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Legal Information: Oregon


March 6, 2020

What factors are considered by a judge when deciding custody?

The judge will always evaluate the best interests of the minor child when making a custody determination. No preference, in general, is given to either the mother or the father.1 In Oregon, “best interests” is based on the following factors:

  1. the emotional ties between the child and other family members;
  2. the interest and attitude a party seeking custody has towards the child;
  3. the desirability of continuing an existing relationship;
  4. the abuse of one parent by the other (see Can a parent who has committed violence get custody? for more information);
  5. the preference for the primary caregiver (if the court determines s/he is fit); and
  6. the willingness of each parent to support a continuing relationship with the other parent and the child. However, this factor will not be considered if:
    • one parent abused or sexually assaulted the other parent or the child; and
    • a continuing relationship with the abusive parent would endanger the health or safety of the parent or child; and
  7. any other factors that the judge decides are relevan​t.2

The judge may consider the following additional factors related to either party only if it is shown that any of these factors are causing or may cause emotional or physical damage to the child:

  • behavior (conduct);
  • marital status;
  • income;
  • social environment; and
  • lifestyle.1

If a parent has a disability (as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act), the judge can only consider his/her disability in determining custody if the judge finds that his/her behaviors or limitations related to the disability are endangering or will likely endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child.1

1 ORS § 107.137(2) – (5)
2 ORS § 107.137(1)