March 30, 2012

New Case Law – Substantial Change of Circumstances Since the Last Custody Order

On March 28, 2012, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided Sconce and Sweet. In this case, the trial court granted the father’s 2010 motion for a change in custody, granting him sole custody of the parties’ child. The trial court found that there had been a substantial change in circumstances since the parties’ general judgment entered in 2001, which granted sole custody to the mother. The Court of Appeals, however, stated that whether or not there had been a substantial change of circumstances should be measured from the “last custody order,” or “most recent” custody order. In this case, there had been a 2004 supplemental judgment denying the father’s request for sole custody. The Court of Appeals stated that the last or most recent custody order is not limited to an order which modifies custody, but rather means any order relating to custody, including orders denying a change in custody. The court further stated that to look back further than the most recent order related to custody – whether that order modified custody or not – would undermine the preclusive effect of that order. The Court of Appeals found that there was no substantial change of circumstances since the 2004 judgment and reversed the trial court’s award of custody to the father.

The entire opinion can be found here.