August 02, 2023
In recent years, the word “family” has come to mean more than just biological parents and their children. Many American families have become blended, consisting of children from different parents and same-sex relationships. As with any family, there may come a point where separation occurs, and a custody dispute will need to be decided. This is typically done by a judge during a custody hearing. In these cases, you may be wondering if a non-biological parent can be awarded custody or time-sharing in the state of Oklahoma. While the law is still developing, there are some things that you should know if you are facing a custody hearing. Here’s more on the custody law in Oklahoma concerning non–biological parents.
Normally, only the parents, or in some cases grandparents, have the right to pursue custody of their children. In the past, the word “parent” only included people biologically related to the child or who had gone through the legal process of becoming a guardian or adoptive parent. But what if you are co-parenting a child that you have not adopted and are not biologically related to? Up until recently, many courts in Oklahoma would not allow those individuals to pursue custody, thereby causing them to have no right to see the child.
In the past, Oklahoma law was unclear on how non-biological parents were to be treated if they were pursuing custody or time-sharing. The law only allowed non-biological same-sex parents to be awarded custody if they were standing in the place of the child’s actual parents. However, in 2019, the Oklahoma Supreme Court made it clear that non-biological same-sex co-parents have the same rights to custody as any other parent if they can establish that they:
-Engaged in family planning with the intent to parent jointly;
-Acted as a parent long enough to establish a meaningful emotional relationship with the child, and;
-Resided with the child for a significant period while treating the child as their own child.
If a non-biological parent can show those things in court, they will be considered a parent and have the right to file for custody even if the biological parents do not consent. What this means is that they can be awarded not just visitation but joint or even sole custody of their child. To be sure, this law has yet to be made into a statute, so you will likely need a lawyer to raise this argument at your custody hearing for the court to consider it.
Still, even if a non-biological same-sex parent can show that they should be given a custody hearing, the court must then consider what is in the best interest of the child when deciding those to whom they should give custody. To do this, the court will look at several factors to decide if the non-biological parent should be given custody. Usually, the parent with the strongest bond with the child and who can provide the safest and most stable environment will receive the most time. So, a non-biological parent must not only show that they are, in fact, a parent to the child, but they must also demonstrate that giving them custody is in the best interest of the child.
To learn more about how non-biological parents can get custody or timesharing privileges, you should talk with a family law attorney. Inner Vision Legal is focused on helping clients in matters involving child custody, child support, divorce, and more. With over 17 years of experience, Inner Vision Legal is one of the best divorce law firms in Oklahoma. Contact the compassionate, knowledgeable attorneys at Inner Vision Legal by calling (405) 724-2525 or contacting us online today.