Divorce and Separation


A PDF guide to how the mediation process fits with the legal divorce process.

Glossary of terms

Access, Right of Access. Child’s right to contact with both parents. See also “Frequent and Continuing Contact”

“Best Interest of the child.” If a judge decides a custody/parenting plan case, the judge tries to decide what would be best for the child based on all the testimony and other evidence in the case.

Case, Case Law. Previous cases decided by courts of appeal are published an used by judges to make decisions in current, similar cases

Change in Circumstance. Before modifying (changing) a custody order or parenting plan, a court requires a parent to show that a substantial (major) change in the conditions affecting the child has occurred since the last court order.

Child Support. Money paid by one parent to the other, or to the Department of child Support, to help meet the needs of the child for housing, food, clothing, transportation, etc.

Child Support Guidelines. The formula created by the legislature to determine how much money each parent should contribute to the support of their children. One parent may have to give money to the other if the parent’s contributions as computed by the formula are not equal. Parents may agree to an amount of support different from that set by the guidelines, so long as it adequately supports the child and the court approves.

Code, Section. Laws passed by the state legislature (or adopted by initiative). Most code sections relating to family law are in volumes 107 and 109 of the Oregon Revised Statutes (O.R.S.) and are available at the county law library or on the internet at .

Confidential. When a conversation is confidential, none of the participants can testify in court about what was said. Confidentiality is different with different professionals. You may want to ask the professional person (attorney, mediator, therapist, counselor) what the rules are.

Co-Parents. Parents who share responsibility for raising a child even though the parents no longer live together.

Court Order. Any order made by a judge; the order may be written by the judge or submitted by a party or attorney and signed by the judge. The parties may agree to a plan and, when the judge signs it, it becomes a court order or Judgment. See also stipulation.
Custodial Interference. It is against the law to interfere with the other parent’s reasonable contact with a child except as provided by a court order; when there is a court order, both parents must abide by it.

Custody. In Oregon, “custody” means the right to make major decisions for the welfare of a child. Major decisions include medical care, religion, education and residence. Custody may be either joint with both parents or sole with one parent. “Sole Custody” does not give one parent the right to move away with the child without notice to the other parent unless the order specifically gives that right. Having custody does not necessarily mean having the child live with you (see parenting time). See also regular, split and shared custody for child support terms.

Department of Child Support. The state agency that handles child support where one of the parents is receiving public assistance or the Oregon Health Plan. The county District Attorney’s office helps with child support where no public assistance is involved.

Dissolution of Marriage. Divorce.

Divorce. The legal process of dissolving a marriage; where parents have not been married, they can file a petition for custody (or filiation petition) to obtain orders for custody and a parenting plan.

Expedited Enforcement of Child Custody. A special court case to force the other parent to comply with an existing court ordered custody and parenting plan. It is sometimes called “parenting time enforcement.”

Facilitator, Family Law Facilitator. A court employee who helps parents without attorneys by providing assistance with common family law forms and giving information about court procedures and other sources of help in their communities.

Family Abuse Prevention Act. The law that authorizes courts to issue restraining orders where there has been violence or other forms of abuse within a family. Restraining orders may include orders for custody and a parenting plan.

F.A.P.A. See Family Abuse Prevention Act.

Family Law. The law that relates to family relationships. It includes law about divorce, custody, parenting plans, property division, child support, spousal support (“alimony”) and other topics. The law is made up of both statutes and cases.

“Father’s Rights.” Judges are required to base decisions on the best interests of the child; they may not discriminate between parents on the basis of sex.

Filiation Petition. Legal papers asking the court to declare who is the father of the child. The petition can also ask the court to make an order regarding custody, parenting plan, and support.

Frequent and Continuing Contact. Parenting plans should provide a child regular contact with both parents so the child has a genuine, on-going relationship with each parent unless it puts the child in serious danger.

“Grandparent’s Rights.” Grandparents and others who have an established relationship with a child have the right to ask a court to make orders guaranteeing them time with the child. A court may make such an order if it is in the best interest of the child.

Guardianship. If neither parent is able to care for a child at a given time, a court may appoint a guardian. The guardian has the right to make all decisions for the welfare of the child until the guardianship is ended by the court, usually when it is no longer needed.

