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How Oregon Laws Support Non-Traditional Family Structures

The Non-Nuclear Family

In the 21st century, it’s become obvious that the supposedly “traditional” nuclear family may not be as typical as we thought. We’ve moved past the time where it’s expected that everyone will have a heterosexual marriage, have biological children, and live separately from the rest of their family and friends. Non-traditional families are becoming more common, and more importantly, legally recognizable.

Oregon is one of the trailblazers in the US when it comes to non-traditional families. There are several legal options available for people who are breaking free from the mold of the nuclear family. Here’s how Oregon makes it easier to build your own family.

How Oregon Adoption Law Works

The most basic method of adding new people to your family is adoption. In Oregon, adoption requires an adoption petition and a significant amount of background information regarding the child’s paternity. Other requirements include:

  • Providing any exhibits necessary to support the reason for the adoption
  • Documentation regarding whether the adoption requires the consent of an absent parent
  • Any information regarding whether the adoption is contested

While it’s not legally required that you have a lawyer for certain adoptions, it is highly recommended by the Oregon court system that you work with an experienced attorney. The state takes child welfare very seriously, so the adoption process involves juggling many details to ensure the adopted people will be taken care of.

Adding Additional Parents

Within that basic framework, though, there’s plenty of room for adjustment. For example, Oregon law allows for children to have more than two legally recognized parents. This can be important in a broad range of relationships.

The most common reason for adding a third or subsequent parent to your child’s life is simple. If you or your ex-partner have married someone new, then that step-parent may want to have the same legal rights and responsibilities toward your kids as you do.

In this case, doing a second or third-parent adoption gives your child another adult who can care for them. Meanwhile, the newly-minted parent can now help with things like doctor appointments and school enrollment.

Another less frequent but still important scenario occurs when parents are in non-traditional romantic relationships. If three people are in a relationship with each other, then this method of adoption allows all three people to have equal parental recognition.

Adopting Adult Children

When it comes to adoption, minors aren’t the only people who should be considered. Just because a step-child is an adult doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from being legally adopted. Adopting your spouse’s adult children can help clarify things like emergency contacts, medical decisions, and inheritance in the future.

Adopting an adult requires their consent, but it can also be simpler than other forms of adoption. Because they don’t need a guardian’s approval, there are fewer moving parts to manage during the adoption process than for younger kids. As a result, you can more simply gain legal recognition for the family you’ve already chosen.

Other Non-Traditional Family Structures

Parents and children aren’t the only family members that matter. Oregon also has several laws that allow for other non-traditional types of family arrangements to gain legal recognition. Here are some other methods by which you can build a family unit that makes sense for you and yours.

Domestic Partners

While it’s now legal nationwide for adults of any gender to marry each other, marriage isn’t the only option available. For people who don’t want to get married, Oregon also offers domestic partnerships as an alternative.

Domestic partnerships carry many of the same rights and responsibilities as marriages do. They are both legally binding partnerships that are intended to last for life. The most significant difference is that Oregon recognizes unregistered domestic partnerships, whereas it rarely recognizes common-law marriages.

An unregistered domestic partnership occurs when two adults live together and share assets, income, or debts during their romantic relationship. While registered domestic partnerships are more legally robust, unregistered partnerships are still an alternative that can protect unmarried couples.

Unmarried Parents

Parents who live together but aren’t married or in a registered domestic partnership with each other will often be considered to have an unregistered partnership. If you and your partner live and raise your children together, then the law believes your lives are intertwined and gives you some rights regarding each other’s assets.

While you can remain in an unregistered domestic partnership as co-parents in a relationship, you should be careful with matters surrounding custody. Unmarried parents have joint custody by default in Oregon unless one parent requests full custody of the kids. In that case, the court must examine both parents for fitness and award full custody to one parent (not necessarily the parent who made the petition).

Suppose you are not listed as a parent on your child’s birth certificate for any reason. In that case, this can become complicated very quickly. There’s no need to marry your partner, but you should keep your children in mind when you make any decisions surrounding custody and partnerships.

Grandparents and Grandchildren

Finally, some families don’t involve parents at all. Many Oregon families involve grandparents caring for their grandchildren. These families are just as important as something more nuclear.

Grandparents can adopt their grandchildren to take full custody if they need more rights regarding their care. A grandparent adoption looks similar to step-parent adoption. Still, there is a higher chance that the adoption is contested. Working with an experienced attorney can help the grandparent adoption process go smoothly despite any contestations.

Build Your Own Family

There’s no reason to stick with the nuclear family model if it doesn’t work for you. There are plenty of methods available to you to have your real family legally recognized. That might involve adopting an adult child, adding additional parents for your children, or simply taking advantage of legal structures for domestic partnerships. Oregon law lets you build your family the way you want it to be.

Of course, navigating the legal system can be difficult alone. Never hesitate to reach out for help. With the expert family law team at Regele Law, LLC, you can find the help you need to acknowledge the family you’ve chosen.