Father’s Rights

Father’s Rights are just as important as Mother’s Rights.

Often I hear fathers in divorce or custody cases say it seems fathers don’t have any right to custody of their kids; that mothers always win custody.
In reality there are many different factors that go into deciding who should get custody.

In regards to Father’s Rights, Oregon law states “no preference in custody shall be given to the mother over the father for the sole reason she is the mother, nor shall any preference be given to the father over the mother for the sole reason he is the father.” ORS 107.137(4).

In awarding custody judges look at each parent’s attitude and interest in the children, the presence of domestic violence, each parent’s ability and willingness to facilitate a relationship with the other parent and, most significantly, who has been the “primary parent.”

Father’s RightsThe terms primary caretaker and primary parent identify the parent who spends the most time in meeting the children’s day-to-day needs. The age of the child is often mentioned in conjunction with this factor. All other factors being relatively equal, considerable weight is given to which parent has been the primary caretaker. Matter of Marriage of Derby, 31 Or App 803 (1977) (mother was primary caretaker as homemaker and could continue role of primary caretaker while working regular hours, whereas father’s work hours were irregular). A court commits reversible error when it refuses to give any weight to this factor. Matter of Marriage of Van Dyke, 48 Or App 965, (1980).

In Matter of Marriage of Boldt, 104 Or App 379, 382 (1990), the court stated the primary-parent rule as “all other things being equal, small children should go with the caretaking and more nurturing parent.” However, the determination of the primary caretaker or primary parent is not always dispositive of the custody issue. Boldt, 104 Or App at 382 n 1; Sweat v. Coughtry, 157 Or App 677 (1998). Strong emotional ties to the other parent and that parent’s ability to provide more stability for the children can shift the balance. Matter of Marriage of Tuttle, 62 Or App 281 (1983).

In Matter of Marriage of Robison, 124 Or App 479 (1993), the trial court awarded custody to the mother. That determination was reversed because the trial court relied too heavily on the mother being the primary caregiver during the marriage. At trial, both experts had recommended custody to the father, both had expressed concerns about the mother’s stability, and both believed that the children were safer and more secure with the father and were more strongly attached to the father. This is Father’s Rights in action.

Thus, the issue of which parent, mother or father, gets custody is a very fact driven analysis. Fathers often times are the primary parent. Many dads are stay at home fathers, while mothers are working outside the home to support the family. Other times, mothers may be impaired by alcohol, drugs or psychological problems which prevent her from being able to adequately care for the children. Just don’t assume because you’re the father that you will lose custody. Father’s Rights are rights.

If you live in Bend, Redmond, or any region of Central Oregon and think you need help with Father’s Rights, or would simply like to set up an initial consultation, please contact me.