Sole Legal Custody v. Joint Custody

The courts define custody as the legal relationship between a minor child and the legal custodian, i.e., the person to whom the court has given the primary rights and responsibilities to supervise, care for, and educate the child; usually, that is the person with whom the child lives most of the time. There is no statutory definition of sole custody but generally the person with sole legal custody of their children has final decision-making authority for major life decisions like which school the child attends, place of residence, and health care.

Joint custody is an arrangement by which parents share rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the 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.

Does Sole Custody strip the other parent of parental rights?

No. Sole custody does not provide an exclusive right to consult with the child's medical providers, receive medical or school records, or make emergency medical decisions. Under ORS 107.154, noncustodial parents retain these rights (and several others) to the same extent as the custodial parent. The custodial power is also tempered by the parenting-time rights of the noncustodial parent and sometimes by specific limitations within the parenting plan.

Why won't the courts award Joint Custody if one side does not want it?

The Oregon Legislature reasoned that parents with joint custody must regularly discuss and agree on important decisions about their children. Their inability to agree on joint custody itself indicates a probable lack of agreement for other important decisions that may affect their child in the future. When the parties cannot agree, the court must designate one or the other to perform the role of sole legal custodian.

Does Sole Custody mean sole religious decisions?

The law is not clear on this point. The courts have sidestepped this issue and have alluded that the sole custodial parent will likely be allowed to make this decision.

How does Joint Custody get awarded?

When both parents agree as part of a settlement.

If you are in a custody dispute, or divorce is imminent, you should contact Vidrio, park, and Jarvis today at 541-926-5504 or contact us online to schedule a consultation so you can make informed decisions about how to proceed.