Whether you are facing a divorce or a paternity action, one of the factors that will need to be determined is child custody. Determining custody and visitation can seem like an overwhelming and confusing process, especially if there is any disagreement between the two parents. The goal in a divorce case including minor children is to cause as little disruption to the child’s life as possible.
At Self Legal Group, PLLC, our team of experienced divorce, family law, and child custody lawyers understand the stress and difficulty that can come with determining child custody. This process can be confusing, so we take care of the legal aspects so that you can focus on your children. We also make sure that you understand the process every step of the way.
CUSTODY IN OKLAHOMA
You might start off wondering how child custody is determined in Oklahoma. The first thing to note is that parents stand on equal footing in Oklahoma courts. There is no initial assumption that children are better off with their mothers. Custody is granted based on the best interest of the child both in terms of the child’s well-being and the parent's ability to cooperate when making decisions pertaining to the child. These are the main motivations when determining whether sole or joint custody is most appropriate.
WHAT IS SOLE CUSTODY?
If you are thinking about pursuing sole custody, it is important to understand everything that entails. In a sole custody arrangement, one parent has exclusive decision-making power regarding the child’s best interest and upbringing. Oklahoma courts can award joint custody in which both parents have decision-making rights, but certain circumstances can make sole custody the better option. For example, if the two parents experience circumstances that make it difficult or impossible to share decision-making responsibilities.
Another thing to note about custody is the difference between legal and physical custody:
- Legal custody: Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing. Decisions covered under legal custody include schooling, religious education, child care, and medical care. With joint legal custody, parents share equal rights to decision-making. In the event that sole custody is awarded, one parent holds the decision-making rights.
- Physical custody: The second component of custody is physical custody. When granted sole custody, the child will primarily reside with one parent. However, this can also be the case with joint custody, if one parent is designated the primary physical custodian. Joint custody may be awarded such that each parent has equal parenting time. When sole custody is granted, often the child will live with one parent and have regular visitations with the other parent. A common visitation schedule is every other weekend, half of the holidays, and half of the summer vacation.
WHAT FACTORS DETERMINE CUSTODY?
Many factors go into determining child custody, but they primarily point to one priority which is the best interest of the child. Contributing factors to this decision include the physical, emotional, and moral well-being of the child, child abuse, domestic violence, and drug abuse. These are all topics that could point toward one parent being a better fit for sole custody.
The courts also focus on the level of involvement each parent has had in the child’s life both past and present. The developmental needs of the child are also considered. Additionally, if the child is over twelve years old, the court will consider the child’s preference when determining the physical custody schedule.
SOLE CUSTODY AND VISITATION
Even when sole custody is granted, the other parent often has a visitation schedule. Again, this is determined based on the well-being and best interest of the child. This may result in a regular visitation schedule every other weekend and shared holidays and summers. In cases with circumstances such as child abuse, domestic violence, or drug abuse, visitation rights may not be granted. Additionally, the child’s preferences may be taken into account if they are over the age of twelve.
MODIFYING CUSTODY AGREEMENTS
If there has been a permanent, material, and continuing change in circumstances, child custody, and visitation schedules can be modified. If you need to modify a custody or visitation agreement, it’s best to find an experienced lawyer you can trust. The child custody lawyers at Self Legal Group, PLLC can help to make these modifications.
CONTACT SELF LEGAL GROUP, PLLC TODAY
Choosing to file for divorce can be a difficult and daunting decision, especially if there are any minor children involved. If you are going through a divorce, thinking about filing, or a paternity action, the best thing you can do is work with an attorney you can trust. An experienced family law and child custody attorney will help you be sure that you are arriving at the appropriate child custody and visitation agreement and represent the best interest of you and your children in the event of a divorce case or paternity action.
If you are considering filing a petition for divorce or paternity action and will need to determine custody, contact our team of divorce and family law attorneys at Self Legal Group, PLLC in Oklahoma City. Our lawyers can help you assess what your case and child custody agreement will look like and fight for the rights of you and your children. Contact one of our attorneys in OKC today for a free 15-minute consultation.