THE ABCS OF CHILD CUSTODY IN OKLAHOMA
Good parenting is hard work, even in an intact family. When parents dissolve their marriage, when unmarried parents separate, or when parents who never lived together confront co-parenting issues, they find themselves facing fear of an unknown future in child rearing. Many parents are also carrying heavy emotional baggage that comes with dissolution or separation – this baggage shows up variously as anger, self-doubt, denial, lack of trust, poor communication skills, avoidance, and other unhelpful reactions.
At the Tulsa Family Law Center, we help our clients safely negotiate this troubled crossroads. We encourage parents to adopt the skills to effectively co-parent in the future. When effective co-parenting is not an option, we advocate for our client to assert to the Court what is in the best interests of the children.
The rules of the road are the statutes and cases stating the law of custody in Oklahoma.
THE INITIAL CUSTODY DETERMINATION
It has been said that custody embraces the sum of parental rights with respect to the care and rearing of the child. It includes the right to the child’s services and earnings, the right to direct the child’s activities and make decisions regarding his or her care and control, education, health and religion.
Sole custody – In this arrangement, one of the parties is awarded exclusive control of decisions regarding the child’s welfare. This is usually accompanied by the right of reasonable visitation with the non-custodial parent. The term reasonable is obviously broad, flexible, and highly fact-dependent.
Joint Custody – The term joint custody means the sharing by parents in all or some of the aspects of physical and legal care, custody, and control of their children. Courts recognize the right of the court to award joint custody upon a parent who does not request it, but it is also recognized that there should be a likelihood of parental cooperation, beneficial home environments provided by both parents, and the fact that joint custody will not disrupt other aspects of the children’s lives, such as schooling.
Split Custody – Under the Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines, split custody involves families where each parent is awarded custody of at least one of their children.
VISITATION (OR TIME SHARING)
The trial court shall grant visitation to a non-custodial parent (when it is in the childs best interest) in a manner that the child will have frequent and continuing contact with both parents. When parents cannot agree, the court will impose a specified minimum amount of visitation between the non-custodial parent and the child. The order will encourage additional visitations of the non-custodial parent and the child, and encourage liberal telephone communications between the non-custodial parent and the child.
The Time-Sharing Schedule – The law has not been particularly helpful in giving guideposts in terms of sharing time with the children. What type of default plan might be imposed varies greatly by district in Oklahoma, even within districts. Plans can also vary greatly depending on the age of the child.
Most time-sharing schedules will cover the following topics:
- Weekday time sharing
- Weekend time-sharing
- Summer vacation
- Transportation and transportation costs, including pick up and return, and;
- Transfer of toys, clothes, and the child’s other belongings.
Divorce Education Seminar
In actions where the interest of a minor child is involved, the adult parties in Oklahoma must attend an educational program concerning the impact of divorce on children. The program runs 4 hours. It is parent education, not therapy. Dozens of families take the class together. You can get more information about the Helping Children Cope With Divorce seminar presented by Family and Children’s Services in Tulsa here.
Parenting is forever, even if relationships are not. At the Tulsa Family Law Center, our task for our custody clients is to help them transition to an effective two-household model of parenting, always keeping the best interests of the child in mind.