, we help grandparents and other third-parties seeking visitation or custody of a child through this challenging process by providing them with effective advocacy and unwavering support through each step of the process.
Why is Visitation Being Denied?
Often, the first place to start when seeking to establish grandparent visitation in Portland is to understand why visitation is being refused. Parents may have several reasons for denying visitation, and grandparents may be able to address and remedy some of these issues. Some of the more common reasons for refusing visitation include:
- Parents may believe that a grandparent's home is not "baby-proofed" or safe for young children;
- A custodial parent may think that a grandparent "took sides" against them, either during the marriage or throughout divorce or separation proceedings;
- A parent may feel as though a grandparent will not respect their parenting style;
- Parents may want to keep their children at home during difficult times for either the parent or the child;
- Abusive or parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol may not want to risk a grandparent discovering a parent's addiction or pattern of abuse;
- Grandparents may have addiction issues that parents do not want their children exposed to.
Grandparents or other third-parties may be able to talk through some of these issues, or can enlist a mediator to help them resolve the problems. All Oregon family courts have mediators to help families constructively deal with issues.
Even when a resolution does not seem likely, those interested in having a relationship with children should continue to try to make nonintrusive efforts to maintain contact with the children, either through phone calls or by sending cards and letters. Grandparents should refrain from questioning a parent's decisions or speaking negatively about a child's parents.
In the case of a divorce, some parents refuse children to visit their former spouse's parents. In these situations, grandparents may be able to visit their grandchildren when the child is with the other parent. Of course, if the other parent is actively experiencing addiction, incarcerated or deceased, this will not be an option, and a grandparent may need to pursue a legal petition for visitation.
Establishing Grandparent and Third-Party Visitation Rights in Portland
Oregon lawmakers did away with the state's grandparent visitation laws back in 2001, following the United States Supreme Court case, Troxel v. Granville. In that case, the Court held that parents who are considered "fit parents" are presumed to make decisions that are in the best interest of their children, even if that decision involves cutting off a child's communication with their grandparents. The result is that parents have presumptive rights to make decisions affecting their children, even if, objectively, those decisions seem questionable.
While no law provides for Oregon grandparent visitation, there is are several avenues by which grandparents, and other interested third-parties, can petition the court to obtain visitation rights. However, grandparents are not given any special consideration under this law.
One way a grandparent can obtain visitation rights is by intervening in an existing case that involves the children, such as a divorce, separation or child custody case. For example, if a couple is going through a separation proceeding, a grandparent can join in that case, asking the court to consider granting them visitation rights. If both parents agree to grandparent visitation, the process will be reasonably straightforward; however, either parent can object. Obtaining visitation rights over a parent's objection can be difficult, however, and assistance of a Portland child custody attorney is invaluable. The second and the more common way that a grandparent can obtain visitation rights is by petitioning the court in the county where the child currently resides.
Although these processes come about in different ways, in either case, grandparents or family members must be able to show that they have a strong relationship with the child. Specifically, a grandparent or relative can either show that they have emotional ties to the child resulting in a relationship akin to a "parent-child relationship," or an "ongoing personal relationship." Each of these relationships has unique requirements that must be met; however, in either case, the person seeking custody must show that the parents are not acting in the best interest of the child and that maintaining contact with the child is in the child's best interest.
Under Oregon law, a parent-child relationship is one that meets "the child's psychological need for a parent as well as the child's physical needs," and has been developed before the six months leading up to the petition. Additionally, the grandparent must have either had physical custody of the child or provided for the daily needs of the child for the six months before the petition was filed. If a grandparent or other third-party can establish they have a parent-child relationship with a child, they are eligible for custody, guardianship or visitation rights.
Oregon law defines an ongoing personal relationship as one that includes "interaction, companionship, interplay and mutuality" and has been in existence for at least a year. By proving that an ongoing personal relationship exists, a grandparent or other third party can obtain visitation rights, but not custody of the child.
Securing Grandparent visitation rights in Oregon after a parent has refused to allow children to have contact with a grandparent can be an uphill battle, and those considering seeking contested visitation rights should reach out to a dedicated Portland family law attorney for assistance.
Obtaining Grandparent of Third-Party Custody of a Child in Oregon
Occasionally, parents may be either unwilling or unable to provide the necessary care and support for their minor children. When this occurs, parents will often look to grandparents for assistance in raising the child. This may result in a grandparent being appointed the legal guardian of the child or being awarded legal custody of the child. If both parents of a child agree to a guardianship or custody petition, the process can be a fairly straightforward one; however, the process is prolonged if either parent objects.
If granted, an Oregon guardianship petition allows a grandparent or other relative to make legal decisions on a child's behalf. Often guardianship petitions are temporary, and some families use them in situations where a parent is expected to be able to step back into a parental role in the future. For example, a guardianship may be appropriate if a parent is incarcerated, overcoming addiction, or physical or mental health issues.
Grandparents and other family members can also seek legal custody of children through an Oregon child custody petition. To do so, the person applying for custody must prove that they have "established emotional ties creating a child-parent relationship" with the child. Typically, a custody petition is filed after the child has lived with the grandparent or another family member for at least a year and has been providing for the child's daily needs. Custody is considered more permanent than guardianship, and is harder to change or undo. For this reason, establishing custody is also harder to do. Either parent has the right to object to another person seeking guardianship or custody of their child. If contested, the party seeking custody must overcome the presumption that parents are assumed to act in their child's best interests.
Schedule a Consultation with an Oregon Child Custody Attorney
If you are seeking custody or visitation rights for your grandchild, contact one of the dedicated family law attorneys at Gearing, Rackner & McGrath, LLP. As committed Oregon family law advocates, we have extensive experience handling child custody cases on behalf of grandparents and other interested third-parties. We can also help you establish a persuasive case for visitation rights. Our team of attorneys has extensive experience effectively resolving all types of Portland family law issues, and we look forward to helping you obtain visitation or custody of your grandchildren. To learn more about how our award-winning attorneys can help you, call us at 503-222-9116 or or contact us through our online form to learn more about how we can help.