Oregon Family Law:

“My husband and I had very difficult custody proceedings and were told by several lawyers not to pursue the matter because we could not win since the child we were trying to get custody of was not biologically related to us. When we first met with Mr. Bradley, he told us the case would be extremely difficult to win but that he would give us his best advice and support. He did exactly that. We won our case after a very long and emotional court battle. The end result was far more than we ever expected. Without Mr. Bradley’s stellar representation, our family would be incomplete today. We thank Mr. Bradley every night when we kiss our daughter and tuck her into bed. We highly recommend Mr. Bradley to those in similar situations.”

˜ Malinda and Bryan Bash

Child Custody in Oregon

Custody cases are determined by a variety of factors. Those include statutes (laws), appellate cases interpreting the laws, and administrative rules.

ORS 107.137 is the statute that governs custody. The statute requires a court to consider the following factors, not focusing on just one:

  1. The emotional ties between the child and other family members.
  2. The interests of the parties in and attitude toward the child (this is typically the parent who adjusts their work schedule to be home with the child).
  3. The desirability of continuing an existing relationship.
  4. The abuse of one parent by the other.
  5. The child’s preference for the primary caregiver of the child if the caregiver is deemed fit by the court. And...
  6. Each parent’s willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child. However, the court may not consider this factor if one parent shows that the other parent has sexually assaulted or engaged in a pattern of abuse against the parent or a child and that a continuing relationship with the other parent will endanger the health or safety of either parent of the child.

The primary parent or primary caregiver is the parent who spends the most time meeting the child’s daily needs. If all other factors are relatively even, it is likely that custody will be given to the primary parent or caregiver.

Courts may find that both parents are primary parents or caregivers, or may find that one parent was a primary caregiver during part, but not all, of a child’s life.

There is no “magic” age where children get to decide which parent they live with. I often hear parents say that when their child turns 12, the child gets to decide where to live. That is not true. But it is true that the older a child is, the more weight is given to their preference, provided that the preferences are not based simply on which parent gives the most presents or is the most lenient.

If there are two or more children, it is highly unlikely the court will separate the children. That is not true if the parents agree to separate the children or if the court determines it is in the children’s best interests to be separated. In my experience, courts will begin trials by saying that they will not separate the children.

Joint custody is allowed in Oregon only when both parents want joint custody. If one parent does not agree with joint custody, a court is prohibited from ordering it. Joint custody simply means that the parents will jointly decide where a child lives, with whom, what school they will attend, what doctors they will visit, and what religion, if any, they will follow. It is possible to have an award of sole custody to one parent with the parents sharing the child 50% of the time.

The most important distinction between sole custody and joint custody arises when one parent wants to modify custody. If the parents have joint custody, the only issue at the trial on modification is “the best interests” of the child. However, if sole custody is granted to one parent and the other parent seeks to modify custody, that parent must first show that there has been a substantial and unforeseen change in circumstances since entry of the last custody determination. One of those changes must be one parent’s increased or decreased ability to parent.

The best custody lawyers have proven strategies for winning custody cases. Typically, family members are asked to describe the relationship between the child and each parent. School teachers can be very important in describing which parent has been more involved in the child’s education. Sometimes psychologists or other professionals are employed to perform an "independent custody evaluation." There are times good lawyers recommend that evaluation and times when they should be avoided.

In Lane County, both parties are required to attend one free mediation session. The mediator is not there to say who is right and who is wrong, nor to say who will win and who will lose. Instead, their sole responsibility is to help the parents talk to one another so that they can reach an agreement that they think is best for their child. What is said in mediation is confidential and cannot be repeated if you go to trial. It is okay to not agree in mediation.

Most custody cases take at least 40 hours of an attorney’s time. If your case goes to trial, we will meet many times to develop a strategy, decide who will testify, and agree on what areas to ask questions of the other parent’s witnesses.

Custody cases are like most areas of law - the better prepared side is much more likely to win than the side that is not prepared. That is particularly true when there is a good strategy for winning.

Our law firm prides itself on its success in child custody cases and believes firmly in the method we’ve developed for settling these cases and, when necessary, when taking these cases to trial.

Free Consultation

We offer a free 20 minute consultation for anyone experiencing a family law problem. We will go into greater detail into what your rights are and how we envision preparing your case.

We have represented hundreds of family law clients and would be honored to represent you. Call us at 541.344.3446 for your free consultation

web design by: www.blinknewmedia.com