What is custody?
In Oregon, custody and parenting time are separate designations that grant you different rights and privileges regarding your relationship with your child.
To have custody of a child is to have the legal right to make custodial decisions about your child. Custodial decisions are the major choices about your child’s life, including, but not limited to, the child’s housing, education, health care, and religion.
One parent can have sole custody or both parents can share joint custody. Sole custody means that the custodial parent can make custodial decisions independent of the other parent. Joint custody means that both parents make custodial decisions together and that each parent has the right to make custodial decisions about the child.
How is custody decided?
By default, parents share equal custody of their joint, minor children. If a married parent files for divorce or if an unmarried parent files for sole custody, the court will make an order to determine the custody of the child or children.
In Oregon, a court can only order joint custody if both parties agree to joint custody. Otherwise, the court will decide which parent should get sole custody of a child.
If your child’s other parent asks the court for sole custody and is not willing to share joint custody, your only options are to allow that parent to have sole custody or seek sole custody yourself.
What is parenting time?
Regardless of custody status, parenting time refers to the time each parent actually spends with the child. Parenting time is legally established when the court orders a parenting plan. A parenting plan says when each parent gets parenting time with the child, including during holidays and school breaks.
Each parent will need to submit their version of the plan to the judge before the trial starts. The court will make a final determination on the parenting plan in the judgment.
Can the custodial parent deny parenting time to the other parent?
The non-custodial parent is not at the liberty of the custodial parent to receive parenting time because the court makes these designations. In addition, parents without custody are still allowed to make many decisions when they are caring for the child, including, but not limited to, the child’s food, the child’s bedtime, and the child’s daily activities.
In general, custody can be understood as the right to make large-scale decisions about your child and parenting time can be understood as the right to spend time with your child. Both custody and parenting time can be shared or held solely by one parent.