How the Court Determines Child Custody in Oregon

Let's Untie the Knot | How the Court Determines Child Custody in Oregon

When determining child custody in Oregon, a court will seek to determine what living arrangement is in the “best interests” of the child. The trial court is given wide discretion in making its decision.  The court considers the following factors in its analysis:

  1. The parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody;
  2. The programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interests of the child;
  3. The plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody;
  4. The programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interests of the child;
  5. The stability of the home or proposed placement;
  6. The acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one. Parties can also provide justifications for any alleged acts or omissions
  7. The desires of the child;
  8. The emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future; and
  9. The emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future.

If you are seeking custody of your child, your goal is to present to the judge facts and evidence to support the argument that the child’s best interests are upheld by awarding full custody to you rather than to your child’s other parent. Therefore, it is essential that you work closely with your attorney to persuade the court that living with you is in the “best interests” of your child.  There are several steps that you can take to convince the court that it is in the child’s best interests to live with you. First, you and your attorney must fully utilize the civil discovery process, which provides you with an opportunity to uncover evidence to show that the other parent is unable to satisfy the best interests standards and cannot provide the child with the required guidance, nurture and maintenance.  For example, you may request employment records to demonstrate that the other parent does not have a steady employment history.  In addition, you may also request records from the state child welfare agency to show prior abuse or neglect by the other parent.  Furthermore, you may request a criminal background check to reveal any history of criminal activity.  Finally, if you believe the other parent is involved with drugs, you may request drug testing or other records that reveal a history of substance abuse.

In addition, although your child custody battle may be highly contentious; it is imperative that you refrain from any behavior that could adversely impact your right to custody.  Along those lines, do not speak badly about the other parent and do not interfere or obstruct your child’s relationship with the other parent.  Both of these actions will reflect badly upon you during a custody dispute.  In addition, you may often need to present witnesses that can testify to the court on your behalf about your abilities as a parent and the safety of your home.  Favorable testimony from neighbors, teachers, friends and relatives can all help to bolster your case. A court will often appoint a guardian ad litem to make a recommendation about the best custody arrangement for the child.  The function of the guardian ad litem is to represent the child in the custody dispute and he or she may observe you and your other family members in making his or her recommendation.  It is essential that you cooperate with the guardian ad litem and provide him or her with all of the information necessary to make an informed recommendation.  In addition, courts may order an evaluation by a therapist or social worker to assess what arrangement bests promotes the child’s well-being.  You should comply with all of their requests and be open and honest in answering any questions.

It is imperative to present every piece of favorable evidence in the most convincing way possible. Appellate review is very limited in this kind of litigation as the courts of appeal are unwilling to substitute their judgment of the facts for the trial judge who presided over the proceedings.  

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