Hearing. A motion that is handled in court. Parties and attorneys may call witnesses and introduce evidence. A judge will make a decision based on all the evidence and the decision will become a court order.

Holiday. Each family has certain holidays and special occasions that it celebrates. A parenting plan would specify who the child will spend holidays with and define each holiday so both parents know when it begins and when it ends.

Indian Child Welfare Act (I.C.W.A.). A federal statute providing Native American families and tribes special notice regarding possible adoptions or other custody orders about Native American children.

Joint Custody. Parents share the responsibility to make major decisions for their child (see custody). Joint custody does not mean that the child spends equal time with each parent. Both parents have to agree for joint custody to be ordered. See parenting time.

Judgment. See court order.

Law. See code, case.

“Limited Legal Services.” An arrangement with an attorney to receive help on some parts of a case for a set fee or limited fees.

Mediation. A meeting with a trained, neutral third party who helps the parties try to solve problems cooperatively. Most courts provide mediation of custody and parenting plan problems up to a certain number of hours. Mediation may occur face to face or separately, if necessary. Mediation is confidential and voluntary. The mediator does not tell the parents what they should do or make a recommendation to the court.

“Mother’s Rights.” Judges are required to base decisions on the best interests of the child; they may not discriminate between parents on the basis of sex.

Motion. A formal request filed with the court. A judge makes a decision to allow or deny the request, usually after a hearing or trial.

No-Fault Divorce. Under Oregon law, it is not necessary to prove that either husband or wife did anything wrong. Anyone can get a divorce if they want to.

Order. See court order.

“Parent Better Able to Share.” Since children need continued contact with both parents, where possible, judges favor the parent most likely to be fair and responsible in making sure the child maintains his or her relationship with the other parent.

Parenting Plan. A regular schedule for parenting time along with plans for communication between the parents, decision-making, a holiday schedule, information sharing, etc. The parenting plan may be developed by the parents, through mediation, with the help of attorneys or by a judge after a trial or hearing. See custody.

Parenting Time. The actual time a child is scheduled to spend with a parent. During parenting time that parent has primary responsibility for making routine decisions for the child but not major decisions (see custody).

Paternity Petition. See Filiation Petition.

Petition for Custody. If parents have never been married, instead of filing a dissolution of marriage (divorce) they file a petition for custody (or filiation petition) in order to get court orders for custody and a parenting plan.

Physical Custody. See custody and parenting time

Psychological Parent. Sometimes a person who is not a biological parent takes on significant parental responsibilities for a child and is seen by the child as a “parent.” A judge can provide for the child to continue to have scheduled time with this psychological parent. Stepparents and live-in partners often become psychological parents.

Rules, Rules of Court. Many court procedures are controlled by statewide rules (The Uniform Trial Court Rules or UTCR) or by local court rules. The state and local rules can be found in the county law library or at the following web site:

Section. See code.

Sole Custody. One parent has the right and responsibility to make the four major decisions for the welfare of the child. See custody.

Status Quo. A child’s usual place of residence, current schedule, and daily routine for at least the last three months.

Statute. See code.

Stipulation. A formal agreement of the parties. When it is written up and signed by the parties and the judge, it becomes a court order.

Supervised Parenting Time. Parenting time during which the parent and child must be in the presence of another specified adult. Supervised visitation may be ordered where there has been domestic violence, child abuse or a threat to take the child out of the state.

Transition. The moving of a child from one place where they are taken care of (home, school, day care, etc.) to another.

Trial. See hearing.

UCCJEA. See Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act. A statute adopted by many states to make it easier to enforce custody and parenting plans across state lines. Oregon has adopted this statute.

Visitation. Term no longer preferred. See parenting plan, parenting time.

This is not a glossary of legal definitions but has been prepared for use by persons who are not lawyers.

Copyright © 2003, for the use and benefit of the Oregon Judicial Department, all rights reserved. You may reproduce or copy this material for personal use or non-profit educational purposes but not for resale or other for-profit distribution unless you have permission from the Court Programs and Services Division of the Oregon Judicial Department.