November 15, 2023
Best Interests of the Child: Oklahoma Statute 43-109 provides guidelines to the court for determining child custody. This is based on what the court believes is in the child’s best interests regarding their physical, mental, and moral welfare. This includes each parent’s stability, home, work life, and other circumstances that may affect the child. Most judges prefer to award joint custody if it is at all possible. Some judges believe that even if the couple does not get along, they should still be able to work together to raise the child.
Physical, Legal, and Joint Custody: Physical custody is the physical aspect of where the child will live and when. Legal custody, on the other hand, involves decision-making rights. Parents may share physical custody, but one parent may have the right to make major decisions. These aren’t the choices of what the child will eat or wear, but larger matters such as schooling, religion, medical decisions, etc. Joint custody means that parents share custody regarding both physical and decision-making matters. If there’s a major decision that they can’t agree on, they may have to take that to mediation, or even back to court to let the judge decide.
Joint custody doesn’t always mean a 50/50 split when it comes to physical custody, but it often is. A 50/50 split can be scheduled in a number of different ways. For example, the parents may schedule Wednesday to Wednesday to exchange weeks. Others schedule their visits for 2/2/3 which means one parent gets the children Monday and Tuesday, the other parent gets the children Wednesday and Thursday and then they switch weekends.
Factors such as how close each parent lives to the child’s school system, and to each other, may affect whether they can share physical custody equally. In some cases, one parent may have the child primarily, and the other have visits on the weekend.
When the court has to decide the child’s living situation, the judge will look at where the child will be most stable. If one parent has moved out, the judge will evaluate whether it is in the child’s best interest to move, and which parent has the living arrangement that best meets the child’s needs.
Parental Alienation: One thing the courts want is for each parent to encourage the child to have a healthy relationship with the other parent. If one parent is negative about the other to the child or tries to turn them against the other parent, it could be a case of parental alienation. Judges who think a parent is trying to alienate the child from the other may instead award custody to the parent who is encouraging the child’s relationship with the other. So, attempting parental alienation could result in a parent losing custody.
Oklahoma statute says that when a child is 12 years old, the court should take the child’s preference into consideration when determining physical custody and living arrangements. This isn’t to say that the child gets to decide, necessarily, but the judge will consider any input that the child provides.
For more information on Child Custody In an Oklahoma Divorce Case, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (405) 792-2400 today.