Child Custody Grows More Complex, but Still Focused on Best Interests

Gone are the days when child custody mainly involved only two questions: "which parent is awarded custody?" and "who gets visitation rights?" A cultural change has taken place, and custody is now split into legal and physical custody, while the concept of parenting time has replaced visitation rights. In addition, custody agreements are more complex and detailed now than ever.

Religious Upbringing Among Custody Decisions

According to the Washington Post, child custody agreements today often include parents' decisions regarding religion, education, parental dating and discipline. They can even plan for uncertain events such as administering medication if the child develops a learning disability. More detailed agreements help families avoid conflicts and find comfort after divorce.

Under Oregon law, the main concern underlying each aspect of the child custody plan is the best interests and welfare of the children. When parents agree about their children's upbringing, they should do so based on this "best interests of the child" principle. Failing to do so can lead to an agreement that courts will refuse to enforce.

Preferences of Children, Parents Can Conflict

With such personal, significant issues like religion, it is quite possible that children will eventually push back since children can formulate opinions of their own that conflict with those of their parents. Oregon law recognizes this, holding that a child's stated preferences as to where they live can be a factor; generally, the child must be at least 14 years old. Courts will likely apply a similar rule to plans for the children's religious participation and education.

Custody Factors

In Oregon, several factors influence custody and parenting time arrangements, including:

  • The emotional ties between the child and other family members
  • The parties' attitude toward and interest in the child
  • The desirability of continuing an existing relationship
  • Any abuse of one parent by the other

Parents who want to craft a shared custody agreement should contact an experienced family law attorney who will use these factors to ensure that the court will approve and enforce the parents' mutual arrangement. This is especially true considering that parents are creating increasingly complex custody agreements, requiring more time and resources for planning the family's future. The last thing parents want is a custody agreement without the force of the law supporting it.