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Oklahoma Child Custody
Child Custody in Oklahoma

Based on Oklahoma Statutes, Title 43, Sections 109 and 112, the court grants the care, custody, and control of a child to either parent or to the parents jointly.

Oklahoma awards custody of the child based on the child's best interests. In this, the court considers the physical and mental welfare of the child. The care of the child may involve a sole or joint custody, and judges have discretion in making this decision.

Oklahoma law allows legal and physical custody arrangements. Legal custody gives both parents a say in major child-raising decisions; physical custody specifies how much time each parent spends with the child.

Oklahoma encourages divorcing parents to develop a custodial routine that requires both of them to provide care for the child. The welfare of the child, the mental and emotional stability of the child and his parents, and the income of each parent are considered when determining who receives custody. Initial preference is not given to either parent, and the child's desire to live with one parent is seriously considered if he or she is over 12.

In designating parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall consider:

  • the child's wishes or preferences, provided that he or she is mature enough to make such preferences;
  • the parents' willingness and ability to encourage continuing, frequent contact between the child and the other parent;
  • the results of any investigation or inquiry about the care and welfare of the parents' minor children;
  • the mental or physical health of the parties involved in the proceedings;
  • any history of domestic violence, child abuse, negligence, or substance abuse; and
  • any other issues directly affecting the child's physical and moral well-being.

When one or both parents file for joint physical custody, each must submit a plan with the court describing the joint custody regime. The plan may be submitted jointly, or each parent can submit his or her own plan, which includes living arrangements for the child, medical care, visitation arrangements, education proposals and child support obligations. Each parent signs an affidavit agreeing to the plan. The court may order joint custody based on the parents' plan and make modifications. Under child custody laws in Oklahoma, the parenting plan should describe the child's living arrangements, payment of his or her medical and dental care, parents' visitation rights and arrangements, school arrangements and child support.

Upon request, the custodial parent must provide medical and school records to the non-custodial parent unless a judge believes it is not in the best interest of the child.

In order to change custody orders, the custodial parent must prove that there has been a "permanent and material change" in his or her household situation.

Relocation

The custodial parent must notify the non-custodial parent and other interested parties in the event of a move. A move of more than 75 miles requires notification about two months before the move and within 10 days of finding out it is necessary. The custodial parent must supply the new address and phone number, the time of the move, and the reason for it.

Other individuals who have visitation rights to the child, such as grandparents, must be notified of the move as well.

Joint Custody Preference

Oklahoma law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case.

A provision in Oklahoma law addresses "equal access to the minor child." Unless the court determines it is not in the child's best interest, both parents should be allowed equal access to the child. This equal access provision is unique and the courts try to make sure it is followed in visitation planning.

Oklahoma law does not interfere when parents can agree on the amount of time a custodial parent spends with their child. If the court must intervene, the judge may order a minimum amount of time that a non-custodial parent enjoys. The court's concern is that exposure to both parents is important for the proper development of that child.

Third Party Custody

In some cases, a third party, or someone other than a child's biological parents, tries to gain custody of a child. Oklahoma courts may appoint a guardian ad litem when either parent is contesting custody of a child. The guardian ad litem is a court-appointed legal representative for the child. This person looks out for the child's best interests, and he or she might also interview medical personnel and teachers who have contact with the child. The guardian ad litem must attend all court hearings and recommend appropriate services and custody arrangements for the child, based on the facts gathered during the investigation.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child. The court considers any allegations of domestic violence in the family in granting child custody. The court generally places the child with the parent who is not the perpetrator of the violence when it determines that domestic violence has occurred. The judge will also consider whether harassment or stalking has occurred and take that into consideration in the ruling.

Visitation

The Oklahoma courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The courts can establish visitation between one or more parent, even if both parents agreed upon a no-visitation policy.

If sole or primary custody must be awarded to one parent in Oklahoma, the court determines which parent is more likely to expedite visitation by the non-custodial parent. Oklahoma custody laws are designed to provide as much stability and regular contact with both parents as possible, unless the child is not safe with one parent. If a parent with sole custody prevents the non-custodial parent from visitation, the custody arrangements may be reevaluated.

The primary custodial parent must provide sufficient medical and dental care for the child. If the sole or primary custodian is unable to meet the child's financial needs, the non-custodial parent provides additional financial support.

The Oklahoma code suggests that additional visitations by the non-custodial parent should be encouraged and welcomed unless they are not in the child's best interests. Judges and parents permit additional visitation time whenever and wherever possible. Additional visitation reduces the child's shock and stress at being separated from one parent.

Oklahoma law states that any order allowing the non-custodial parent visitation must provide a specified minimum amount of time for visitation unless the court believes such visitation minimums or other circumstances make these minimums go against the child's best interests. The visitation order includes a specific minimum of days and/or times allowed. Violation of these times by the custodial parent can result in court-imposed sanctions. This prevents one parent from limiting the visitation of the non-custodial parent for vengeful or spiteful reasons.

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