Oklahoma child custody is divided into two distinct but equally as important categories: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is a parent’s right to make decisions regarding the raising and care of a child. Physical custody is a parent’s amount and type of visitation. Further, legal custody is either sole or joint.
Sole Legal Oklahoma Child Custody:
If a parent has sole custody, they have the exclusive right to make decisions regarding major life events. This includes the child’s upbringing, education, religious education, and medical care. Unless agreed, sole custody is awarded upon a court finding that joint custody is not in the best interest of the child. This could be because that parent has a history of domestic abuse. Another reason may be that the parents aren’t able to get along and co-parent. In divorce matters, the courts are reluctant to award one parent sole custody of the child. Sole custody is more common in paternity actions. Sometimes this is true if the father has had limited contact with the child.
Although one parent receives sole custody, this doesn’t entirely exclude the noncustodial parent. The parent without legal custody still has every right to know about where the child goes to school, what types of extracurricular activities the child participates in, and information regarding the child’s healthcare.
Joint Legal Oklahoma Child Custody:
Oklahoma child custody law provides that there shall not be a presumption for or against joint legal custody, other than when there is evidence of domestic abuse. Often times the courts establish joint legal custody of the children during divorce actions. When joint legal custody of a child exists in Oklahoma, the parties enter into a joint legal custody plan which sets out the rights of the parents. These rights can include, but are not limited to:
1. giving the parents rights and responsibilities concerning the minor child;
2. establishing that the parents need to confer with each other and share in the share decision making authority as to important decisions affecting the physical, mental and moral upbringing of the minor child;
3. establishing where the child will go to school;
4. how to discipline the child; and
5. organizing the child’s recreational and extracurricular activities
If the parents are having problems following the joint legal custody plan, instead of terminating any joint legal custody and awarding one parent sole legal custody, the judge may have the parties appoint a Parenting Coordinator to help them resolve any issues regarding the parents’ joint legal custody rights.
Joint Physical Child Custody:
Physical custody is nothing more than established visitation a parent may have with their child. The visitation can vary based on the parties’ schedules or simply by agreement. Parents can also have joint physical custody, which means that the parents will have equal and shared time with the children. Because 365 cannot divide equally, joint physical custody is tricky. Under such an arrangement the parents could have the children on a week-on and week-off rotation. Similarly, there are numerous different ways to equally divide up weekly visitation so that a parent is not going more than 7 days without seeing there child.
Physical custody can further divide into regular, holiday and summer visitation. Regular visitation is what the parents would exercise while the child is in school. The standard for regular visitation is when one parent will only see the child on alternating weekends.
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The courts set out a standard holiday visitation, wherein the parties alternate established holiday time. While the court sets standards, parents can agree to deviate from this visitation. The school calendar of the child always guides holiday visitation.
There is no standard summer visitation arrangement. Parents can agree to have extended visitation time with the child or they can simply choose to follow the regular visitation schedule.
Physical custody and visitation can become the most contested part in a divorce or paternity matter. Because the amount of child support is reduced based on the amount of overnights a parent receives, often times the party seeking child support will want the other parent to have less than 121 overnights while the parent seeking to not pay child support or not pay as much child support wants to have as close to joint custody as possible.
Because custody of children in Oklahoma can be such a emotional and contested issue in a divorce or paternity case, it’s best to talk to a child custody attorney in regards to your legal and physical custody rights.
Call a Tulsa Oklahoma Child Custody Attorney:
For a free consultation with a child custody attorney call our office today.
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