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Child Custody Laws in Oklahoma

Child Custody Laws in Oklahoma



Oklahoma’s commitment to ensuring the well-being of children and parents involved in custody proceedings is evident in the changes made to its child custody laws over the past decade. The following key updates from 2013 to 2023 highlight Oklahoma’s dedication to adapting its child custody regulations:

2013 – Child’s Best Interests:

   – Oklahoma reiterates the child’s best interests as the primary focus in custody determinations.

2014 – Parenting Plans Requirement:

   – Introduction of mandatory parenting plans outlining custody arrangements, visitation, and decision-making responsibilities.

2015 – Shared Custody Emphasis:

   – Emphasis on shared custody arrangements to encourage the ongoing involvement of both parents.

2016 – Mediation Promotion:

   – Introduction of mediation as a way to resolve custody disputes amicably.

2017 – Child’s Preferences Acknowledged:

   – Courts start considering the child’s preferences as a factor in custody decisions.

2018 – Mental Health Assessment:

   – Introduction of mental health assessments when relevant to parental fitness and child well-being.

2019 – Technology’s Impact on Parenting:

   – Oklahoma addresses the role of technology in co-parenting and its effects on children.

2020 – Relocation Guidelines:

   – Establishment of guidelines to address parental relocations and their impact on existing custody arrangements.

2021 – Grandparent Visitation Rights:

   – Enhancement of grandparent visitation rights when it’s in the child’s best interests.

2022 – Co-Parenting Education:

   – Requirement for parents to attend co-parenting education classes to enhance communication and cooperation.

2023 – Encouraging Child-Focused Agreements:

   – Promotion of child-focused agreements to ensure the child’s needs remain at the forefront.

These changes reflect Oklahoma’s continuous commitment to prioritizing children’s well-being and promoting harmonious co-parenting relationships through its evolving child custody laws.

Guide to Child Custody Laws in Oklahoma

Family courts can be difficult for parents to navigate, particularly if they are unfamiliar with courtroom procedure.  Understanding the child custody laws in Oklahoma will help you to better resolve any child custody dispute you may be having in the state.  This guide will explain the doctrines that Oklahoma courts use when coming to a child custody determination.  You will also learn about the kinds of custody and visitation rights permitted according to child custody laws in Oklahoma.

General Doctrines

Oklahoma, like many states, used to use what was known as the “tender years doctrine.”  This gave custody to mothers by default for most young children.  However, child custody laws in Oklahoma today do not permit the court to make a determination of custody based on the sex of either parent.  Instead, current Oklahoma doctrine is to give preference to whichever parent has acted as the “primary caregiver” of the child.

The other general doctrine that dictates where a child will be placed is the best interest of the child doctrine.  Child custody laws in Oklahoma require judges to place the interests of the child first, before the interests of the parents.  If you come up with a parenting plan with your spouse, a judge is still allowed to modify or reject the plan if the judge feels it is not in the best interest of your child.

Legal Custody

While people usually just refer to “custody,” there are two types of custody, both of which can be granted jointly to both parents or solely to one parent.  The first of these types is called legal custody, which refers to the ability of the parent to make legal parental decisions on behalf of the child.  These decisions include many things that impact a child’s life, including medical and dental choices, choices in religious upbringing, and decisions about schooling.

If a parent is granted sole legal custody of a child, they are solely responsible for decisionmaking pertaining to that child.  The other parent no longer gets a say in their child’s education or healthcare decisions.  Joint legal custody, according to child custody laws in Oklahoma, means that the parents share responsibility for these decisions and must work to agree if there are disputes as to what should be decided on behalf of their child.

Custodial Custody

Custodial custody, also referred to as “physical custody,” refers to which parent a child is actually living with.  This type of custody may also be awarded jointly or solely.  Joint physical custody does not always refer to an exactly even split of a child’s time, especially in circumstances where parents live far apart from one another.  Sometimes, one parent may be the primary custodial parent while the other has custody less frequently.

Parents who are not awarded custodial custody will generally be given visitation rights that allow them parenting time with their children.  This visitation time may be supervised if the court feels that unsupervised visitation would present a risk to the child.