We're About More Than Divorce

Child Custody 101: Basics Every Parent Should Know

As a parent, understanding the fundamentals of child custody law is crucial to ensuring the well-being of your child and maintaining a stable family dynamic during divorces and separations. At Regele Law, LLC, we believe that informed parents can make better decisions for their families. This guide will walk you through the basics of child custody, providing you with the knowledge you need to approach this sensitive issue with confidence.

Types of Child Custody

Child custody encompasses two primary areas: legal and physical custody. Each type addresses different aspects of parenting and decision-making.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make significant decisions about your child’s life. This includes decisions about education, health care, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. Courts may award it as:

  • Sole: One parent has the exclusive right to make major decisions for the child. The other parent may still have visitation rights and access to information but does not have decision-making authority.
  • Joint: Both parents share the decision-making responsibilities. This arrangement requires effective communication and cooperation between parents to ensure the child’s needs are met.

Physical Custody

Physical custody pertains to where the minor lives and the day-to-day care they receive. It can also be categorized into two forms:

  • Sole: The child resides primarily with one parent, while the other parent may have visitation rights.
  • Joint: The child spends significant time living with both parents, which can be structured in various ways to ensure that their schedule is balanced and meets the needs of both parents.

Typically, Oregon courts prefer to award parents joint custody. However, one parent may be awarded primary or sole custodial rights if it appears to be the best option for the minor’s well-being. 

Factors Courts Consider in Child Custody Cases

When determining custody arrangements, courts prioritize the best interests of the child. Several factors are considered to ensure that the child’s welfare is the primary focus:

  1. Child’s Age and Health: The physical and emotional needs of the minor at different developmental stages are carefully evaluated.
  2. Parent-Child Relationship: The bond between the children and each parent, including the ability of each parent to provide love, guidance, and support.
  3. Parental Stability: The mental and physical health of each parent, as well as their ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment.
  4. Parental Cooperation: The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate a positive relationship between the kids and the other parent.
  5. Child’s Preference: Depending on the minor’s age and maturity, their preference may be taken into account.
  6. History of Abuse or Neglect: Any history of domestic violence, abuse, or neglect by either parent is a critical factor.

With these factors taken into account, the court will determine if it is best to give both parents joint parenting rights, award primary custody to one and visitation to the other, or revoke one parent’s custodial rights altogether. 

Establishing a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is a document that breaks down how the parents will share responsibilities and time with their children. Plans can range in complexity, but a basic parenting plan should address:

  • Legal Arrangements: Clearly define legal and physical custody arrangements, including primary residence and visitation schedules.
  • Decision-Making: Detail how major decisions regarding the minor’s upbringing will be made.
  • Dispute Resolution: Establish a process for resolving disagreements, such as mediation or counseling.
  • Communication: Set guidelines for how parents will communicate with each other and the minor.
  • Scheduling: Include a detailed schedule that covers weekdays, weekends, holidays, vacations, and special occasions.

Modifying Custody Arrangements

Life circumstances can change, requiring modifications to custody arrangements. To modify an existing custody order, the parent requesting the change must demonstrate that there has been a “material” or substantial change in circumstances and that the modification is in the best interests of the child. Common reasons for modification include:

  • Relocation: One parent moving to a different geographic area.
  • Changes in Employment: A parent’s work schedule or job location changes significantly.
  • Health Issues: Changes in the health of the minor or a parent.
  • Parental Behavior: Evidence of substance abuse, neglect, or domestic violence.

However, suppose there is no material change in circumstances. In that case, you are unlikely to have your request for modification granted without your coparent’s agreement.

Enforcing Custody Orders

In some cases, one parent may fail to comply with the court-ordered parenting plan. When this happens, the other parent can take legal action to enforce the order. If you believe you need help enforcing an order, keep a detailed record of any violations of the order. You will use this information to support your claim after you file a motion with the court to enforce the order. In severe cases, the non-compliant parent may be found in contempt of court, leading to penalties such as fines or jail time.

Working with an Experienced Family Law Attorney

Navigating child custody matters requires a thorough understanding of the law and a compassionate approach to addressing the needs of your children. Working with an experienced family law attorney can provide invaluable support and guidance throughout the process. At Regele Law, LLC, our team is dedicated to helping parents achieve the best possible outcome for their families. We offer personalized legal advice and representation to ensure that your rights are protected and your child’s best interests are prioritized.

Moving Forward With Salem, Oregon, Child Custody Cases

Child custody is a complex and emotionally charged issue, but understanding the basics can empower you to make informed decisions for your family. By familiarizing yourself with the types of custody, factors considered by courts, and the importance of a comprehensive parenting plan, you can navigate this challenging process with greater confidence. Remember, the ultimate goal is to ensure the well-being and stability of your child, and seeking the assistance of a knowledgeable family law attorney can make a significant difference in achieving that goal.

For more information and personalized assistance, contact Regele Law, LLC, in Salem, Oregon, today. We are here to support you through every step of your child custody journey.