Child Custody and Visitation
Oklahoma City Child Custody Attorneys Fighting for Your Parenting Rights
When parents are divorcing, an important issue that takes time and thought is child custody. The Court may order joint or sole custody based on the best interests of the child, and at a certain age, the Court may also give consideration to the preference of the child. There is no presumption for or against joint or sole custody in Oklahoma.
Parents are usually the parties named in child custody agreements, though grandparents and other guardians may have the right to seek child custody under certain circumstances.
When awarding child custody to either parent, the Court may consider the following:
- Which parent is more likely to allow frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent
- That there is no preference of one parent over the other as a custodian because of the gender of that parent
- The Court must provide for a visitation schedule of the noncustodial parent unless it is not in the best interest of the child
If either or both parents request joint child custody, the custody plan, which includes the plans for the exercise of joint care, custody, and control of the child, needs to be filed with the Court.
The plan must include:
- Physical living arrangements for the child and the time shared with each parent
- Financial support of the children
- Decision-making, including but not limited to medical and dental care for the child, and
- School placement
An Oklahoma joint child custody order may be modified or changed whenever circumstances render the change proper, and it is in the best interest of the child to do so.
Sole custody rights may be granted to one parent with visitation rights to the other parent. Sole custody rights provide one parent with custody privileges and responsibilities.
Examples of what the Court must consider in the custody determination include:
- A history of violence and/or destructive behavior
- Placing the child in dangerous situations
- Mental instability
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
The Court may award sole custody and limited visitation when the other parent displays attributes or behaviors which compromise the best interests of the child. The objective at all times for awarding child custody and visitation–whether it be joint custody, sole custody with visitation, or some other agreement of the parties– is to focus on allowing both parents to develop and continue their bond with the child, even in the absence of a marital bond between the parents.
Legal vs. Physical Custody
Child custody involves both the legal and physical custody of the child involved in a divorce or separation.
The parent awarded legal custody has the right and responsibility of making the major decisions that will affect the child’s life, including health care, education, travel, child care, religion, and other decisions which affect the welfare of the child. However, in most instances, major decisions should be made by a discussion between the parents.
The physical custody portion of a child custody agreement or an order of the Court is required to delineate the time shared between the parents.
Once a divorce is pending, either party can ask for temporary orders pertaining to temporary child custody and child support. These orders will remain in effect until a final decree is entered or until the temporary orders are modified.
Oklahoma statutes favor expanded use of visitation and require the Court in deciding custody to assure that the child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents. The Court must enter a visitation schedule if there are no intervening factors that would cause concern for the safety of the child.
Minimum visitation time for a non-custodial parent is decided on a case-by-case basis. The statute requires that there be a minimum schedule of visitation. This is only a guide, and parents are encouraged to exceed this in terms of phone calls and other contact with the child.
Living out of State
If one parent lives out of state, the Court may call for longer periods of time based around the child’s school schedule. The Court will enter an order for minimum visitation based upon where the parents live in an effort to maintain frequent and continuing contact between the parent and the child.
The exception to a minimum schedule of visitation is where there is evidence of domestic violence, stalking, or harassment. In such cases, the Court must frame a visitation schedule to ensure the safety and welfare of the child. Aside from exceptional cases involving violence or abuse, the Court will always encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing.
Grandparents’ Visitation Rights
The rights of grandparents are very different than those of parents. It is difficult for grandparents to obtain visitation because the Constitution protects the parents’ rights to make decisions for their child without Court intervention. Only upon a showing of harm is the Court allowed to intervene and order visitation.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with a skilled Family Law attorney at Echols & Associates, please contact us at (405) 691-2648.