The breakup of a family unit is traumatic, particularly when there are children. Conflict between the parents can be the result of a number of factors and, unfortunately, too often that conflict has a direct impact on the children and the parties’ ability to co-parent. When that conflict exists and one parent has legal custody, it can provide an opportunity for even more imbalance since the custodial parent has decision making authority on matters of
non-emergency healthcare, education and religion. The non-custodial parent may feel like he or she has little or no say-so in these important matters involving their children. In practice, many judges, attorneys and mediators regularly include certain notice provisions in judgments and parenting plans. There is statutory authority and now Senate Bill 356 addressing some of these concerns. ORS 107.154 provides that the non-custodial parent has access to certain information regarding the children. This access includes school and medical records. Senate Bill 356, which became effective January 1, 2020, specifically authorizes a judge to require the parent with legal custody to notify the other parent of specific child-related matters. And to provide the other parent an opportunity for comment. Senate Bill 356 permits a detailed parenting plan to include instructions regarding notification requirements for specific matters. The purpose is to allow a non-custodial parent to have a voice, even if the custodial parent has final decision-making authority. An example would be enrollment and participation in extracurricular activities. A custodial parent who signs a child up for an activity might be required to provide the other parent with the schedule for that activity and to provide a reasonable opportunity for the other parent to comment about the activity. Another example would be routine medical appointments. A custodial parent might be required to provide notice of scheduled medical appointments 3 days in advance, for example, to the other parent and to provide the non-custodial parent a reasonable opportunity to comment about the care.
Developing a comprehensive parenting plan can also reduce conflict. Anticipating the kinds of future disputes that might occur can be difficult and parents may feel like it’s not necessary to be so specific in their parenting plan however incorporating such detail can go a long way in avoiding future disputes and litigation. Provisions that lend themselves to this concept are:
- Specific parenting exchange protocol
- What happens if parenting time is missed? Will there be make-up time and are there conditions on when make-up time is required?
- Extra-curricular activities, summer camps, summer vacation
- Travel notice requirements for parent traveling with children
- International travel and passport concerns
- Communication timelines and methods between the children and parent when with the other parent. This is one that comes up often in my cases and is a big point of contention when not specifically addressed in the parenting plan
- Children’s clothing, supplies, uniforms. This is another one that surfaces frequently. Are the children supposed to take clothing, supplies and uniforms back and forth between houses or is each parent required to maintain their own supply of everything the children need?
Making this transition as seamless and peaceful as possible for your children is critical. Coming up with a plan that is will stand the test of time is important. Our attorneys have handled a multitude of these matters. We are knowledgeable and creative in meeting our client’s needs. Contact one of our experienced family law attorneys to set up a consultation and determine your next best steps for your situation.