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Child Custody
Portland Child Custody Attorney

Parents are often uncertain about what the word “custody” means. Legal custody means that a parent has the authority to make important decisions for a child, such as what school a child attends, the kind of health care a child receives, and what kind of religious training, if any, a child receives. In Oregon, a court can award joint legal custody only if both parents agree that is best for their child. If the parents choose to have joint legal custody, they can also agree that one parent has “tie-breaking” authority in some or all of the important issues in the event there are substantial disputes. Joint legal custody can be a powerful signal to a child that, even with a divorce, both parents are committed to the child’s best interests.

If the parents cannot agree to some form of joint legal custody, the court must award one parent sole legal custody. The parent with sole legal custody can make major decisions about a child’s well being without the other parent’s consent. For example, if the legal custodian determines that a child needs counseling and the other parent objects, the legal custodian makes the final decision.

If there is a dispute about legal custody, and both parents are equally fit and without significant issues that impact parenting ability, under Oregon law, the parent who has been primarily responsible for the child’s care will generally be awarded legal custody.

Sometimes a parent may believe that obtaining “custody” or “full custody” means the child will spend most of the time in that parent’s household. Sometimes this is referred to as physical custody, or “visitation,” but those words have been supplanted by the Oregon Legislature, which refers to each parent’s contact with a child as “parenting time.”

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