Child custody is a frequently misunderstood term.   You may have heard people use the terms physical custody, legal custody, joint custody, and sole custody. Each means something different.

  • Legal Custody: refers to a parent’s legal authority to make certain decisions, concerning a minor child.
  • Physical Custody: means rests with the parent with whom a child is staying at any given moment in time.
  • Sole Legal Custody: In general, sole legal custody provides a parent exclusive legal authority to make decisions concerning the child’s education, the child’s non-emergency healthcare, the child’s religious training, and often the child’s appearance.
  • Joint Legal Custody: Joint legal custody is often referred to by parents as either joint custody or shared custody. Joint legal child custody provides each parent authority to make decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, religious training, residence, and the child’s appearance.  With joint legal custody, unless otherwise ordered by the court, each parent shares with the other, the right and responsibility to make major decisions concerning the child’s education, healthcare, religious training, residence, and the child’s appearance.  Parents awarded joint legal custody, for all practical purposes, need to co-parent their children with the other parent.
  • Joint Legal Custody With Final Decision-Making Authority: Parents sometimes enter into an agreement that awards joint legal custody of the children to the parents, and provides one parent or the other with final decision-making authority over certain major decisions.  For example, one parent may have final decision-making authority over educational decisions concerning the children, while the other parent has final decision-making authority over non-emergency healthcare decisions concerning the children.

Legal Child Custody: Joint legal custody or sole legal custody, may be established by judgment or order in either a divorce proceeding, a dissolution of a domestic partnership, a legal separation, a case establishing legal paternity or within a psychological parent case.

In Oregon, joint custody can only be ordered by the court if parents agree to it.  If parents are unable to agree  on joint custody, the court is required to order sole legal custody to one parent.  If the court is required to determine custody, a judge will decide what is  in the best interests and welfare of the children.  While the term best interest and welfare of the children sounds simple enough, a full legal analysis can be quite complicated.  In making this determination the court is required to weigh the following factors:

    • Emotional ties between the child and family members
    • Interest of the parties in and attitude toward the Child
    • Desirability of continuing an existing relationship
    • Willingness and ability of each parent to encourage and facilitate a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child
    • Abuse of one parent or a child by the other parent
    • Preference for the Primary Caregiver: so long as the primary caregiver is a fit and proper person to be awarded custody of the child

We can help you in all aspects of child custody issues including custody arrangements, parenting time, visitation, and the enforcement of agreements, orders, and judgments.

At the law office of Kyle D. Edmonds, we offer our clients the experience and knowledge necessary to provide professional legal counsel regarding child custody issues.