Understanding the Differences Between Custody and Parenting Time

Understanding the Differences Between Custody and Parenting TimeIf you are going through a divorce or your parenting agreement is going through major changes, it is essential that you understand the differences between child custody and parenting time (which is also often referred to as visitation). There are many ways in which parents may choose to co-parent their kids, some of which involve one parent retaining custody, or both parents sharing custody. Whatever the situation, knowing what role you play in your child’s life, from a legal and a personal perspective, is extremely important.

Child Custody

In Oregon, child custody determines who has legal decision-making authority.

In Oregon, legal custody does not pertain to who the child lives with, but who has decision-making responsibility for a child. There are two types of custody:

  • Joint Custody – both parents must agree to share decision-making responsibilities.
  • Sole Custody – one parent makes all major decisions.

Custody gives parents the right to make decisions regarding issues such as where the child will live, their education, healthcare, etc. Child custody is determined based on the well-being of the child in question. Nearly all parents have a right to be a part of their child’s life unless that parent has exhibited some type of behavior that makes them a danger to their child.

Parenting Time

Parenting Time determines who gets the kids and when.

In many areas in Oregon, parents are required to work out their parenting plan through mediation. A parenting plan, in addition to other issues, determines the amount of time the child spends with each parent, which is called parenting time (formerly called visitation). If the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan independently of a litigation process, a judge will evaluate the situation and determine whether joint or sole custody will be granted and make parenting time decisions for each parent.

The parenting time schedules are different in every situation. Some parents are granted with equal amounts of time with the child in their care. Some parents have parenting time scheduled less frequently, such as for one weekend every month, or every other Tuesday, etc. Parenting time schedules can also address holidays and vacations. The way in which the schedule of contact is arranged will always vary depending on the situation at hand and the best interests of the child.

There is also something called supervised parenting time, which is ordered by a judge if it is determined that it is best for your children to only have contact with a parent when a third-party is present. This is usually only considered when the children’s safety is an issue.

Keeping the Differences Straight

Key things to remember:

  • Joint custody does not mean that each parent receives equal parenting time.
  • A parent with joint custody may not have any parenting time yet still retain decision-making responsibilities for the child.
  • A parent who does not have custody can still have parenting time, if allowed for in the parenting plan.
  • In Oregon, even if you do not have joint custody, both parents are legally allowed to access certain records pertaining to their child (school, police, medical, counseling) and to authorize emergency medical care.
  • If circumstances change, it is possible to modify your parenting plan or child custody agreement, but only through a legal process.

Child custody issues can be difficult to sort out, which is why our experienced family law attorneys are here to help. We know how complex family law matters can be, and we want to help simplify the process and guide you through each step of the way.

Contact McKinley Irvin for help if you have questions about your Oregon parenting time or child custody.

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