June 13, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Oregon has passed a bill that some may consider an “equal parenting” bill. That may be a slight improvement over the status quo, but my guess is it’ll mean little-to-no change in parenting time orders. Governor Katherine Brown signed it into law.
Here’s the pertinent language of what is now the law in the Beaver State.
“In developing a parenting plan under this subsection, the court may order equal parenting time. If a parent requests that the court order equal parenting time in the parenting plan, the court may deny the request if the court determines, by written findings, that equal parenting time is not in the best interests of the child or endangers the safety of the parties.”
In short, a court may order equal parenting time, but of course that was always true. Oregon didn’t prohibit equal parenting time prior to the passage of this bill and so a judge could do so. About the only difference comes in the following sentence that requires written findings if equal parenting isn’t ordered. Family court judges are busy and they don’t like to spell out why they do what they do. Still, any impediment to non-equal time is a blow, however weak, in favor of it. The best interests of the child remain the primary focus of parenting time decisions.
Plus, there are no guidelines on which judges can determine what is in a child’s best interests and what isn’t. So a judge can simply say that Dad spent too much time at work for it to be in the child’s interest to see much of him post-divorce.
Meanwhile, here’s the language of SB 318 the legislature refused to pass:
In determining parenting time rights under this section, there is a rebuttable presumption that equal parenting time is in the best interests of the child. In determining whether the presumption under this subparagraph has been rebutted, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the factors listed in ORS 107.137 (1). The burden of rebutting the presumption is on the parent challenging the presumption. The presumption must be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence that equal parenting time is not in the best interests of the child and the other parent’s lack or inability with respect to the child will cause substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or safety.
In other words, the Oregon legislature traded a good bill for a lousy one. The original bill would have gone a long way toward keeping children united with both parents when the adults split up. In the process, it would have helped ameliorate a host of social issues – crime, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health problems, educational problems – in the state. Instead, lawmakers elected to put the smallest and most fragile of band-aids on the gaping wound of fatherlessness. The opportunity was there, and they blew it.
But those of us who know and value the truth about child custody, parenting time and children’s well-being will be back. We’ll always be back. We’ll be back because reforming how judges make their orders and educating them about equal parenting are societal “musts.” We’ll be back because we have right and justice on our side and those who oppose children’s rights to both parents have zip.
Thanks to Brian for the heads-up.