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Oregon Child Custody
Child Custody in Oregon

According to Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 107.137 and 107.169, either parent may be awarded custody after considering the child's best interests.

Like other jurisdictions, the best interests of the child in deciding custody guide Oregon courts. In determining the best interests and welfare of the child, the Oregon court considers:

  • the emotional ties between the child and other family members;
  • the interest of the parties in and attitude toward the child;
  • the desirability of continuing an existing relationship;
  • the abuse of one parent by the other;
  • the preference for the primary caregiver of the child, if the caregiver is deemed fit by the court; and
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child, unless a continuing relationship with the other parent will endanger the health or safety of either parent or the child.

The court considers all factors equally with one exception. One factor may not be used to the exclusion of the other except for domestic or sexual abuse. Oregon law does not require a parent to cooperate with another parent who is abusive. A parent who takes steps to prevent a child from being abused by the other parent is not considered to be uncooperative for purposes of evaluating custody rights.

Under Oregon law, the wishes of the child himself cannot usually be considered; however, if the child is over 14 and has adamant preferences, these wishes may be taken into account for the overall decision.

Neither parent can move more than sixty miles from the original residence without filing the move with the court and devising a new plan for weekends and holidays.

The Oregon court enforces visitation and custody through the contempt power. A parent whose rights have been denied can bring the other parent to court. Before resolving the dispute, however, the court attempts to persuade the parents to resolve it themselves through mediation. Possible remedies include make-up visitation, modifying the visitation schedule, changing custody or, in extreme cases, jail time for the offending parent. However, any change in custody is still decided based on the best interests of the child, not just one parent interfering with the other parent's visitation.

Like other jurisdictions, Oregon encourages divorcing parents to cooperate in working out the details about raising their child after divorce. In the event the parents fails to agree, the court steps in to decide what is best for the child and to resolve issues.

Under child custody laws in Oregon, the court is prohibited from awarding custody based solely on the parents' gender or financial status.

Modification

Based on Oregon Revised Statutes: Chapter 107.137 and 107.169, modification of a joint custody order shall require showing of changed circumstances and that the modification is in the best interests of the child. Inability or unwillingness to continue to cooperate shall constitute a change of circumstances sufficient to modify a joint custody order

Joint Custody Preference

Oregon law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case. In Oregon, it is not generally considered in a child's best interest or welfare for an abusive parent to have sole or joint custody. This means that the court presumes that the abusive parent is unfit to have custody, unless the abusive parent is able to show otherwise.

Joint custody is deemed beneficial since it outlines the shared rights and responsibilities of the parents in child rearing. However, the courts only allow joint custody after determining that both parties agree to the arrangement and they are both capable of fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of joint parenting. If both parents desire to have joint custody, the court shall grant it unless the child's welfare is at risk.

An order providing for joint custody may specify one home as the primary residence of the child and designate one parent to have sole power to make decisions about specific matters while both parents retain equal rights and responsibilities for other decisions.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child.

A parent who has been abusive to either the child or the other parent will not be considered for custody. In addition, any parent who has been declared "unfit" will not receive custody but may receive visitation rights.

The court investigates the background of each parent to make certain that no sexual assaults or other patterns of abuse took place against the child, the fellow parent or both.

Oregon courts favor allowing the non-custodial parent reasonable and consistent visitation.

The non-custodial parent maintains a right to inspect school records and a right to contest whether the school is suitable for the child's continuing education. He or she can also contest what kind of medical treatment the child gets as well as have access to all medical records of the child. This parent also has the power to decide emergency medical treatment for the child if the parent with sole custody is unable to make a decision. Part of that emergency medical treatment decision can be psychological or psychiatric in nature.

Another right of the non-custodial parent is applying to be the child's conservator in the event the other parent with sole custody can no longer take care of the child.

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