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Modifications of Custody, Parenting Time, and/or Support

Modifications of Custody and Parenting Time

In order to change custody in Oregon, a parent must prove a substantial change in circumstances based on facts.  It is a high burden because the court’s goal is to protect the stability of the child and not to disrupt the custodial relationship with the parent who has custody unless there is a verifiable substantial reason for doing so that was not in existence at the time of the original custody award.  

Often times, we see examples of a substantial change based on the custodial parent’s mental health deterioration, drug use, abuse or neglect findings by DHS or a criminal court against the custodial parent, or cohabitation with a new partner that is not fit to be around the child due to prior DHS involvement/findings or criminal convictions.  Also, we see modification cases due to the custodial parent’s interference with the non-custodial parent’s parenting time rights (such as refusing to take the child to visits or actively discouraging the child from visiting the other parent).

Our attorneys are knowledgeable on the law, the cases that interpret the law, and experienced in litigating change of custody and parenting time matters.  We know whether and how to file post-judgment actions that provide immediate relief and safety for the child. We know the burdens of proof and how to effectively present the facts of the situation to the court whether we are representing the non-custodial parent in a change of custody modification or the custodial parent in defense of a modification.  

Our lawyers are also parents.  Parenthood is by no means being “perfect”.  We recognize that often successful outcomes can include making changes to parenting plans to provide safety-net provisions and continue stability for the child that can satisfy both parties without the need for expensive litigation.  We often utilize custody evaluators, parent coordinators, and/or retain counselors to advise clients accordingly on the situation. We also encourage parties, where it is safe and available, to attempt mediation to resolve the dispute prior to engaging in litigation.  In our almost 20 years of experience, a result negotiated by the parties that focuses on the child’s needs is often more successful years later (without requiring more attorney and court involvement) than one that goes straight to litigation. At Arnold Law, we strive to reach the best result in a modification case without necessity of trial, if possible, so that you can spend your money where it needs to be spent (on your child rather than on your lawyer).  

Modifications of Support

We also handle modification of child and spousal support actions.  The legal standard is whether there has been a substantial change in the economic circumstances of a party that justifies a re-evaluation of the terms of the support award by way of a reduction or termination of the support (and often of the life insurance policy securing the support obligation).  These cases require a detailed look at both parties’ finances, spending habits, existing assets (or use of prior awarded marital assets), and often times, a party’s medical records if the modification reasoning is premised on a medical condition that affects that party’s ability to continue employment.  We have seen many cases where retirement is used as a basis for a modification as well. In addition to the review of areas already set out in this paragraph, it also requires a careful review of the original divorce judgment, basis and type of support award, and specific facts of the retirement in order to advise on whether a termination or reduction is most appropriate.  If one party has been laid off from employment and that is used as a basis for modification, this poses additional discovery considerations on current and future earning capacity, skills and qualifications, and proving that the party can obtain gainful employment. We work closely with vocational experts to assist our clients in preparing the case and ascertaining the facts necessary to prove the case in court.  Handling these matters on your own without an experienced attorney is risking your immediate and future economic security whether you are the party seeking relief or the party defending against the action.

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