There are, in the state of Oregon, two types of legal custody: Sole legal custody and Joint legal custody. Interestingly, whether a party is awarded sole legal or joint legal custody, the parenting time each parent spends with their children may be the same. Sole custody is an award of custody to one parent, authorizing that parent to make decisions regarding their child’s education, religion, healthcare and other major decisions. In addition, to modify sole legal custody, the non-custodial parent must prove what is called an unanticipated, substantial change in circumstances.
Joint Legal Custody is theoretically an award of custody to both parents, who, consistent with the statute defining Joint Custody may make major decisions involving their child jointly. Those decisions include the child’s education, religious training, healthcare and the like. In the state of Oregon, however, joint legal custody may only be ordered if both parties agree to the award. In the absence of an agreement by the parties, the statute defining Joint Legal Custody requires the Court to choose between the parents, awarding one or the other sole legal custody. The actual time a parent spends with his or her children does not depend on the type of custody awarded, but on the relationship that parent enjoys with his or her children. Non-custodial parents often receive extensive parenting time notwithstanding the award of sole legal custody to the other parent.
In the event of a dispute between the parents, Oregon Courts rely on a number of factors to determine who is best suited to be the custodial parent. Primarily, in determining which parent should be awarded custody, the Court attempts to determine what is in the best interest of the parties’ children. Among those factors the Court considers are the willingness of the parents to cooperate and facilitate the relationship of the other, the emotional ties between the child and the parent, and the preference for a primary caregiver of the child, if that primary caregiver is deemed fit.
The emotional complexity of a custodial dispute is difficult for the parties and the courts alike. It is important to gain the benefit of consultation of an attorney skilled and experienced in the area. My skill and experience in handling custodial disputes can help you through the process and often avoid unnecessary litigation. If you would care to discuss custody or parenting time issues, please feel free to contact me.