What are the Oregon Child Custody Laws?
Every child is the responsibility of his/her parent/s or legal guardian/s. In a situation wherein the parents are pursuing a divorce, then both parents are deemed to be responsible for their child/children, whether natural or adopted, unless a parent is declared as unfit to helm their responsibilities owing to incarceration, terminal illness, addiction or stipulated exogenous circumstances. Child custody essentially comprises of two elements namely, child support and residence of the child with the parent authorized for custody.
Child Custody Laws in Oregon are governed by specific statutes of Divorce Laws, Laws for guardianship by Grandparents, Laws for custody and visitation for people other than Parents and the Uniform Child Custody Act. Before delving into the statutes, it is also important to understand the determining factors for ascertaining “best interests of the child”, as evaluated by Oregon family courts, such as:
- History of behavior, moral conduct, and parenting of parties involved.
- Parent with a better grasp of a child’s needs (physical, emotional and psychological), a parent with a better bonding and the attitude of such parents in facilitating contact with non-custodial parents.
- The ability of parents to arrive at shared decisions towards the child’s welfare.
- Parent’s ability to protect a child from conflict, abuse or violence.
- The proximity of parent to child by location.
- Other factors that the court may deem relevant.
- Parent’s ability to create a parenting schedule or to follow one established by the Court.
The aforesaid considerations are already factored in the following statutes:
- Child Custody Laws as notified under Oregon Revised Statutes 109.701, Uniform Child Custody Act: The State of Oregon, under its Child Custody Law, permits for joint custody of children to both parents, including physical and legal custody. Herein, the parents are required to submit an acceptable parenting calendar or schedule. In case, the parents are unable to make it, then the Courts have the discretion to create such a schedule for the parents. Both parents are mandated to uphold the conditions and requirements of the schedule and any violation by either parent may result in the loss of custody. Additionally, the Court also factors in the child’s wishes such that separation from a parent does not result in a distressful or traumatic experience for the child.
- Furthermore, tests of criminal offenses of child abuse, child exploitation, domestic violence, slavery, and kidnapping are also considered by the court, even though it is a family court. Upon discovery of any such offense, the prosecution of such an offense is transferred to a criminal court and the custody rights of such a parent are seized until proven innocent. It is pertinent to note that while the judicial maxim of innocent unless proven guilty applies to all other laws, in case of child custody, the judiciary exercises precaution, lest any further harm is inflicted on the child.
- Notifications for Divorce under Oregon Revised Statutes 107: Herein, the physical, financial and legal status of either parent is ratified along with factors of ability to be a single parent, submissions towards child custody and behavior history of the parent, which may or may not involve complaints to Government authorities prior to the divorce. This is only a procedural aspect of the said laws and it reaches closure only as per the stipulations mentioned in the Uniform Child Custody Act.
- No Specified Statutes for Custody and visitation for Grandparents: Unlike many States where, If found to be the best alternative in the child’s interests, the Courts may consider custody or visitation by Grandparents, adult blood relatives or relatives who have had substantial history of raising the said child, Oregon does not present any such alternative to the Courts. Herein, it is required that the parties seeking custody or visitation, file a suit which is usually rejected by courts. If pursued, the Court explicitly deems such as option as better than parental custody or State facility.