Child Custody

Parents in a custody proceeding may be awarded joint custody or one parent may be awarded sole custody.

What is joint custody?

  • In Oregon, joint custody means the parents share decision-making responsibilities for a child.
  • Parents may have joint custody even when a child lives exclusively with one parent.
  • A judge cannot award joint custody in Oregon unless both parents agree to it.
  • Joint custody does not do away with a parent’s child support obligation.
  • Child support is determined by the child support guidelines and is based on the parents’ income, the amount of time that the child spends with each parent, and other factors.

What is sole custody?

  • Sole custody in Oregon means that one parent makes all major decisions regarding the child.
  • Major decisions include but are not limited to the child’s religion, education, health care, and where the child lives.
  • If either parent objects to joint custody, a judge must decide which parent will have sole custody.

Factors a judge will consider in a custody proceeding:

  • A judge’s primary consideration in awarding custody is the best interests of the child.
  • In determining the best interests of a child, the court will consider numerous factors such as the emotional ties between the child and other family members and the parents’ interest and attitude toward the child.
  • The judge will also consider the conduct, marital status, income, social environment or lifestyle of a parent only if it is shown that those factors are causing or may cause emotional or physical harm to the child. Judges usually are reluctant to separate siblings.
  • A judge cannot give custody to a parent just because the parent is the mother or father of the child.
  • A judge may consider a child’s preference about where he or she wants to live, but a judge does not have to follow the child’s wishes.
  • A judge may rely on the testimony of expert witnesses such as psychologists, social workers, teachers, counselors, or psychiatrists to decide what is the best custody arrangement for the child.