Parenting Time Guidelines

Father holding small child - parenting time concept

Under Oregon law, both parents have the right to spend time with their children. Whether parents are divorced or were never married, a parenting plan that addresses parenting time must be filed along with a child custody order. Not to be confused with the term, “custody,” which has to do with decision-making, “parenting time” determines when the child is in the care of each parent.

What is Parenting Time?

Parenting time refers to the amount of time the children will spend with each parent when they no longer live together. The schedule is outlined in a document called a “parenting plan.” Formerly referred to as “visitation” in Oregon, parenting time is meant to benefit the children and allow them to foster healthy relationships with both parents. A parenting time arrangement can either be reached by agreement, or it can be ordered by a judge.

In the event a parent has concerns about the welfare of the child when they are in the other parent’s care, it might be possible to request an order for supervised parenting time from the court. If a judge deems supervised visitation is necessary for the child’s safety, they may order that the child can only spend time with the other parent in the presence of a third party.

Creating a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan can be general or very specific. However, even a general parenting plan must specify the minimum amount of parenting time and access a noncustodial parent is entitled to have. A detailed parenting plan in Oregon that complies with state law may include provisions for the following:

  • Residential schedule — The residential schedule provision in a parenting plan should specify the days and times each parent has with the child.
  • Holidays, birthdays, and vacations — Apart from the regular visitation schedule, a parenting plan should indicate which holidays, birthdays, and school vacations the child will spend with each parent.
  • Weekend visits — Parents should work out provisions for regular weekend visits, long weekends, and school closures as part of their parenting time.
  • Decision-making responsibilities — It is best to include a statement in the parenting plan that defines each parent’s authority to make decisions concerning the child’s daily needs and their responsibilities toward the child.
  • Information sharing — Parents should come to an agreement regarding sharing information regarding the child’s education, medical issues, and other important aspects of their life.
  • Relocation — Parents can stipulate relocation issues in a comprehensive parenting plan.
  • Telephone access — A parenting plan should address telephone access and other forms of communication between the parent and child.
  • Transportation — Parents should determine the details regarding transportation between custody exchanges and the location they will take place.
  • Dispute resolution methods — Parents may agree to resolve their parenting time disputes by mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution, rather than going to court.

Parenting plans are not one-size-fits-all. An effective parenting plan should be tailored to the facts and circumstances of each case. If parents cannot reach an agreement regarding parenting time, the court will consider the best interests and safety of the child to determine the outcome. Generally, courts prefer to order equal parenting time unless the safety of the parties would be endangered.

How Does the Age of a Child Affect Parenting Time?

When parents are creating a schedule, the child’s age and developmental needs must be considered. Significantly, an infant’s needs are much different than those of an adolescent. While a parenting time schedule can be drafted in a way so that it evolves as the child grows, separate schedules may be drafted ahead of time to address each stage of development.

For example, from birth to 12 months, a child needs predictability, consistency, and routine. At this stage, they must develop trust through secure relationships and a healthy attachment to a caregiver. Parenting time at this age should allow for frequent contact with parents to help the child form healthy emotional bonds. Once the child is between three and five years of age, they may benefit from longer blocks of time spent with each parent.

By the time a child has reached the age of 13, a parenting time schedule should be tailored to help the child develop greater independence and a sense of moral values. At this age, children require flexibility and may even desire to have a say in the parenting plan. Depending on the needs of the family, there are many different schedules that can be arranged. Parents might customize a schedule that alternates seven-day periods or switches every three or four days. A mid-week evening visit or overnight with the other parent may also be added.

Enforcing Parenting Time

Once a schedule has been ordered by the court, it is legally enforceable. If a party violates any provisions, the other party can file papers with the court asking the judge to issue an order to ensure the terms are followed. But in cases concerning serious violations, a party may need to file a motion for contempt to get the other parent to adhere to the court order.

Serious custody and parenting time violations that might warrant filing a motion for contempt can include frequently missing visitation exchanges, consistently interfering with visitation time, or not bringing the children to school and appointments. It may also be necessary to have the court address issues involving a parent’s alcohol or drug abuse — or any other issues that impact a parent’s ability to care for the children.

Contact an Experienced Oregon Family Law Attorney

If you are facing a child custody issue or require assistance creating a parenting plan, it’s essential to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney who can ensure your rights are protected. At Litowich Law, we are committed to offering skillful counsel and reliable representation for a wide variety of family law matters. Located in Salem and serving clients throughout Oregon, we welcome you to contact us for a consultation to learn how we can help.

Categories: Child Custody