Understanding Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents in Oregon

Understanding Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents in Oregon

When a child’s parents are unmarried, the way in which they handle child custody issues after a break-up can be different than they would if they had been spouses. Couples who go through a divorce have a substantial amount of legal issues to sort out, child custody being only one of them. However, for parents who are unmarried, their separation will likely only require a few legal arrangements, the most significant being child custody. It is important to establish a legally-binding child custody plan, even if you and your co-parent are on good terms, because it helps cement your arrangement and protect your interests and those of your child. Even if you are on good terms now, that could change, and if your arrangement isn’t legally sound, it could spell parenting trouble for you down the road.

If you and your co-parent are unmarried, make sure you know how to go about handling child custody issues, and discover how certain Oregon laws might apply differently to unwed parents.

Oregon Child Custody Laws

In Oregon, the court will always aim to find a child custody arrangement that puts the child’s best interests first. This is true whether or not the parents were united by marriage. Oregon also offers equal rights to both the mother and the father, so long as paternity is established. In fact, Oregon courts almost always favor arrangements where the child can have both parents playing active roles in their life. For the most part, parents can go about seeking child custody in the same way, whether they are married or not.

Unmarried Fathers

Unlike mothers, fathers are not automatically granted parental rights unless they are married to the mother at the time the child is born. When a married couple has a child, the law assumes the husband is the father, and thus his paternal rights are established. With unmarried parents, however, the mother must sign the father’s name on the birth certificate in order to grant him parental rights.

If the mother did not sign the father’s name on the birth certificate, he can still establish his rights by filing a paternity action. Once paternity is established, the father will then have rights to pursue child custody and visitation.

What Mothers Need to Know

For mothers, establishing paternity might also be one of the most important steps in a legal issue. If a mother wants to receive child support from the child’s father, it must be proved that the man she wishes to receive support from is indeed the father. To do this, the mother must file a paternity action. Once approved, the father will not only have rights to pursue custody or visitation, but both parents will also be held legally responsible for the welfare of the child. In other words, the father can now spend time with his child, by law, but must also provide his child with the necessary financial support.

Again, in Oregon, the rights of the mother and the father are considered equal. As long as paternity is established, the father is entitled to the same rights to custody, visitation, and child support as the mother. The only instance in which this may not be true is in cases of domestic abuse or if the court deems either parent unfit or dangerous, in which case he or she may be kept away from their child for the child’s safety.

If you are dealing with a child custody issue as an unmarried parent, make sure you have an experienced legal advocate on your side. Oregon laws can be complicated, but the help of a skilled attorney can make the legal process to obtain paternal rights, custody rights, visitation rights, or child support much simpler.

Contact McKinley Irvin at our Oregon office to discuss your child custody or family legal issue.