The importance of strong legal advocacy in child custody proceedings

Child custody determinations are centered on the best interests of the child, but this doesn't negate the need for parents to advocate for themselves in child custody proceedings. With the help of an experienced attorney, parents have the best chance of protecting their parental rights and interests.

Child custody and parenting time are among the most important issue parents must address when seeking dissolution of their marriage. Usually, decisions about post-divorce responsibility for and time with children are stressful on couples. These decisions can be more stressful when parents don't understand how these decisions are made and how they can advocate for themselves in the process.

The importance of working with experienced legal counsel in child custody and parenting time proceedings cannot be underestimated. Although family court judges are bound by definite rules in making decisions about custody and parenting time, they also have a significant amount of discretion in making these decisions. Parents shouldn't feel helpless: with the help of an experienced attorney, they can best position themselves for a favorable outcome.

Forms of custody and custody arrangements

In Oregon, as in other states, there are two types of custody judges may award: physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to care and responsibility for a child's person, while legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions on behalf of the child, such as medical care, education, and extracurricular activities.

Judges may award joint physical and legal custody to both parents, depending on the circumstances of the case, or they may aware sole physical custody to one parent and joint legal custody to both. When one parent has sole physical custody, the other may be awarded parenting time, also known as visitation. In some cases, sole physical and legal custody may be awarded to one parent, while the other parent may receive only visitation. It all depends on the circumstances of the case and the discretion of the judge.

Child custody decisions: all about best interests

When it comes to determining custody of a child, the primary factor judges are supposed to take into account is the "best interests of the child." This refers to a constellation of factors centering on the welfare of the child with respect to proposed custody arrangements.

Oregon law provides that judges take into account all relevant factors when determining what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. Of particular importance are: the emotional connection between the child and other family members; the desirability of continuing an existing relationship; the interest of each parent in the child and the attitude each parent has toward the child; and the willingness of each parent to work with one another in encouraging a continuing relationship between each parent and the child.

Oregon law specifies that judges are not to take disability into account for purposes of determining custody, unless the disabled parent's limitations and behaviors would put the child's health, safety, or welfare in danger. Neither will judges take into account the marital status, income, lifestyle, social environment, or conduct of either parent unless there is a risk of emotional or physical harm to the child. This is supposed to ensure that judicial bias doesn't creep in.

Child custody cases involving a history of abuse

Although no single factor is supposed to predominate in consideration over the others in child custody decisions, courts do pay special attention to the issue of abuse. Certainly, when there is credible evidence of physical or sexual abuse of the child, or a history of it, the parent accused of engaging in that conduct stands a greater chance of losing custody, or at least having custody significantly limited. Courts also pay attention to a history of spousal abuse.

Oregon law provides that there is a rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interests of the child to grant sole or joint custody to a parent who committed abuse. A parent who is accused of abuse can overcome this presumption by providing evidence to the contrary. This may or may not be a difficult task, depending on the facts of the case.

Of particular concern in child custody proceedings is when one spouse makes false accusations against another, or exaggerates the other spouse's behavior toward the child or the other spouse. When emotions are running high, this can be an easy thing to do, and it isn't necessarily easy to defend against such accusations since it often comes down to one person's word against another and courts take such accusation so seriously. Working with experienced legal counsel is critical to ensure a parent who has been falsely accused has a fighting chance of protecting his or her parental rights.

Work with experienced attorney to represent your interests

Although child custody decisions are centered on the best interests of the child, it is important for parents to realize that their interests are tied up with those of the child, and that they need to advocate for themselves in the child custody process. An experienced attorney can help ensure that the court has all the information it needs to make an informed and fair decision regarding custody.

Keywords: Child custody, best interests of the child