Oregon Child Custody FAQs

Learn how Oregon courts decide who gets custody of children after a divorce.

If you are getting a divorce in Oregon, the court will decide child custody issues based on the best interests of the child. This article explains how judges apply this standard in Oregon. For more information on Oregon divorce laws, see Divorce Basics in Oregon. To see all of our articles on child custody, see our Child Custody area.  

Will the mother always get custody?

Oregon law states that no preference should be given to the mother regarding custody. However, due to the continued popularity of traditional marriages, in which the husband works and the wife stays home, mothers "win" contested custody cases more often.

What other factors influence the judge's decision on custody?

Courts will consider these other factors in making custody decisions:

  • emotional ties between the child and other family members
  • the interest of the spouses in, and their attitude toward, the child
  • the desirability of continuing an existing relationship
  • the abuse of one parent by the other
  • the preference for the primary caregiver of the child, as long as that parent is deemed fit by the court, and
  • each parent's willingness and ability to foster a close, ongoing relationship between the child and the other parent (unless abuse or violence has taken place, and continuing such a relationship would be a danger to the child or the parent).

If both parents share custody, does that mean no one pays child support?

No. If one parent has a much higher income, expect a transfer of some funds to the other parent. Oregon child support guidelines have an adjustment provision for "shared custody."

At what age can a child be cut off from support?

Eighteen is the age of emancipation, but Oregon courts may order support for qualifying students up to the age of twenty-one.

Can I stop my ex from seeing the children if I don't get my child support payments?

No. In this situation, courts are firmly of the opinion that two wrongs don't make a right. Take proper legal action to collect child support!

Can I stop paying child support if my ex won't let me see the children?

Same answer here: No. Your child support obligation continues, regardless of your ex's bad behavior. You'll need to go to court to enforce your visitation and custody rights.  

My ex has a lover; will this affect the custody decision?

Usually not. Oregon law says that the court may not consider a parent's conduct, marital status, income, social environment, or lifestyle, unless it is causing or may cause physical or social harm to the child.  

My ex physically abused me during marriage; will this affect the custody decision?  

Yes. Although it is only one of the factors the court may consider in awarding custody, it's weighed more heavily than the rest. Courts in Oregon presume that it is not in the best interests of the child to grant an abusive parent sole or joint custody. For more information, see Child Custody in Oregon: The Best Interests of the Child.  

What's the difference between joint legal custody and sole legal custody?

Joint legal custody gives both parents the authority to make major decisions about the children. It igoes beyond  where the children live (in other words, it does not mean the children spend half the time with Dad and the other half with Mom).

Sole legal custody means that one parent makes all of the big decisions, but usually can't take the children more than 60 miles away from the other permanently without the prior permission of the other parent or the court.

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