CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEYS IN OKLAHOMA CITY
As child custody lawyers in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, we know that child custody is one of the most challenging and emotionally-charged legal issues that people face in their divorce. If you’re going through a divorce or if you are involved in a custody dispute with unwed parents, you’ll need the help and experience of a qualified Oklahoma legal team.
When you work with the law firm of Bryan Stratton, you’ll get legal counsel from a lawyer with years of experience in Oklahoma child custody cases. Our family law firm has helped parents and guardians make the best decisions for their children and get the outcomes they deserve.
If you have questions about child custody in Oklahoma City, take a look at our Custody FAQ below.
How Does Child Custody Work in an Oklahoma Divorce?
In legal terms, child custody simply means that you are the primary caregiver for a child, and that you are responsible for that child’s health and well-being. When parents decide to get a divorce, custody can be decided in one of several ways.
The least contentious method of deciding custody in Oklahoma is to let the parents handle the issue themselves. Any decisions that the parents make concerning the custody of their children are taken into consideration by the court during the divorce or separation. In other words, if both parents agree on a child’s custody situation, then the courts will rarely intervene in the arrangement. Note, though, that this does not mean one parent can completely abdicate responsibility for his or her children – if the other party wants to collect child support during or after the divorce proceedings, they are still able to do so.
The custody decision process becomes more complicated when the parents do not agree on custody. In these cases, the court will decide which parent will get sole or primary custody of the child, and in many cases they will also calculate and enforce a support order along with the custody order.
If you have questions about filing for a child custody order, contact Oklahoma City attorney Bryan Stratton today.
What About Custody of Children from Unwed Parents?
If you and your partner have children but never married, the custody situation is a little different. Like with a divorcing couple, the court will often abide by the wishes of the parents in cases where they agree. It is also possible to get a custody order from a judge when you cannot agree with the other parent on a custody arrangement.
In cases where the paternity of a child is unclear, a child custody order may be included as part of a paternity suit. When paternity is decided by the court by administering a paternity test, the custody arrangement takes effect. In these cases it is possible for a father to gain partial or full custody of his children, or for a mother to retain control from an absent or abusive father.
If you want to know more about custody in cases involving unwed parents, contact family lawyer Bryan Stratton today.
What Kinds of Custody Are There?
In Oklahoma, it is important to distinguish between legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the parent’s ability and right to make decisions on behalf of their child. This includes enrolling the child in school, authorizing medical treatment, and acting on their behalf in legal or financial situations. Physical custody refers to where the child actually lives, and also entails obligations of care for the child while they are living with you.
For both physical and legal custody, the court can decide on sole or joint custody arrangements. In effect, the different kinds of custody in Oklahoma are:
Sole Legal Custody
Only one parent has the legal right to make decisions on their child’s behalf or authorize the decisions of others.
Joint Legal Custody
Both parents have the right to make and authorize legal decisions on behalf of their child. Note that this does not mean both parents must agree on every decision, but rather that each parent can make decisions independently.
Sole Physical Custody
Children live with only one parent the majority of the time. The other parent may have visitation rights, but the children do not primarily live with that parent.
Joint Physical Custody
The child or children live with both parents for a substantial part of the year.
It’s important to understand that legal and physical custody are separate concepts; parents can have joint legal custody at the same time as having sole physical custody. You should also note that joint physical custody is a relatively rare legal decision due to the stress it places on the children and the logistics it entails.
In addition to these custody orders, a court can also assign Temporary Custody to one parent while a permanent order is being drafted by the court. Note that the conditions laid out in a temporary order might be very different from those in the final custody order.
If you want to know more about obtaining custody of your children, contact Oklahoma City family lawyer Bryan Stratton.
How Does a Court Decide Custody?
In most cases, legal custody is a straightforward decision. Unless a parent has shown an unwillingness or lack of capability to make good legal decisions on behalf of their child, the courts will generally grant Joint Legal custody. This allows both parents to care for their children and provide for their needs, especially in cases of emergencies.
Deciding physical custody is more difficult. When considering where a child will live, the courts base their decision on what they perceive to be the “best interests of the physical, mental, and moral welfare of the child.” This decision is based on a number of factors, including:
- The physical and mental health of the parent;
- The quality of the relationship between parent and child;
- Any past, present, or possible future physical abuse from either parent;
- Any past, present, or possible future drug, alcohol, or substance abuse from either parent;
- Any criminal records by either parent;
- How involved the parent has been in the child’s medical appointments, school activities, et cetera;
- How willing the custodial parent will be to keep a relationship with the visiting parent;
- How stable the home life provided by the custodial parent would be;
- How able the custodial parent would be to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs;
- How well the parent has proven they can make good decisions on behalf of their child;
- Whether there are any siblings or half-siblings in the relationship, and;
- How able the parent will be to spend time with the child.
Depending on the court’s findings, they will draft a custody order that specifies the living situation for the child as well as the legal minimum visitation that the other parent can receive. Within that arrangement the parents are able to negotiate with each other for more visitation, but not less.
If you want to improve your chances of getting physical custody, contact Oklahoma family attorney Bryan Stratton today.
How Does Visitation Work?
Visitation is almost always ordered by a court for the non-custodial parent, unless that parent has shown that they are unable or unwilling to make good decisions or provide proper care for their child. In cases where visitation is granted, there are several types the courts may assign, including:
Weekend Visitation: This is a normal visitation schedule that takes effect from Friday afternoon or evening until either Sunday evening or Monday morning. In many cases this visitation will stop during the summer months (June, July, and August) to allow for summer visitation instead.
Summer Visitation: One or more extended visitation periods that take place during the summer months. These visitation periods are not interrupted by weekend visitation.
Holiday Visitation: This type of visitation usually involves a calendar that alternates between parents for holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. Other holidays can be included in the order at the parents’ request, and it is not interrupted or changed due to weekend visitation.
The courts can also design custom visitation schedules if the parents desire it or make a case for such in court. This can include longer weekend periods, extra or modified vacations, or other provisions.
If you want to obtain or change a visitation order, contact family lawyer Bryan Stratton now.
Can a Child Make Their Own Custody Decisions?
Oklahoma courts will take the wishes of children into account when deciding custody, but the child cannot decide who to live with on their own. Each judge will give the child’s request a different amount of weight depending on the circumstances of the case. This includes considering the age of the child, the abilities of each parent to care for him or her, and many other factors besides.
Do you still have questions about custody and visitation? Are you worried about what will happen to your children in your divorce? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Call Bryan Stratton, one of Oklahoma City’s most experienced family lawyers, to discuss your case and your options. We’ll sit down with you for a free, no-obligation initial consultation to go over your situation. Call today 405-601-4411 to make your appointment and get control of your custody situation.