What Does a Child Custody Attorney Do?

young siblings

Parents who wish to obtain custody of their child should hire a lawyer to get legal custody. Lawyers are often used to get custody on behalf of their clients who seek to establish custody. Most states follow a child rights principle, dictating the best interests of the child. This means that dozens of different factors are taken into consideration when determining custody. An experienced custody lawyer understands these factors and how to best use them to your advantage. A lawyer can help with mediating an agreement, if possible. In the case of a disagreement, an attorney can file applicable legal paperwork and represent your interests in court. Given that there is a lot at stake in custody hearings, a lawyer should be consulted to ensure the best possible chance at a positive outcome.

Family Law Courts and Joint Custody

Until a custody hearing has occurred, both parents have equal rights to custody of the child as long as the parents were married or paternity has been established. In Oregon, courts cannot order joint legal custody unless both parents are in agreement. Therefore, sole legal custody is often granted to one parent; meaning that one parent has the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child (such as those around education, healthcare, and religion). However, the parents can still share physical custody in the form of parenting time. 

Can a Custody Attorney Help Change the Custody Agreement?

A child custody attorney may be able to help you obtain more parenting time or adjust the custody agreement through what is known as a Motion for Modification of General Judgment of Custody. However, the most important time to decide upon custody and parenting time is during the original custody hearing. It is not an easy task to make significant changes after the fact. In many cases, the courts will not want to disrupt the child’s life again. If you want custody, be sure to work with your attorney during the custody proceeding. Unless you have a significant reason (like child endangerment) or change in circumstances, it is unlikely that a major change to custody will happen after the parenting plan has been legally established.

Using a Lawyer to Help with Third Party Custody

A child custody attorney can also help navigate the complicated laws around third parties trying to gain visitation and custody. If the appropriate requirements are met, both relatives and non-relatives with a close bond with the child can petition for visitation rights. Occasionally, third parties (non-parents) that can demonstrate a parent-child relationship can petition for custody if the parents are unable or unwilling to care for the child. This third party individual is referred to as a “psychological parent”. This person needs to have an established and long-term relationship with the child, have had physical custody or lived with the child, and have been caring for child both physically and psychologically.

Hobson / Oram Law

Hobson Oram Law