Practice Areas


Wendell L. Belknap
411 5th Street
Oregon City, OR 97045

Tel: 503-657-8946
Fax: 503-655-2775

Email Wendell


Child Custody and Parenting Time

Oregon courts will award custody and parenting time based on what the courts determine to be in the “best interests of the child.” Oregon law requires that the court consider the following factors when deciding what is in the best interests of the child:

  • the emotional ties between the child and other family members;
  • the interest of the parent in the child and the parent's attitude toward the child;
  • the desirability of continuing an existing relationship;
  • the abuse of one parent by another;
  • the preference for the primary caregiver of the child, if the caregiver is deemed fit by the court; and
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child. (See ORS 107.137)

Frequently, application of these factors results in the child's primary caretaker being awarded the care and custody of the child. The non-custodial parent will be allowed reasonable rights of parenting time (also known as "visitation"). Oregon law calls this parenting time schedule a "parenting plan." Except in extremely unusual circumstances, the court will approve custody and parenting time arrangements agreed to by the parties. The court will award custody to one party. There are two types of custody. They are “joint custody” and “sole custody.”

Joint Custody is an award of the child's legal custody to both parents with a specific provision made for the child’s primary place of residence. It assumes that each parent has an equal say in making major decisions that impact the child's life. Joint custody does not necessarily mean equal parenting time. The court can order joint legal custody only if both parties agree to the award. Joint custody can be terminated by the court at any time simply by the request of either parent. At that time, the court will be required to determine which parent should be awarded sole custody. The court will also be required to determine the non-custodial parent's parenting time schedule.

Sole Custody is an award of custody to one parent which grants to that parent the right to make vital decisions regarding a child's education, religious training, health care, and the like. Sole custody is far more common.

In the end, however, both parties should keep in mind that these are just labels, and what is important is the amount of time each party has with the child. In the end, the child does not know or care whether time is being spent with mom or dad under a “sole custody” or “joint custody” label. What is important to the child is that the child gets to spend time with mom or dad. I encourage the parties to be more concerned with the nature and extent of the time with the child, rather than the labels attorneys or courts may attach to this time.

The State of Oregon offers Parenting Plan Information which is available through the Oregon Judicial Department website.

While I can and will fight for custody if necessary and appropriate, I will not blindly hammer away trying to obtain custody for you if it is not in the best interests of the children or if you are seeking to unreasonably limit the other party’s time with the children. I will, however, work hard to assist you in establishing a workable custody and parenting plan arrangement that is convenient for both parties while also being in the best interests of the children. If that is what you seek, please feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss the custody or parenting time of your children.