Will I get custody of my children?
This is the first question that most mothers ask us. The law does not favor either the husband or the wife with respect to the children, but custody is determined by what is in the best interest of the children. To figure out “what is in the best interest of the children,” the court looks at many factors, including who has been the primary parent of the child, the history of the raising of the children, and any issues of poor parenting by either the mother or the father, An example might be where one parent has a problem with alcohol, drugs or verbal and physical abuse of the spouse or the children. It would be unrealistic for a spouse who is an abuser of a spouse or of the children to reasonably expect that a court is going to award them custody. But, it is important to know that contrived allegations of abuse would be viewed by the court as inappropriate and would count against the person making these false claims.
The Court is interested in what is in the best interest of the children and will consider their ages, their relationships with their parents, their relationship with peers in school, and what is in their long-term interests.
Typically, an unemployed housewife that has been the primary care provider for her children since birth has a much stronger case to be given custody. The more active fathers are in raising their children, the stronger their case for custody. A mother who has raised the children during their early years, but who has shared parenting more equally as the children got older, creates a more difficult decision for awarding custody.
Courts require that the parties attempt to resolve their differences through mediation first. If that is not possible, then custody can be determined with the aid of a custody study completed by an outside professional. Lastly, the court will hear testimony from witnesses and the parties in order to determine custody if it cannot be resolved through mediation or the custody study.
What is joint custody anyway?
Joint custody assumes a working civil relationship between the parents of the children. If the mom and dad can talk to each other, be reasonable with each other, and discuss the needs of the children in a non-aggressive and honoring fashion, then joint custody may be a sound way to resolve custody. The court will not order joint custody unless both parties agree. If one party dominates the other through control, abuse, or significant differences in personality, then joint custody would not be a workable alternative and sole custody would be ordered by the court.
Joint custody involves both parents in helping to make the major and not so major decisions in the lives of the children. These decisions include education, religious upbringing, major day-to-day decisions, medical care, etc. Even if joint custody is not agreed upon and one party is granted sole custody, the non-custodial parent may still have significant rights concerning parenting time and access to involvement in the child’s life. That might include access to school events and records, but the primary decision-making would be left with the sole custodial parent.
When does joint custody work best?
• When parents can maintain a civil, business-like relationship and arrangements are planned around the children’s needs and developmental requirements.
• When schedules are predictable and stable but flexible enough to change when circumstances dictate it.
• When parents live in physical proximity to each other.
• When parents are careful to support and not undermine each other, regardless of their own feelings.
• And, when financial resources are available to maintain two full residences.
What’s this “Children Coping With Divorce” class?
In divorce cases where children are involved, most counties have an education program to help parents help their children through what can be, at the least, an unsettling event in their lives.
She wants to move to another state – how will I see the kids?
This is not an easy situation. Oregon law allows for a provision in a divorce decree that restricts either parent from removing the children more than 60 miles from the family home without advance notification to either party. This gives the non-moving party an opportunity to resist the move through the courts. In many cases, allowing the children to relocate out of state is an acceptable outcome for the children. For example, a mother with no immediate family in the area, divorcing a workaholic husband not closely connected with his family, may justify a move with the children back to an area where the mother and children will have extended family support. The father can travel or bring the children to him for his parenting time. However, the costs of travel can be quite large and child support may be reduced to assist the father with those additional costs.
It is important to remember that as in life, there are trade-offs with most decisions. You will want to think about the ramifications of an out of state move before doing so. It is not unusual for the parent who moves away to pay for transportation for the children’s visits, but this is determined on a case-by-case basis, driven in large part by the income of the parties. It is important that issues such as these are covered in your divorce, and we have the experience needed to make you confident that you have come to the best agreement possible.
What is a typical visitation plan/parenting time schedule?
Every county has its own standard parenting time schedule (you may know it as a visitation plan). They can all be modified through agreement or marriage circumstance, but a good starting point is that the non-custodial parent be awarded alternating weekends and an equal division of holidays and school vacations.
• Marion County Parenting Plan
• Access to parenting plans for all counties
What is mediation and why do we have to do it?
Mediation is a cooperative problem solving process using mediators (people who are not biased) to help a divorcing couple reach an agreement on the issues dividing them. These issues usually include custody and developing a parenting plan as well as division of assets and spousal support.
Mediation is required by the court in divorce cases on issues of child custody and parenting time (visitation). That’s usually a good thing, as “custody battles” in court are very expensive. These days most divorce cases don’t see the inside of a courtroom, and are resolved through successful mediation and negotiation between attorneys. When you agree to mediation, it is important to be fully prepared. If you are prepared and the case can be kept out of court, the results are usually better for everyone, and certainly a great deal cheaper.
Am I ready for mediation?
It is important to select a lawyer before going into mediation so that you know what to negotiate. In court ordered mediation, the issues are custody of children and parenting time (visitation). In voluntary mediation (outside the court system), you need to be more completely prepared. Did you know, for example, that you may be entitled to part of your spouse’s retirement and 401K accounts, life insurance, and other assets you may not have considered? We can make sure that nothing is overlooked during this confusing time. You need to be prepared emotionally as well. We can help you prepare and can refer you to a qualified counselor, as well as get your documents organized.
How much child support will I get?
The amount of child support awarded is determined in large part by the Child Support Guidelines established by law and the Administrative Rules. The level of support varies, and depends on a number of factors. The income of each spouse is a factor, as is the cost of work-related daycare, medical insurance costs, and in some cases, the number of nights the children spend with each parent.
Child support can be modified at any time that circumstances are significantly changed. That might be if one spouse loses their employment, gets a raise, or inherits a sum of money. It is important to have a highly qualified lawyer to assist you in modifying child support.
My ex abused us; I don’t want him seeing the kids. What do I do?
This is a very difficult situation, and best handled by a lawyer well experienced in this area. We have dealt with many cases such as this, and we recommend that you seek advice as soon as possible. The law provides for court orders to protect you and your children from abuse. Additionally, you may need a restraining order allowed by Oregon law.
I can’t wait for settlement – I need child support now!
There is no quick answer to this question, but there are procedures in the court to ask for a temporary award of spousal and/or child support until a divorce reaches settlement. It is important to seek a lawyer’s advice as soon as possible to file the right court documents.
How can I help my kids deal with our divorce?
There are many community resources available to help parents help their children. We are also available to refer you to experienced counselors who specialize in working with children who are dealing with a family break-up.