Oregon law requires that a parenting time plan be included in all judgments where minor children are involved.
In Oregon, "parenting time" (called "visitation" in some states) is the scheduled time that each parent has with the children. The parenting time plan is a document that states when the children will be with each parent and how decisions will be made for the parties' children.
The amount of parenting time that each parent has with the children is not necessarily related to whether or not a parent has legal custody in Oregon. In Oregon, "custody" is the right to make major decisions (education, religion, pre-planned medical care) for the children. In some cases, one parent may have sole legal custody. In other cases, the parents may agree to share joint custody.
At a minimum, the parenting time plan must outline the amount of parenting time and access to the children that the non-custodial parent is entitled to have. Oregon law takes the position that, in most cases, the children should have frequent contact with both parents.
A comprehensive parenting time plan should include:
- A regular parenting time schedule;
- Holiday, birthday and vacation schedules;
- Guidelines for decision-making for the children;
- Guidelines for information sharing between the parents;
- Guidelines for parenting time exchanges and transportation for the parenting time exchanges;
- Guidelines for both parents' telephone access to the child; and
- Methods for resolving future disputes regarding the parenting time plan.
Courts in Oregon encourage parents to try to come to an agreement on the parenting time plan for their children. In most cases, both parents must attend a mandatory parenting class once a case has been filed. In addition, parents are usually required to participate in mediation prior to trial, in order to try to reach an agreement about the parenting time schedule.
Many counties have abolished use of model parenting time plans, and now strive to craft individualized parenting time plans based on the individual needs of the children in each case. In those Oregon counties that still have model parenting time plans, such plans are listed in the county's supplemental local rules. These model parenting time plans often state that the non-custodial parent will have parenting time every other weekend, the parents will alternate major holidays, and the non-custodial parent will have extensive parenting time during summer. In counties that still have model parenting time plans, evidence still may be presented at trial as to why the model parenting time plan may not be in the best interest of a child in a particular case. Some judges are more receptive to deviating from the standard parenting plan than others.
When developing a parenting time plan, the court will consider the best interests of the children and the safety of the parents. The court's focus in developing a parenting time plan is on the welfare of the children, not on convenience to either parent or the personal preferences of either parent.
In cases where there is a history of domestic violence, neglect or substance abuse, it is important to consider what steps can be taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the children.
By contacting a Portland family law attorney, you can obtain advice about different options for developing your parenting time plan, and about tools that can be used to craft a parenting time plan that will be in the best interests of your children. Different counties have different rules and practices regarding the formation of parenting time plans. An attorney can explain your parenting time rights and discuss possible outcomes in the county where your case is filed.