What Factors Do Judges Consider in Awarding Joint vs. Sole Custody?

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What’s the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?

There are several different types of child custody orders in Oklahoma.

Physical custody refers to a parent who lives with the child. Parents can share physical custody or one parent may possess sole physical custody while the other is limited to visitation rights.

Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make important life decisions on the child’s behalf. Like physical custody, legal custody could be shared, or one parent could have sole legal custody.

In Oklahoma, fathers and mothers have equal legal rights to pursue child custody of their minor children. It is improper for a judge to award child custody to a parent based solely on that parent’s gender. Ultimately, however, it comes down to a family law judge’s decisions on what is in a child’s best interest on who shall retain custody of that child.

What is Joint Custody?

Parents with joint custody share in some or all of the important aspects of physical or legal care for a child. This care may include deciding on the education for the children, medical treatment, religious practices, where the children should live, and more. Parents who share joint legal custody must work together in some capacity to help their children’s upbringing. Parents who share joint physical custody both have substantial parenting time with their minor children. However, this parenting time is not necessarily equal. In some cases, joint custody may be awarded to the parents, with one parent getting the child four days a week while the other parent gets the child three days a week.

Split custody is a child custody arrangement where each parent is awarded child custody of one or more of the children. For example, in a split custody arrangement, one parent can have custody over the daughters while the other parent has custody over the son. However, both parents may be granted visitation rights with the children over whom they are not legally entitled to custody.

What is Sole Custody?

A parent with sole custody, either physical or legal, has exclusive control over that child’s upbringing and parenting decisions. In many cases, Oklahoma family law courts will not favor sole custody. However, certain factors will influence a family law judge’s decision-making, and they may decide that sole custody is in the best interests of the child.

A parent with sole legal custody has the right to make decisions about where a child gets medical treatment, education, social activities, and more without the consent of the other parent. It should be noted, however, that just because a parent may be a non-custodial parent and not have sole custody, they may still have visitation rights.

What Factors Determine Child Custody Orders in Oklahoma?

Several factors go into deciding what is in a child’s best interest when rendering a legal decision on child custody cases. Generally, Oklahoma divorce courts will consider the following factors when making a child custody determination:

  • If the child is mature enough, their preferences may be considered by the court.
  • Parental fitness and detrimental circumstances.
  • Proposed parenting goals and plans by either parent.
  • Special needs of the child.
  • The bond shared between a parent and their child.
  • The current and future needs of minor children.
  • The home environment and stability of that home environment.
  • The previous performance of each parent in their child’s life.
  • Which parents will foster a relationship with the non-custodial parent?
  • Work/life stability.
  • And a strong child custody case can create a compelling argument.

In most cases, Oklahoma family law courts prefer to grant joint custody in divorce cases. However, there are certain circumstances where joint custody or any custody at all for a particular parent may be deemed unwise as it endangers a child’s life or upbringing. When a parent complains about the behavior or suitability of the other parent, they must provide a connection between that behavior and how it will impact the child. In some cases, a parent can engage in suspicious or even criminal behavior and still be considered fit to have child custody. The behavior must pose a threat or impact the life of the child in some negative capacity.

When is a Parent Considered Unfit for Child Custody?

A parent may be presumed to be unfit to have child custody if the parent is or has been:

  • A registered sex offender.
  • Dependent upon substance abuse to the extent that they are a danger to themselves or others.
  • Have attempted murder.
  • Have been convicted of domestic abuse sometime within the past five years.
  • Is currently living with a sex offender or someone who has been convicted of domestic violence within the past five years.

Child custody will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Can You Modify Existing Child Custody Orders?

Child custody court orders can be modified in Oklahoma. Either parent can request a modification. The non-custodial parent must show that there has been a material change in circumstances since the previous child custody order, showing that it would be within the child’s best interest to modify child custody.

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation with Experienced Child Custody Lawyers Today

If you are pursuing sole or joint custody, it is highly recommended that you consult with a family law attorney experienced in handling cases similar to yours. As your attorneys, our legal team will gather evidence that helps support your case as you seek custody of your minor child. We will also explore alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, in hopes of reaching an amicable conclusion outside the courtroom.

Schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation with our family law firm today to discuss your case in more detail. You may get in touch with us at 918-553-5771.

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