Ending a relationship is never an easy thing. Couples who are dating or in a serious, common law relationship may have an easier time ending their ties with one another, but couples who are married and/or have children together often have a much harder time. Oklahoma Child custody battles are some of the hardest for individuals to go through and can be both emotional and frustrating processes. When it comes to child custody cases in the state of Oklahoma, judges and the courts always begin investigations by upholding the best interests of the child standard to guide any and all decision making with Oklahoma family law issues.
How Child Custody Decisions are Made in Oklahoma
Oklahoma, like many other states in the country, uses the best interests of the child standard to help it make child custody decisions. Generally, having contact with both parents is considered to be in the best interests of the child involved in the case. Oklahoma child custody law does state that there is no preference for joint custody over other types of custody arrangements, but family court judges often prefer to award a joint custody agreement whenever possible, especially if the parents have shown that they can share the responsibilities of parenting effectively and without conflict.
Judges are tasked with creating a custody agreement what creates the best likelihood of the child having “frequent and continuing” contact with both parents, which means the court needs to consider which of the parents is most likely to allow the child to have consistent and regular contact with the other parent. Additionally, there is no preference in the family court system of Oklahoma for awarding primary custody to the mother over the father or vice versa.
The judge also takes a close look at how the child interacts with both parents as well as any other siblings in the household. The Oklahoma court system generally does not like to break up siblings or cause any fractures in relationships between family members. Custody arrangements that support a healthy family interaction and continuity in the child’s life is definitely the preferred option whenever possible.
One interesting child custody law in the state of Oklahoma is that the judge should not show any preference to how the child should be educated – essentially, this means that there should be no preference for the child being educated in a public school, private school or in a home school setting. This provision is put in place to ensure that the court does not choose one parent over the other due to how one parent chooses to educate the child.
Should one parent receive primary custody of the child, the other parent most often receives visitation rights. Should there be evidence of physical or sexual abuse, either toward the child, the other parent, or an extended family member, supervised visitation may be awarded. This also stands true for any instances of a parent having a substance abuse problem.
Child Custody and Deployed Military Parents
Should the parent with primary custody be a member of the military and is deployed, he or she will not lose custody of the child. Any permanent changes to the custody agreement in place when the parent leaves for deployment must be held until he or she returns and can be represented.
Making Changes to a Child Custody Agreement in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma court system considers stability important for children, especially after they have experienced a traumatic event like their parents ending a marriage or relationship. Because of this, all requests for custody agreement modifications are thoroughly evaluated and are decided, once again, based on the best interests of the children. The parent wishing to make changes to the current agreement must prove to the court that there have been substantial changes in the circumstances surrounding the agreement since it was originally made.
Additionally, the parent making the request has to prove that the change in circumstances is significant enough for modifications to be made to the original agreement. An example of this, although extreme, is if it is discovered that the primary custodian lives with a registered sex offender. Since these circumstances potentially put the child in danger, it is very likely that the custody agreement will be revisited by a family court judge based on these new findings.
In addition to proving there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as the parent’s change in residence or income, the parent also needs to prove that the child will be “substantially better off” due to the modification. For example, the parent would need to show that changing residence would put the child in a better school district to help better meet his or her educational and developmental needs.
Custody and Relocation in Oklahoma
Relocation is often a difficult subject for the family court system to decide on. This is especially true when one parent has primary custody and wishes to move the child a distance away from the other parent – such a distance that it may make it difficult for the other parent to complete visitation. The court must take many factors into consideration when making a decision about relocation, especially in a case that will significantly impact the current Oklahoma child custody agreement.
When relocation is requested, the parent wishing to move carries the burden of proving why the relocation is necessary. In order to be successful in this case, the parent must again prove that a significant change in circumstances has occurred, such as the parent being relocated for his or her job, and that the child will significantly benefit from the relocation (a better school district, the parent making additional income).
As mentioned, there are a number of factors that the judge must consider when deciding on relocation and how it relates to a Oklahoma child custody agreement. Some of the considerations that need to be made include, but are not limited to, the following:
- What significant changes in circumstance have occurred to prompt the relocation?
- What significant benefits will the child receive as part of the relocation?
- What are the other parent’s main concerns with the relocation?
- What is the relationship between the child and the relocating parent?
- What is the relationship between the child and the other parent?
- What impacts will the relocation have on the child custody agreement?
- What impacts will the relocation have on the other parent’s ability to seek visitation?
- Will alternative communication methods be needed to help maintain the relationship between the child and the other parent?
- How will the child’s relationships with other family members or important figures be affected by the relocation?