Child Custody Decisions in Oklahoma

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 What are the Basics of Custody?

The Women’s Law Organization provides a basic overview of Oklahoma’s custody regulations. There are two types of custody in Oklahoma, legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about your child who is under the age of 18 years old. Some types of decisions included in the right of legal custody are:

  • Where the child goes to school;
  • Making decisions about the child’s healthcare, for instance, getting surgery;
  • The kind of religious training your child will receive and;
  • Physical custody is the actual physical possession and control of a child.

In other words, it encompasses who the child resides with on a day-to-day basis. Some types of responsibilities with physical custody include:

  • Making day-to-day minor decisions such as what your child eats or their nighttime routine;
  • Feeding your child;
  • Bathing your child and;
  • Taking your child to doctor’s appointments, school, etc.

In Oklahoma, the courts often grant a parent custody without specifically saying legal or physical custody. When the court does this, it implies that the parent has both physical and legal custody.

What Happens if I Do Not Have a Custody Order?

In Oklahoma, if there is no custody order from a court, both parents are equally entitled to physical custody of any children born during the marriage or born to the parents before marriage. There is an agreement that the husband is the father, usually by signing his name on the birth certificate. This means that either parent can have the child living with them until a court order states otherwise. To obtain a custody order from the court, either parent can request the court for custody.

First, a court must decide if it has the power or jurisdiction to decide custody of children. If a child has not resided in Oklahoma for 6 months with a parent or somebody taking care of them in Oklahoma, a court in Oklahoma may decide that another state has the power or jurisdiction to decide on jurisdiction.

What Types of Custody Arrangements are Available in Oklahoma?

It is crucial to be aware that when a court decides custody, it decides both physical custody and legal custody. Most Oklahoma custody orders combine the terms into one term, simply referring to custody and unless set out separately legal custody and physical custody are included in the one term, custody.

Physical custody relates to where and with whom the child resides. Legal custody pertains to a parent’s right to make decisions about the child’s education, medical care, and religion. In either case, the court can grant either sole or joint custody. The different types of physical and legal custody are:

  • Sole Legal Custody: only one parent has the right to make legal decisions for the child about education, health care, and religion;
  • Joint Legal Custody: both parents have the right to make legal decisions for the child about education, health care, and religion;
  • Sole Physical Custody: the child resides with one parent, and the other has specific visitation rights or;
  • Joint Physical Custody: the child resides with each parent for a substantial amount of time during the calendar year.

The court can also grant a temporary custody order. Temporary custody refers to a physical and legal custody agreement prepared by the parents or ordered by the court. This will be in place until a final order from the court is entered. It is critical to understand that the court’s final order may not be the same as the temporary order.

How Do Courts Decide Who Receives Physical Custody?

In Oklahoma, to determine custody between parents of a child, the court will evaluate what is in the best interests of the physical, mental, and moral welfare of the child. To do that, a court may consider factors such as:

  • The desires of each parent and sometimes the child (depending on the child’s age);
  • The characteristic of the relationship between the child and the parents;
  • The relationship with grandparents, siblings, and or other significant people in the child’s life;
  • The child’s relationship to their school, religious institution, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all parties;
  • Any past, present or possible future spousal or child abuse by either parent;
  • Any past or present drug or substance abuse by either parent;
  • Any past or present criminal actions by either parent other than minor infractions or less serious crimes that were committed a long time ago;
  • Which parent has been involved in the past in bringing the child to the doctor and dentist appointments;
  • Which parent has been doing the child’s schooling, attending parent-teacher conferences, and going to school functions;
  • Which parent is most likely to provide a safe home environment for the child and not engage in activities in the home that can cause health problems for the child;
  • The willingness of a potential custodial parent to foster a relationship and visitation with the other parent;
  • The stability in the child’s home life that a parent is equipped to provide for the child;
  • A parent’s ability to contribute to the material needs of the child;
  • The demonstrated ability of each parent to make good decisions regarding the child’s welfare and;
  • A parent’s ability to spend time with the child.

How Can I Modify my Final Custody Order?

To alter a Final Custody Order, you must file a “Motion to Modify Custody Order.” This is usually completed in the same court and in the same case that issued the order. This motion requests the court to change the order and state the reason why the change should occur. In Oklahoma, if the custody order is a “Sole Custody Order,” as mentioned above, there needs to be a “permanent, material and substantial change in circumstances that affect the best interests of the child” before the court will change a Final Custody Order. After discovering this change, the court will explore the factors listed above to decide whether a change in custody is warranted and if it would be in the child’s best interests.

What Happens if My Ex-spouse Will Not Return My Child After Visitation?

If you have sole custody or it is your turn to have possession of the children under a joint custody order, and the other parent has not modified the Final Custody Order or obtained a Temporary Order modifying the final custody order, it failed to return the child, then he or she is violating the Custody Order.

This can be punishable by a charge of contempt of court if the parent does not have a good reason for not returning the child. A valid reason would be that they were prevented by weather from traveling or if something occurred in your home or while the child is in your care that may harm the child.

If you know where the children are, you can seek the assistance of a local law enforcement agency for assistance in enforcing your custody order. You should keep a copy of your custody order in a safe place for easy reference. The law enforcement officers may want to review the order before serving you. If you cannot locate your children, you should still contact the local law enforcement agency to file a report.

When Do I Need to Contact the Lawyer?

If you are living in the state of Oklahoma and are faced with custody issues. It is important to seek out a local Oklahoma child custody attorney to assist you in your case.


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