Oklahoma Child Custody Law
Like most states these days, Oklahoma Child Custody Laws emphasize decisions that are in the best interest of the child or children in question. While parent testimonies and desires are taken into consideration, ultimately, the court weighs the facts to determine who is best suited for sole custody, to determine if visitation with the non-custodial parent is appropriate, or to determine if a joint-custody arrangement is feasible. Oklahoma courts consider numerous factors - as determined through documented facts, court-ordered evaluation and counseling, and other methods – to arrive at their conclusions. The court attempts to be as fair as possible to all parties involved, including the child. To maintain this fairness and to comply with current federal laws, Oklahoma Family Courts exclude certain factors from consideration as well.
Factors Considered in Oklahoma Child Custody Cases
- Stability – Does the custody-seeking parent have the means to provide a stable home and necessities for the child?
- Morality and lifestyle - Will or has the custody-seeking parent’s lifestyle had a negative effect on the child? (Factors include drugs, alcohol abuse, cohabitation, etc.)
- Interest in children’s lives/activities – The custody seeking parent should, ideally show a high level of interest and some involvement in their children’s daily lives and activities.
- Child discipline – The court will consider level of discipline and discipline methods used. The court prefers a proper balance – not too lax and not too harsh or bordering on abuse.
- Domestic abuse – A history of domestic abuse against the former spouse or child, preferably documented, will weigh heavily on the court’s judgment. In many cases, custody will not be granted to the abuser, and visitation will often require supervision. In granting visitation, the court may also order counseling and/or a program to help the domestic abuser to gain control of themselves and to prevent further abuse.
- Custodial parent relocation – If the custodial parent has legitimate cause for relocation, the court will consider this, as well as the wishes of the non-custodial factor and other factors. Relocation is not always barred; it depends on the efforts made to ensure the child and non-custodial parent maintain contact and visitation and that there is no proven underlying agenda to freeze out the non-custodial party.
- Child preference: If the child is determined old enough and capable of voicing their preference as to which parent thy wish to live with, the court will consider the child’s preference. This does not mean the court will absolutely grant the child’s wish. If said preference is deemed contrary to the child’s best interest, the court will grant custody contrary to the child’s preference. In some cases, where multiple children have different preferences, the court may grant custody of specific children to each parent, based on facts and the children’s preferences if the court sees fit to do so.
- Visitation allowance to non-custodial parent – If the custodial parent fails to comply with visitation to the non-custodial party, the court will consider this factor in determining future custody modifications.
- Temporary relinquishment of custody – If the custodial parent shows good cause for having temporarily relinquished custody of the child or children to the non-custodial parent or another approved party, the court may still order custody returned to the original custodian. Temporary relinquishment does not automatically warrant custody to the other parent; legitimate cause as to unfit parenting must be shown.
- Best interest of the child – The court will always place the best interest if the child ahead of any other interest. In some cases, custody may be temporarily or permanently granted to a family member, foster home, or other court-approved third party.
- Educational level of the parent(s) or educational arrangements for the child (public, private, or homeschooling)
- Sexual orientation (unless clearly proven as having had some adverse effect on the child or children)
This article provides a brief overview of Oklahoma child custody laws. Each situation is unique, and those needed specific information or assistance should consult a Tulsa Attorney. For more information, click here.