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Child Custody, Parenting Time and Parenting Plans

There are many complex aspects in divorces involving children, including parenting time, custody, third-party custody, and parenting plans, to name just a few. The following definitions provide a high-level overview.

Parenting Time

Oregon does not use the word ‘visitation’ when it describes the time a parent has with their child, but rather ‘parenting time’. This is more respectful to both parents’ roles in the child’s life as parents. Oregon judges take an inclusive approach to parenting and believe frequent contact between minor children and both parents is essential to adequate child development.

When there are safety concerns about a parent, the Oregon law provides solutions to ensure the child’s safety and well-being first.


Oregon does still use the word ‘custody’ to describe a parent’s right to make decisions for a child. If one parent has sole custody, then that custodial parent can make major decisions about medical, education, religion, or other major decisions even if the other parent disagrees. If the parents share joint custody, then both parents must agree on major decisions, but a court won’t order ‘joint custody’ unless both parties agree to share this function.

What is important to remember is that ‘custody’ has little to do with how much ‘parenting time’ a parent has. Moreover, one parent having sole custody does not mean the other parent does not have substantial rights to be involved in a variety of ways including:

  • education,

  • medical treatment,

  • religion

  • the right to make emergency decisions

Image by Annie Spratt
Third-Party Custody and Parental rights

There can be a big difference between a biological father or mother and a ‘parent’. Oregon law acknowledges that there are ‘psychological parents’ that may not have biological ties.  Oregon judges often support a child’s psychological need to remain in frequent contact with their psychological parent, and/or ‘parent-like’ relationships regardless of biology.  Oregon has even granted a right called ‘Third- Party Custody” to non-biological psychological parents who have been doing the lion’s share of raising a child, and for a substantial period of time. Under certain circumstances, Oregon also allows ‘parenting time’ to persons who have created a familial relationship with a minor child, such as a step-parent. You should consult with an attorney to see if your circumstances qualify as there are many important factors that would need to be present.

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