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How Is Custody Determined In Oklahoma?

Child CustodyTo determine custody, the best interest standard is used. This means that the court values whatever is in the best interest of the child. During the process of determining who would have custody of the child, if there is not an agreement already between the parties, then the judge would use the best interest standard. Some of the things that the judge will look for are:

  • A pattern of denied visits by either the parents;
  • Evidence of ongoing domestic abuse;
  • Preference of the child, which depends on the child’s age;
  • And more…

If a divorce is filed, usually one party will move out of the marital home and live somewhere else, while the other party may stay in the marital home with the child (or children). Even though there may not be a custody order in place at this time, the judge will look into which parent is denied visits and that will weigh in once we have a trial.

Evidence of ongoing domestic violence is very important and there’s a rebuttable presumption that a domestic abuser shall not have custody of a child and that includes joint custody. It’s a rebuttable presumption that the abuser should not have any more than supervised visitation with the child.

The preference of a child is considered if a child is at least 12 years or older. In the law, there’s a presumption that a 12-year-old child is mature enough to express who that child would like to live with primarily.

The following are the types of custody in Oklahoma:

  • Legal Custody: The parent, usually the custodial parent, will have the exclusive right to make decisions in the best interest of the child, subject only to the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent.
  • Physical Custody: Where the child primarily resides, usually where the custodial parent resides.
  • Sole Custody: One parent who gets exclusive physical and legal custody of the child by the court.
  • Joint Custody: Co-parenting where both parents confer with and have equal rights to make decisions about the child’s upbringing.

At What Age Can A Child Have Input On Who He Or She Will Be Living With?

For a child 12 years or older, the court sees that child as mature and old enough to inform intelligent decisions as to whom that child would like to live with or the extent of the visitation. This is conducted with an in-person interview with the judge in the judge’s chamber. Here the judge will ask a series of questions to determine the child’s preference.

What Joint Custody Mean Regarding Custody?

Joint custody does not have anything to do with where the children live physically. Joint custody is co-parenting. Joint custody is the ability of the parents to communicate effectively regarding the child in major decisions of the child’s life such as:

  • Education decisions
  • Major medical decisions
  • Religious upbringing
  • And more…

So, joint custody is another way of saying co-parenting. An example would be a couple with one parent in the military that is stationed in a different city or country and share joint custody with the other parent. They can show they can communicate and make decisions jointly for the best interest of the child. However, there are countless different situations that joint-custody parents may find themselves in.

Can You Modify Or Change Custody Orders In Oklahoma?

A custody order may be modified. The Oklahoma Supreme Court case Gibbons v. Gibbons of 1968 set the standard for custody modification.

The standard is if a modification of a custody order is requested, there must be a permanent, substantial, and material change of conditions which directly affect the best interest of the minor child. With the change in conditions, the minor child will be substantially better off with respect to his/her temporal, mental, and moral welfare if the request for a change in custody is granted.

When changing a custody order, the change in circumstances of the non-custodial parent is not taken into consideration. It would have to be the change of conditions in the custodial parent, and that change in condition must affect the minor child in a negative way.

Can You Relocate While A Custody Order Is In Place?

The person who has the right to establish the principal residence of the child is the custodial parent, and they have the right to exercise the relocation statute. The relocation statute identifies the step-by-step process that a custodial parent would need to go through to request that change to set a hearing up for relocation.

Oftentimes, people enter into a joint custody arrangement and the joint custody does not identify the custodial parent for the use of the relocation statute. Therefore, neither parent has the ability, or authority to exercise the relocation statute. In this instance, the party that would like to relocate would have to petition the judge or file a motion to determine the custodial parent. After this is done the relocation statute may be utilized. For more information on Child Custody Law in Oklahoma, an initial consultation is your next best step.

Harold Thompson, Esq.

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(918) 551-6581

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