top of page


Oregon policy assures minor children frequent and continuing contact with parents and encourages parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children after a legal separation or divorce (dissolution) when in the best interests of the children. Courts take these policies into account when they are deciding custody and parenting time issues. There is a distinct difference between a custody determination and parenting time. Custody determinations decide who will have decision-making authority for the minor child, while parenting time concerns when the child will be in the care of each parent.


Custody is the legal responsibility for the primary care of a minor child. The custodial parent is the person to whom the court has given the primary rights and responsibilities to supervise, care for, and educate the child; usually, that is the person with whom the child lives most of the time. When determining custody, the courts primary consideration is the best interests and welfare of the child. All other considerations are secondary. In determining the best interests and welfare of the child, the court shall consider the

following relevant factors, found in ORS 107.137:

(a) The emotional ties between the child and other family members;

(b) The interest of the parties in and attitude toward the child;

(c) The desirability of continuing an existing relationship;

(d) The abuse of one parent by the other;

(e) The preference for the primary caregiver of the child, if the caregiver is deemed fit by the

court; and

(f) The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.

Joint custody means that the parents agree to share rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, such as the child's residence, education, health care, and religious training. However, the court cannot order joint custody unless the parties agree to a joint custody arrangement. In the event that one party does not agree to joint custody, the court will be required to choose one parent to have sole custody of the children. Therefore, this concept only exists when it is part of a settlement. Contrary to popular belief, joint custody does not mean that the child spends equal time with each parent. The parenting plan is a distinctly different issue. Joint custody only refers to the equal sharing of responsibility for major decisions on behalf of the child. The court must honor parties' agreement for joint custody if that is what has been agreed upon.

Under Oregon law, both parents almost always have the right to access the child’s school, medical, dental, police and counseling records. Both parents can also typically authorize emergency medical care. In addition, most parenting plans will restrict a party from moving more than 60 miles from the other parent without first telling the other parent and the court 30 to 60 days before moving, in order to give the other parent an opportunity to contest the relocation or to have the court revise a prior custody determination and/or revise the parenting plan in the best interests of the child.A court order for custody may be changed later if it can be shown that there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the prior order, and that a different custodial parent would be in the best interests and welfare of the child.

Parenting time is the term used for court-ordered noncustodial time with a child. The schedule for that parenting time is referred to as the parenting time. The best interests of the child are the paramount concern in determining proper parenting time. Generally, a child’s well-rounded development depends on
association with both parents. Difficulties between parents, terminating in divorce, should not deprive the child of parenting time with the noncustodial parent. Each county handles the decision of parenting time different. Some counties tend to adopt more equal (50/50) parenting time while other counties lean towards an every-other weekend schedule. Parenting time may be denied if the visits adversely affect the child.


A parent can ask for a change in a parenting time schedule without having to show a substantial change in circumstances, but he or she would have to show that a different parenting time schedule is in the best interests of the child.

We encourage you to call our office at (541) 632-4313 for a free confidential consultation regarding your child custody and parenting time matter. For some more resources regarding family law in Oregon click here.

bottom of page