Written by attorney William Francis

In Oregon, "Joint Custody" Is Not What You Think It Is

In Oregon, the court must award joint custody if both parties request it. Likewise, the court cannot order joint custody if one parent objects to it. A joint custody arrangement cannot work if the parents are unwilling or unable to communicate and cooperate with each other.

There are few legal terms that are as misunderstood as “joint custody." A joint custody award establishes only the legal relationships of the parents and a child. By definition, “joint custody" means an arrangement by which parents share rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning their child, including, but not limited to, the child’s residence, education, health care and religious training. An order providing for joint custody may specify one home as the primary residence of the child and designate one parent to have sole power to make decisions about specific matters while both parents retain equal rights and responsibilities for other decisions.

Joint custody does not mean that the child is scheduled to spend equal time with each parent. Although parents may agree to evenly divide their time with a child, shared physical custody is not the automatic result of a joint custody order.

Likewise, the existence of an order of joint custody does not, by itself, determine the responsibility of either parent to pay child support.

A joint custody order can be modified if there is a change of circumstances and a showing that the modification is in the child’s best interests. The inability or unwillingness of one parent to continue to cooperate in a joint custody arrangement constitutes a change of circumstances sufficient to modify a joint custody order.

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