Family Law FAQ

What is the difference between custody and parenting time?

  • Custody and parenting time are completely distinct from one another and are not mutually exclusive in any way. Having custody of a child usually involves having the decision-making power of three major things in a child's life: (1) where the child goes to school; (2) what, if any, religious upbringing the child may have; and (3) who is the child's medical provider. Of course, there are other important decisions to make in each child's life, however, with custody the three above items are typically the key ones. When dealing with custody, there is two types of custodial arrangements: (1) sole custody, where one parent has the sole decision-making power, and (2) joint custody, where both parents have equal power to make those decisions jointly or together. In contrast, parenting time refers to the time that each parent may spend with their child regardless of the custodial arrangement.

How is child custody determined?

  • In Oregon, custody is determined by what is in the best interests of the children. ORS 107.137, lays out the relevant factors a court shall consider when making a determination:
  • The emotional ties between the child and other family members;
  • The interest of the parties in and attitude toward the child;
  • The desirability of continuing an existing relationship;
  • The abuse of one parent by the other;
  • The preference for the primary caregiver of the child, if the caregiver is deemed fit by the court; and
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child. However, the court may not consider such willingness and ability if one parent shows that the other parent has sexually assaulted or engaged in a pattern of behavior 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 or the child.

I am a grandparent and I want to get custody of my grandchildren, can I?

  • The short answer is no. The US Supreme Court in Troxel v. Granville ruled that “Parents have a fundamental right to control the upbringing of their children, and a law that allows anyone to petition a court for child visitation rights over parental objections unconstitutionally infringes on this right.” Although grandparents do not have the same rights as parents when it comes to the child, there are ways for grandparents or third parties to gain custody or visitation rights to their grandchildren. Contact our family law attorneys to gain more information.

What is the difference between a dissolution and a legal separation?

  • In many instances, parties do not want to get a dissolution (commonly called a “divorce”) but instead want a legal separation. Fundamentally, a dissolution and a legal separation operate identically. In both, provisions can be made for child custody, parenting time, support, and property divisions. However, a dissolution dissolves the marriage entirely, while a legal separation keeps the marriage intact. Thus, triggering the question: Why get a legal separation instead of a dissolution? The answer boils down to three (3) main points. First, a party may have religious beliefs or teachings that present a barrier to getting a dissolution. Second, there is a residency requirement to get a dissolution in the State of Oregon. Some individuals do not meet that requirement but can get a legal separation to establish the residency and then convert it to a dissolution once the residency is established. Lastly, a party may not be fully committed to getting a divorce and may want to engage in a “try-it-out” period. A dissolution makes the decision final, while a legal separation doesn't have that finality.

How are assets and debts divided in a dissolution?

  • Oregon is an equitable distribution state, meaning the goal is to distribute the assets and debts in a fair, or equitable manner. When a court divides assets and debts during a dissolution, a variety of factors are considered to decide whether the allocation of assets and debts is fair to each party.

How is child support is calculated in Oregon?

  • All child support awards are calculated pursuant to the Oregon Child Support Guidelines. The amount calculated are in monthly amounts and can be accessible by anyone. The calculator can be found here: https://justice.oregon.gov/guidelines.

How long does a typical dissolution take?

  • The answer is completely dependent on the cooperation and amicability between the parties. An uncontested dissolution where the parties are amicable and don't have any contested issues, can take anywhere from 3-5 months, provided everything goes smoothly. On the other hand, a contested dissolution where there are multiple issues, can easily take anywhere from 9 months to over a year.

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