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Child Custody/Parenting Time/Child Support

Here is some helpful information about:

Portland Parenting Time Lawyer

Generally, Oregon courts make initial custody decisions based on what is "in the best interests of the child." In making this determination, the court is instructed to consider the following factors when deciding which parent will be awarded custody of minor children:

  1. The emotional ties between the child and other family members;
  2. The interest of the parent in the child and the parent's attitude toward the child;
  3. The desirability of continuing an existing relationship;
  4. The abuse of one parent by another;
  5. The preference for the primary caregiver of the child, if the caregiver is deemed fit by the court; and
  6. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.

In practical terms, this means that in many cases, the parent who has accepted primary responsibility for bringing up the child in the past will probably be awarded the care and custody of the child in the future provided that they encourage ongoing contact between the child and their former spouse. The non-custodial parent will be allowed reasonable rights of visitation. Oregon law calls this visitation schedule a "parenting plan."

Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody

Joint custody is an award of the child's legal custody to both parents with a specific provision made for his or her primary place of residence. It assumes that each parent has an equal say in making major decisions that impact the child's life. Joint custody does not necessarily mean equal parenting time. The court is only allowed to order joint legal custody if both parties agree

In general, joint custody will work only if both parents communicate and cooperate with each other. Joint custody can be terminated at any time simply by a party filing a request for modification based on joint custody no longer being in the child’s best interest. Generally, this indicates to the court that joint decision making is no longer working. A modification of legal custody from joint custody to sole custody does not necessarily mean that the non-custodial parent's parenting time schedule will change.

Conversely, an award of sole custody means that one parent has the sole right to make vital decisions regarding a child's education, religious training, health care, and the like without consultation with the other parent. Often times, custody agreements provide for sole custody to one parent with an obligation to consult with the other parent on major decisions. In those circumstances, if a disagreement arises, the parent with sole custody still has the authority make the decision over the objection of the other parent. Sole custody is far more common due to the agreement and cooperation required to make joint custody work and the ease of termination of joint custody.

Parenting Time (Visitation)

The court will usually approve any parenting plan (visitation schedule) agreed to by you and your spouse. A typical schedule is to alternate weekends and specify time during the summer and holidays. We encourage liberal time-sharing except in extraordinary circumstances. Parenting time plans vary depending on where each parent lives and the age and needs of the children.

Creating a Parenting Plan That Works

Parents who are experiencing moderate to high conflict with each other are encouraged to consider the following ideas when creating a parenting plan. This checklist is not intended for use by parents who are able to negotiate parenting time schedules in a cooperative way. Keep in mind that not all of the ideas are appropriate for all parents. The parenting plan should take into consideration the unique circumstances of each family.

  • Parenting time provisions.

    • Specify the exact days and times the child will be with each parent.
    • Consider how holidays, vacations, and special occasions will be treated.
    • Draft the schedule in a way to minimize the number of transfers from parent to parent (for example, have the non-residential parent pick up the child from school or day care rather than from the residential parent's home).
    • Eliminate mid-week parenting times and insignificant holidays and add an extra weekend overnight instead.
    • Consider keeping the school year schedule in effect during the summer and have the child stay with the non-residential parent for a couple of weeks during the summer, and also for a week in October, February and May.
  • Pick up, drop off.

    • Specify the exact time and location for pick up and drop off, with a short grace period.
    • Fashion the plan to avoid face to face contact between the parents during the exchange when possible.
    • Face to face exchanges should occur in public places (restaurant, library, day care, etc.).
  • School and extracurricular events.

    • Parents should avoid attendance at these events at the same time, unless they are major life events.
    • Specify in the plan which events each parent shall attend or a method for determining who will attend (for example, Mom attends on even numbered days and Dad attends on odd numbered days).
    • Both parents should make it possible for the child to participate in regularly scheduled activities, such as sports and other extracurricular events, even if the activities occur during parenting time.
  • Anti-Move Provision.

