The country continues to evolve a better understanding of the many gender identities and sexual orientations that come together to build strong, supportive families. As polyamorous or multiple-party marriages become more common in Oregon, non-traditional families still face unique challenges while the law catches up to the reality of everyday life. 

Much like the situation for same-sex couples and parents in previous decades, courts sometimes hold bias against polyamorous parents. This can complicate a child custody arrangement involving more than two parents. 

What can you do as part of a polyamorous family to protect yourself and your children? For many non-traditional families, planning ahead for many possible outcomes is key. Clear communication in writing about each partner’s parental rights and responsibilities can save heartache down the road. 

In the unfortunate event of a divorce, courts will often accept pre-negotiated agreements, as long as they are in the best interest of the child. Talking about your custody arrangement situation before it is an immediate concern gives you the best chance of finding an arrangement that works for all the parents and caregivers in a child’s life. 

What issues should you discuss in a multiple-parent child custody negotiation? 

Child custody law rarely recognizes more than two legal parents for any child. You may need to make decisions about legal status that do not tell the whole story for your family. These items can include: 

  • Which parents will have formal custody of the child with the authority to make medical, legal and educational decisions? 
  • What input will the unrecognized parent(s) have in medical, legal and educational decisions? 
  • Should we pursue a third-parent adoption? 
  • What financial responsibilities does each parent have to the child? 

These questions can help safeguard your family unit even if divorce or separation becomes the healthiest choice for one or more partners. A lawyer experienced in family law mediation can help you navigate these tricky issues while respecting the rights and wishes of all parents involved.