Every state has its own guidelines for determining child custody. But, like most states, Oklahoma grants custody based on the best interest of the child. In other words, the court takes into consideration the well being of the child as well as the parents’ ability to cooperate in the decision-making.
Child custody encompasses all the parental rights in regards to the child’s health, education, care and other activities. Visitation and parenting time is based on the type of physical custody granted by the court. In today’s blog, we’ll explore the four types of child custody in Oklahoma as well as some of the details involved in each process.
(Free checklist: 15 Child Custody Factors to Discuss With Your Spouse Before a Divorce)
In a sole custody arrangement, one parent is awarded exclusive control of the decisions regarding the child’s best interest. This agreement is typically accompanied with a right of reasonable visitation with the non-custodial parent unless they’re deemed unfit due to substance abuse, child abuse or neglect.
Joint physical custody works best when parents live relatively close to one another as it allows the child to maintain a somewhat normal routine. The court looks favorably on this and works with both parents to establish an agreement that outlines decisions regarding the child’s upbringing as well as plans for time-sharing.
For more information on Oklahoma child custody, be sure to check out our other blog on the topic here.
Legal and Physical Custody Are Sub-Issues of Joint Custody
A parent with legal custody has the right to make decisions in regards to the child’s upbringing such as daycare, schooling, religious education and medical care. Oklahoma courts often award joint legal custody to both parents, which give them equal decision-making rights. If parents cannot reach a mutual agreement on an issue the Court will often require them to go to mediation. However, if circumstances between you and the other parent make it difficult or impossible to share decision-making authority/legal custody, you can go to court and request sole custody or at least final decision making authority in case a mutual agreement cannot be reached.
Generally, when a parent is granted sole custody or designated as the primary physical custodian in a joint custody case, the child will primarily live with that parent with the other parent having parenting time/visitation with the child every other weekend, half the holidays and half the summer. (More on that topic later.) However, often if the courts award joint custody they will award equal parenting time with the child.
How Do Courts Determine Custody and Visitation/Parenting Time?
When filing for custody, the matter of time-sharing takes center stage. When parents have joint custody, the time-sharing is known as parenting time. When one parent has sole custody, the time-sharing is known as visitation time. The terms are often used interchangeably but are technically different.
When parents agree to share joint custody they typically work out a schedule based on their work schedules, the child’s school schedule and their beliefs as to what is in the child’s best interest. Its best for parents to try and agree because this gives them control over the outcome.
If parents can’t agree on a schedule, then the court will impose an arrangement such as alternating weeks, two days on two days off and alternate weekends or they will make one parent the primary custodian with the other receiving every other weekend half the holidays and half the summer.
Courts focus on the past and present involvement of parents in the child’s life and the developmental needs of the child. If the child is over 12 years age the court will consider the child’s preference for their physical custody schedule.
Oklahoma Law Encourages Frequent and Continuing Contact With Both Parents
As we mentioned in sole custody or where one parent is designated as the primary physical custodian, the non-custodial parent will often receive every other weekend, half the holidays and half the summer with the exception of cases where one parent cannot be trusted to take proper care of the child.
When one parent cannot be trusted they will often end up with just daytime visitation or supervised only visitation. Courts do not like to award supervised only visitation unless significant evidence shows the party is untrustworthy. A positive drug test or criminal arrest, charges or a conviction would usually be sufficient evidence to cause supervised or very limited visitation.
What If a Parent Denies Access to the Child?
If one parent denies the other parent their visitation/parenting time ordered by the court, the parent being denied visitation may file a motion for enforcement of visitation rights. Upon filing, a hearing date will be scheduled immediately. If the court finds a parent’s visitation rights have been unreasonably denied, the court may order make-up visits, attorney fees or other remedies deemed appropriate.
Need Help Navigating Child Custody?
Anytime you anticipate legal proceedings, it’s wise to enlist the help of a trusted attorney. To learn more about child custody in Oklahoma or to schedule a consultation, we invite you to reach out to us today at (405) 701-6376.
Our team can help. In our latest resource, we outline 15 factors to address before a divorce or child custody case. Click below to access your free copy of the checklist now.