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Co-Parenting in Separate States

How Oregon Handles Child Custody

Parenting when you’re not married to your children’s co-parent is rarely easy. Navigating the legal system while keeping your kids happy and healthy takes a lot of work. If you or your co-parent are considering leaving the state, it only gets more complicated.

There’s no federal law that dictates how states should split responsibility for children between unmarried parents. As a result, every state has slightly different rules and requirements. When the laws don’t line up, parental relationships can suffer.

If you have a custodial agreement or you believe you’ll need one soon, the state you live in makes all the difference. Here’s what you need to know about how Oregon child custody laws work when the agreement needs to cross state lines.

Current State Laws

There are two types of custody that Oregon courts consider in every case: legal and physical. Legal custody is the right and responsibility to make decisions for the child, such as where they go to school and receive medical care. Meanwhile, physical custody is the right to house and care for the child.

Oregon has a unique approach to child custody. Unlike many states, Oregon law often leads to one parent having complete legal control for a kid. Why? Because the policy is designed to avoid future legal conflicts.

Complete joint custody is the default, where both parents have the right to make legal decisions for their kids. However, if eitherperson objects to joint custody, then the court must award full legal custody to one of them. This may or may not be the parent who objected.

If legal custody is awarded to one parent, they may still have joint physical custody. This allows the non-custodial parent to still live with and raise their child part of the time. Otherwise, sole physical custody is also awarded to one person, and the other will only get visitation.

Regardless of the exact legal order, the parents will need to set up a parenting plan. This plan outlines when and how long the kid will be with each parent, how the kid will move back and forth, and how the parents can adjust the plan if something comes up. Oregon courts encourage parents to work together on this plan, though the court will step in if they can’t find an agreement.

Co-Parenting Complications: Multi-State Custody

Because there’s no universal federal law regarding custody, individual states needed to find a solution for reconciling the differences between their laws. Every state except New Jersey has chosen to adopt the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). This Act states that all custodial actions need to take place in the child’s home state.

The “home state” is considered the state that the kid has lived in most frequently over the past six months. Regardless of where either adult lives, custodial cases can only take place in that state. It’s also illegal to have two or more custodial cases running for the same child in different states.

Since Oregon has adopted the UCCJEA, your custody case will most likely take place in this state. Even if you or your partner is planning on moving, you’ll need to handle changing the parenting plan here. That’s inconvenient for the person that moves away, but it’s intended to keep the child safe.

How to Navigate Interstate Parenting

If you and your co-parent are about to live in different states, you’ll need to work harder to stay on top of the parenting plan. Here are three things you should keep in mind to parent well, even in separate states.

Consider Filing a Petition to Block or Approve a Move

In Oregon, either person can move up to 60 miles away without notifying the other as long as they maintain the parenting agreement. However, longer moves require advanced notice and permission from the other person.

Depending on the circumstances, you may not want your co-parent to leave the state. You can file a petition in court to block their planned move. This petition is your chance to convince the judge that the change is not in your child’s best interest.

On the other hand, if your co-parent petitions to block your planned move, you can still fight back. In this case, you’ll need to petition the court for permission to move regardless of their argument. Both of these petitions are intended to help you maintain your parenting plan and avoid uprooting your child’s life.

Update the Parenting Plan

If either of you moves out of state, you’re probably too far apart to maintain your old parenting plan. You’ll need to update it so both of you can spend the time you’ve been granted with your children.

A typical interstate parenting plan puts the child at one parent’s home during the school year and at the other’s during the summer and certain weekends or breaks. If you don’t share physical custody, then the custodial parent will typically have the children more often. The non-custodial party will have generous summer visitation.

Keep Your Kid’s Best Interests in Mind

Finally, you should always put your children first. It’s all too easy to let custodial struggles turn into a way to hurt your co-parent. The problem is that behavior like that will hurt your kid, too.

Take the high road and work to cooperate with your co-parent when you can. If they’re fighting things that are genuinely in your child’s best interest, work with an attorney to sort things out. Yelling and fighting will only make your kid unhappy without solving anything.

Make the Most of the Home State Advantage

Updating custodial orders is always easier when you work with a qualified family law attorney, no matter where you live. If your child’s home state is Oregon, you should reach out to a local attorney that understands state laws.

The right lawyer can help you file petitions about a move and update parenting plans to fit your new life. Get the legal help you need to protect your rights as a parent today.