    The law requires each parent to give the other parent reasonable notice before moving more than 60 miles further distant from the other parent.
    • Clearly define what "reasonable notice" is.
    • Geographic distance may be shortened to something less than sixty miles.
    • Create a restriction which prevents a parent from moving the child outside of the school district.
    • Consider making the moving parent prove that the move is in the child's best interest.
  • Considerations.

    • If drugs, alcohol and/or domestic violence are involved, consider using supervised parenting time services, supervised pick up/drop off, drug and alcohol evaluations, testing, treatment, and/or batterers intervention. Ask for information about the court's Parental Access Program.
  • Communication.

    • Generally, the parents should not communicate about the child in the child's presence or through the child.
    • Specify that the parents are not to communicate with each other through the child.
    • Depending on the preferences and resources of the parents, e-mail or telephone contact between the parents may be appropriate.
    • A method for the child to communicate with the parents may be specified.
  • Decision making.

    • Specify decision making responsibility. Generally, the less cooperation that is required, the less potential for conflict.
    • Discuss specific items (i.e., diet, religion, appearance, dating, etc.) that both parents have an interest in at the time the plan is drafted.
  • Flexibility:

    • Specify the degree of flexibility that will be allowed. High conflict parents may need an inflexible, highly structured plan.
  • Child's Toys and Possessions.

    • Each parent has a set of toys, clothing, car seats and other personal items for the child.
    • When the above is not possible, be specific about which items will be transferred and what shape they will be in when they are returned (i.e., washing most of the clothes being returned).
  • Child's refusal to spend time with a parent.

    • Children should not be permitted to decide if they will spend time with the non-residential parent.
    • Teenagers' social needs and busy schedules should be taken into consideration.
    • If child is extremely ill, make up time can be forwarded to the following week. Siblings should still go.
  • Dispute resolution.

    • Parents should consider submitting future disputes about the parenting plan to a parenting referee or returning to mediation.
    • Parents should be aware of free mediation services provided by their county for resolution of custody and parenting time disputes.

Many counties have a model parenting plan that can be used by those families that do not want to write their own. Contrary to popular belief, the model plan is not a statement of the law, a minimum or a maximum time allowed between the child and the non-custodial parent. It is exactly what it says it is: a model plan that can be adopted or ignored at your own discretion.

Calculating Child Support

In Oregon, the court uses a strict formula to set the amount of support to be paid from one parent to the other on behalf of a child. Child support is thus typically the result of a fairly mathematical equation. Each party enters into the variables of that equation the numbers which apply to their particular case and the calculator sets a final child support award.

The variables of the child support equation include, among other things:

  1. Number of joint children;
  2. Number of non-joint children for each parent;
  3. Spousal support paid and spousal support received;
  4. Gross monthly income of each party;
  5. Social Security and Veteran's benefits received for the benefit of joint children;
  6. Number of overnight visits each child spends with each parent;
  7. Cost of providing health insurance for the benefit of joint children;
  8. Uninsured and recurring medical expenses for joint children that exceed $250 per year; and
  9. Cost of providing child care for the benefit of joint children.

The formula can be found on the web at http://www.oregonchildsupport.gov/calculator/pages/index.aspx.

It may be helpful and informative to run the formula on your own to see the effects of changing the variables. We would, however, recommend that you consult with an attorney about the number you reached and whether you inputted the number correctly into the calculator.

Rebutting the Child Support Guidelines

The state's child support formula will be used unless your case presents exceptional circumstances. The most common examples of such circumstances are an obligor's inability to pay or special needs of the child.

Termination of Child Support

The court generally orders child support to be paid until the child's 18th birthday. Depending on particular circumstances, the court may extend support to age 21 if the child is attending school. It is possible for support for a child attending school to be paid directly to the child. Drafting of a child support judgment is important in making these determinations.

Modification of a Prior Child Support Award

Every three years either parent can ask their local county Deputy District Attorney, Support Enforcement Division, to recalculate support based on the current income figures of the parties. This service is free.

Alternatively, a party may request a recalculation at any time if there has been a “substantial change of circumstances.” Examples of such changes are significant changes in either parent's income, a significant reduction in child care expenses or an increase in medical insurance costs or a significant change in the amount of time that a joint child spends with each parent.

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