Child Custody and Support Questions

Questions about Child Custody in Oregon:

My ex hasn’t paid me child support and he owes me a lot of money. Can I prevent him from seeing the kids?

No! In Oregon, a parent’s rights to see the kids is not related to paying child support. Child support is ordered according to a calculation that takes into consideration gross monthly income, the number of overnights, non-joint children, daycare expenses, and certain other rebuttal factors such as extraordinary travel costs associated with visitation.

If a parent fails to pay child support that has been ordered, that parent might be found in contempt of a court order, face losing a driver’s license, tax refunds can be confiscated, accounts garnished. However, that parent is still entitled to parenting time. In fact, if you withhold parenting time because support is not being paid, you might find yourself in court for failing to obey a court order for parenting time.

What is a custody study?

In some cases, it will serve you to hire a professional licensed psychologist or social worker who has experience performing custody studies. If a custody is ordered by a judge, then an expert therapist or social worker will perform a thorough investigation of your case and prepare a report that could eventually be presented to a judge. Usually, the person doing the study will interview you, observe you with your children, interview the children if they are old enough, and talk to your witnesses and references. They will do the same for the other parent. Sometimes they will perform psychological evaluations of you and of the other parent. These studies are costly and take weeks, sometimes months to finish. However, in close cases, where both parents are seeking custody and there is a lot of conflict between the parties, a well done custody study bears a lot of weight in court.

Do I have to do Mediation with the other parent?

Depending on what county your case is in, the answer can be yes. Judges really want to see you try to resolve your case out of court. In the long run, if its possible for you to settle your case without a trial, its better for your children. Trials are extremely stressful because you are taking the stand and testifying against the other parent of your children. If your children are young, you are looking at a lot of years of coparenting, ahead of you. And even once your children grow older, you still have graduations, birthdays, births, weddings, major holidays, and other events, that will be more enjoyable for everyone, if you get along with the other parent. Therefore, judges want to save you conflict if its at all possible, and will encourage you or require you to do mediation. Once you pay for the parenting class which is mandatory just about everywhere, mediation is free. You and your ex are entitled to a certain number of hours with a trained expert to find a resolution to your case. Many cases settle in mediation. The ones that don’t go to trial. If you can talk to the other parent, its worth your time and energy to try to mediate and resolve your case out of court.

I have custody, so is it ok if I move out of town? Out of State?

Lots of people with sole custody want to move away with their children and they have good reasons for wanting to move. These reasons include wanting to marry someone who lives somewhere else, moving for a better job, moving to be close to family. However, move away cases, as these are commonly called, are complicated. If the non-custodial parent objects to your move, you could be looking at a trial because that parent can try to prevent you from moving. Oregon laws offer protection to the non-custodial parent whose parenting time with the children could be affected by a move. Although there are circumstances under which courts do allow the custodial parent to move, its likely that the courts will seek to prevent moves that can negatively impact the relationship between a loving non-custodial parent and that parent’s children. If you want to move, its very wise to speak to the other parent and try to get their permission to allow the move. You might offer them more parenting time in the summer to make up for less parenting time during the school year, or offer then every spring break, or both. The bottom line is the courts will look to see what is in the best interests of the children. Its wise for parents to always put the best interests of their children first. If you are seeking to block the parent of your children from moving, act quickly and retain a lawyer to help you. It is possible to get a court order to prevent the other party from moving, while you are waiting to resolve the issues of custody modification and parenting time modification that will arise if the parent is in fact allowed to move.

I’m a grandparent, how do I get custody of my grandchild, or at the very least, parenting time?

Oregon Revised Statutes 109.119 is commonly referred to as the “grandparents rights” law. This law offers third parties, a chance to obtain custody or legally enforceable parenting time with children so long as certain requirements are met. The biological parents of a child have a constitutionally protected right to raise and care for their children. It is therefore presumed that the biological parent acts in the best interests of their child. What that means is for the most part, fit parents can take care of their children as they see best. If parents don’t want a grandparent or someone else to see their children, for the most part, courts simply do not get involved. However in some cases, a grandparent or a third party can rebut that presumption. If they can show they have a particular relationship with a child, and establish that it is in the best interests of the child that they either have custody or parenting time with the child, then a judge could order custody or parenting time to that third party.

If your grandchild has lived with you and you have taken care of that child over the last six months, by providing that child love, care, and necessities, you might be able to file for custody or parenting time. Even if you do not have the requisite relationship for custody, but you have played a significant role in your grandchild’s life for the last twelve months, you might get court ordered visitation.

In general, the courts will examine the relationship the grandparent or third party has with the children, how much contact there has been in the last six to twelve months before the filing of the petition, the relationship between the third party and the legal parents, and above all else, what is in the best interests of the children. This is a very complicated area of the law and its best to obtain a lawyer who has experience in this area.

What is joint custody? Can we do that?

In Oregon, joint custody means parents make decisions together on the major issues affecting the children, which would include decisions regarding education, health care, and religion. In this state, a judge cannot order joint custody if there is a trial. Therefore, parties who want joint custody have to agree to it out of court. Joint custody works if you and the other parent can communicate with one another when it comes to discussing the children. If you and your ex cannot talk to each other, its unwise to agree to joint custody. Many couples who agree to joint custody find themselves back in court a year or so later, because either they, or the other parent, now want sole custody. Joint custody can work if you see eye to eye with your ex on issues of religion, education and health. For instance, if you are both advocates of the public school system, and its hard to imagine circumstances under which one of you would want to put the children into public school, then joint custody could work. Similarly, if you both support each other’s approach to religious upbringing, and medical care decisions, then you could be candidates for joint custody. For example, it’s not necessary you both celebrate Christmas the identical way, its simply important you agree to support each other’s celebrations and rituals. If you know ahead of time, that you and your ex are on two different pages when it comes to making these kinds of decision regarding the children and their upbringing, joint custody is probably not a good idea for you.

Questions about Child Support in Oregon:

How is child support calculated in Oregon?

The courts in Oregon will order one parent pay the other a certain amount for the care and support of their school age children. Child support can last until children are 21 years old, if they qualify as a child attending school, which means, if they go to college full time

Generally speaking, child support is calculated by the child support calculator that is found on the Department of Justice website. The calculator takes into consideration factors such as gross income, number of overnights, whether there are non-joint children, child care costs, health insurance and health care needs, and if there is an existing order for spousal support.

If one or both parents are unemployed, the calculator fills in that parent’s income as “potential” wages, based on a full time job at minimum wage.

A parent can rebut the the amount of child support determined by the child support calculator by persuading a judge the amount is unfair under the circumstances. Rebuttal factors can include extraordinary expenses incurred on a regular basis in arranging parenting time, the number and needs of other dependents, or significant ongoing medical expenses.

Can child support orders be modified?

Child support can be modified if you can prove a substantial, unanticipated change in circumstances since the entry of the last order. In other words, there must be some major change in a party’s economic circumstances, not contemplated at the time the judgment or last order was entered. If someone loses their job at no fault of their own, or suffers from a health condition or illness that impacts their wage earning capability, a child support modification might be in order. State administrative agencies that order and enforce child support conduct periodic reviews to make sure child support orders are correct and comply with the guidelines. These agencies examine the circumstances since the last order was entered to determine if there have been significant changes that affect the child support order. For example, they might re-calculate child support if custody and parenting time orders have changed, if income of either parent has significantly changed, or if the needs of the children or number of children have changed.