Portland Parenting Time ("Visitation") Attorney
In the past, the conventional wisdom was that a child should always be primarily with one parent, and that the other parent, no matter how skilled, would have “visitation.” Research in the social sciences discredited that position. Today, it is the policy of the State of Oregon that a child should have frequent and continuing contact with fit parents who have the ability to act in the child’s best interests. Further, effective January 1, 2020, the law regarding parenting time changes for cases filed after that date. Under the new law, if a parent requests equal contact with a child, the court may deny the request only if it determines in written findings that equal contact is not in the child's best interests or that it would endanger a child's safety. The new law will likely have an impact on how parties, mediators, and the courts resolve disputes about how much time a child should have with each parent.
A parent’s contact with a child is called “parenting time.” Parenting time is always modifiable, based on the best interests of the child. To ensure that a child has frequent and continuing contact with each parent, every divorce, legal separation, and paternity judgment involving child custody must include a “parenting plan.”
Parents may agree to a "general" parenting plan. All that is required for such a plan is a minimum allocation of parenting time. An example of a general parenting plan might be as follows: “Father will have the child every Monday and Tuesday, and Mother will have the child every Wednesday and Thursday. The parents will alternate the weekends.” That parenting time schedule is commonly known as a “2/2/5/5 ” parenting time schedule.
Parents may also elect to enter into, or the court may order, a detailed parenting plan. Such a parenting plan usually has provisions to allocate weekdays, weekends, legal holidays, and school breaks and vacations. A detailed parenting plan may also include provisions about who provides transportation for the child to and from parenting time, sharing the child’s clothing and sports equipment, terms for telephone, email, FaceTime and other similar services, and text communication between the parents and the child, as well as other practical provisions to help ensure that the child’s best interests are being met.
Many parenting plans also include a provision that parenting time can be changed at any time upon the agreement of both parties. Parenting plans can and should be tailored to the needs of the child first, and the parents' needs second. Ideally, parents should work together in a spirit of cooperation to develop a parenting plan that is in the children’s best interests.
Peter will work with you and with the opposing party's lawyer to develop a parenting plan that is the best fit for your family. If you already have a parenting plan in place, Peter can help you determine whether a modification of parenting time is appropriate, and, if necessary, will work with you to prepare documents to ask the court for a modification of the parenting time provisions of a prior judgment.
Sometimes, a parent may have an issue that could impact his or her fitness, such as a history of drug or alcohol abuse, physical abuse, or anger issues. In those cases, a parenting plan should include provisions to help ensure the child’s safety. For example, if one parent is a recovering alcoholic, depending on the circumstances, a parenting plan could include safety measures such as a complete prohibition on alcohol use during parenting time, coupled with random testing for alcohol use. Again, your parenting plan can and should be crafted to address the specific issues the other parent may be experiencing. Peter has helped a number of clients develop and implement safety provisions in their parenting plans to help protect their children.
Other times, parents may simply have serious disagreements about what custodial arrangement and parenting plan are in a child’s best interests. Lawyers are required by ethical rules to “zealously” represent their clients. What that word means, however, may take on a very different meaning when a child’s best interests are at issue.
Unfortunately, parenting time disputes sometimes continue long after a divorce or similar proceeding is finished, the lawyers are paid and gone, and the parents have moved on in other respects. Research in the social sciences confirms that parental conflict can have a long-lasting impact on a child. Moreover, parents will necessarily have to deal with each other about matters involving their children well after their legal dispute is over, whether that is a divorce, legal separation, or modification proceeding. Again, there is strong research that shows a child with divorced or otherwise separated parents has a much better chance of succeeding in life if the parents deal with each other civilly. Therefore, in any dispute involving legal custody and parenting time, parents and their children are better served if the parents can resolve that dispute directly, or through settlement negotiations or mediation. If that does not happen, those issues should be dealt with in a way that serves the best interests of your child. This may include the appointment of a custody evaluator, who will interview the family members and other people, and possibly administer psychological testing, the appointment of an attorney for a child, and the appointment of a parenting coordinator, to help parents resolve parenting time disputes without resorting to litigation. In certain intractable situations, the trial court may need to resolve the dispute.
Peter has extensive experience in dealing with child custody and parenting time issues. Peter is a member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, which is a network of professionals who are committed to serving the best interests of children. Peter is committed to advocating for his clients’ custodial and parenting time rights with as little unnecessary conflict as possible. A disagreement does not have to become a war, and Peter encourages his clients to work with counselors, parenting coordinators, mediators, child psychologists, and other professionals to resolve disagreements outside of a courtroom whenever possible. Whatever your circumstances, Peter will work with you to help resolve custody and parenting time issues fairly, with an understanding of the long-range impact these kinds of disputes have on children and families.
Please visit the links page of this website for additional resources regarding custody and parenting time.
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