Parent’s Guide to Confusing Family Law Terms

Parent’s Guide to Confusing Family Law Terms

Clarification of the Most Commonly Confused Terms in Family Law

People are often confused about terms used in the family law arena. I have prepared this guide to help clarify some of the family law terms I hear confused most often. By clarifying I hope to help your family to a healthier more positive and peaceful resolution. Please share this guide to confusing family law terms with any parents considering divorce or separation.

Sole & Joint Custody
I often hear, “I want sole custody so that I can have my kids more often”. The terms sole and joint custody indicate how parents will handle major decisions about the children. Major decisions include, but are not limited to, decisions about the children’s education, non-emergency health care and religious training. Sole custody indicates that one parent is solely responsible for such major decisions while joint custody allows the parents the latitude to communicate and decide together on all major decisions. The terms sole and joint custody have nothing to do with the amount of time that children spend with either parent, nor do they affect Child Support calculations.

Parenting Time
Determining the amount of time each parent spends with the children is called Parenting Time. Deschutes County has a standard plan that may be used as a guideline. Parents do NOT have to use the standard parenting plan. Often times, it is helpful for parents to create their own plan. The standard parenting plan is mostly used when the parents are in serious conflict and cannot speak with one another. Sadly, a Court has to dictate the time allocated for each parent and that is where the Deschutes Standard Plan comes into play. The plan uses the terms “residential” and “non residential” parent and I find that causes confusion. Residential parent more often is the parent who may have more overnights than the other parent. The designation of Residential parent and Non Residential parent helps with the holiday schedule because parents can look at a chart and determine if they get the children this Thanksgiving and for what time period. Parents do not have to use the terms Residential and Nonresidential parent. Sometimes, parents share almost equal time with the children and are turned off by those designations. I encourage clients to use the Deschutes Parenting Plan as a fall back position. Hopefully, as two caring parents, they can determine the children’s schedule but if there is a conflict, then they can use the plan.
Holidays can cause a lot of stress between divorced or separated parents. Please keep in mind that if both parents agree, the children can have alternative plans. If long distance relatives are visiting and according to the plan, parent A is not suppose to have the kids for Christmas, perhaps parent B could give a little and let the kids go to that house for Christmas. Parents need to put their children’s needs before their own. Children really want to spend quality time with both parents and only we as parents can make it happen! And remember, section 12 of the plan is entitled “Affection and Respect” and states that neither parent shall say things or allow others to say things in the children’s presence that would interfere with the children’s love and respect for the other parent”. Try to build up the other parent in your child’s eyes because everyone wins if you do.

As a family law attorney particularly interested in peaceful, non-hostile and collaborative methods available to achieve a less expensive and emotionally destructive divorce, I often find that clarifying family law terms such as sole and joint custody or parenting time during my initial consultation, helps families reach more positive longer lasting outcomes. Primarily, I believe these results are a result of each parent better understanding what the other is actually requesting and the implications such a request may have. To learn more about these and other family law terms or peaceful, non-hostile alternatives to mess and expensive trials, schedule your $75 initial consultation with me by calling (541) 318-8038.