Grandparent and Stepparent Rights

Sadly, sometimes circumstances are such that parents are not able to raise their children in a safe and secure environment. Physical and/or sexual abuse or neglect of a child by one or both parents can result in intervention. In such situations, third parties such as grandparents, stepparents, other family members, or even non-relatives may need to step in and assume care of the children.

It can be emotionally and legally challenging for third parties to acquire custody of children. The law presumes that a child’s parents act in that child’s best interest. Only if this presumption is clearly and convincingly rebutted will an Oregon court consider awarding custody to a third party – and then, only after the court determines that it is in the child’s best interests for that third party to assume custody.

With regard to visitation and communicating with a child, both relatives and non-relatives who have maintained an ongoing personal relationship with that child may petition the court to enforce their right to maintain that relationship. If a stepparent has established such a relationship with a child, and then becomes divorced from the child’s biological parent, the stepparent may be able to establish a right to have regular and ongoing contact with the child post-divorce, if the court determines that to be in the child’s best interest.

In extreme situations, where a child may have been abused or neglected, Oregon’s Child Protective Services (CPS) may remove the child from their parents’ home and place the child in foster care. CPS will first try to find an appropriate relative or involved non-family member with whom to place the child. In such situations, it is therefore important that grandparents or other relatives contact CPS as quickly as possible, and put themselves forward as caregivers and placement resources for the child.