Custody & Parenting Time

In a sense, all parents are co-parents. Even in an intact household, child-rearing tasks are apportioned between the parents, whether by explicit arrangement or by tacit assumption. Whatever the usual routine for your household is, this is your co-parenting plan. In an intact household, the plan is seldom negotiated outright (though it might be a good idea!).

When a child’s household is splitting up, it is a delicate time for all involved. Even when both parties are perfectly capable parents, the high stakes of a child custody and parenting time dispute put more stress on an already stressed family system. People say things they don’t really mean, or take actions that provoke powerful responses. It is a good idea to have a detailed consultation with an experienced family law attorney when your child’s household is going through this kind of turmoil. The stakes are high!

In Oregon, custody of a child is different from parenting time with a child. Custody is about making the big decisions, while parenting time is just what it sounds like-the time a parent spends with his or her child.


In Oregon (unlike California, most notably) one does not sue for joint custody. Joint custody is the agreement between two parents to share in the decision-making about the child. These are the big decisions we’re talking about—where the child lives, where the child goes to school, where the child gets his or her religious training, and similar matters.

Parents with joint custody have said to the court that they can, and will, cooperate to make the important decisions in their child’s life.  Neither parent should be making unilateral decisions about important choices for the child—joint custody means joint decision making.

If parents can’t agree to a joint custody arrangement, then either the parties agree that one parent will be the custodial parent, or the parties take steps to have the court decide. Again, it is very useful to talk to an attorney to know what steps to take in a custodial dispute.

Even when one parent is designated as the custodian, both parents have equal rights in many crucial areas, like the ability to see confidential records about the child and the ability to consult with the child’s doctors and teachers.


I focus a lot of attention on the creation of a workable parenting plan for co-parents. Hallmarks of a good parenting time plan include:

  • Clear expectations
  • Routine
  • Infrequent transitions
  • Accountability
  • Consideration of likely future changes

A good parenting time plan is one that accurately and understandably conveys the parties’ expectations and gives the child a predictable routine. I am not a fan of plans that give a parent more parenting time than he or she is actually going to do, or give one parent a great deal of control over whether the other parent gets to have parenting time at all.

When the attorneys at McLain Legal are working on a case with multiple issues, Custody and Parenting Time—“the child issues”—are the ones we prioritize.  If you and your ex can make cooperative decisions about the children, you are saving yourself a lot of heartache and money!  If you fear the other parent is not safe with the children, or you need to convince the other parent that you are safe, you need a solid advocate.

This is our most important task at McLain Legal—ensuring that children get safe, sustained access to their parents, because that is what the law presumes is best for them.  We have many tools we use to provide a high level of advocacy in child custody and parenting time cases, no matter how thorny the issues.