Oklahoma, like all states, has laws regarding the custody and visitation of children when parents divorce.
Sometimes, both parents to share custody of the children in what is known as joint custody. In other cases, one parent maintains child custody, while the other parent has visitation rights.
During the divorce proceeding, the court will issue orders regarding custody and visitation. These orders usually include a visitation schedule that is to be adhered to by both parents. It will usually include a specified minimum amount of time for the visitation.
Unless there is a good reason to not do so, the court’s order will also encourage additional visitations of the non-custodial parent as well as liberal telephone communication between the non-custodial parent and his or her children. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 111.1
Visitation Problems in Oklahoma
Problems in visitation can arise from a number of situations, including but not limited to:
- when one or both parents ignore the visitation schedule, forget to pick up the child, or is late returning the child;
- when there is a history of domestic violence or stalking on the part of the non-custodial parent; or
- when a parent appears to put a child’s health or safety at risk.
Emergency Protective Orders
When a child is at risk, it is possible for a parent to get emergency protective orders to protect a child during visitation. These orders may alter or suspend visitation to ensure a child’s safety. Courts work hard to act in the best interests of all children.
A family court judge may order that visitation be supervised or restricted if there is a provable history of domestic violence. In that case, the visitation may be supervised by an employee of a court agency or the exchange of the child may occur in a neutral and protected setting. In this way, the parents do not have contact with each other.
The court may also order that the abusive parent pay a fee to help defray the costs involved in facilitating the exchange.
Additionally, the court may order that the parent refrain from alcohol or drug use for a specified period of time, usually 24 hours, before the beginning of the visit.
A judge may also order that the abusive parent successfully complete an intervention program designed for those who batter their spouses. Until that program is completed and the parent has neither made threats nor exhibited signs of violence for a substantial period of time, the court may prohibit unsupervised or overnight visitation.
If a parent appears unstable, a judge may order that parent to complete a danger or lethality assessment by a qualified mental health professional.
The court may impose any condition it deems necessary to provide for the safety of the child or any other household member.
Termination of Visitation Rights
Oklahoma family courts will terminate visitation if the situation warrants it. In order to terminate visitation, the circumstances must be severe. Also, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the termination is in the best interests of the child.
Courts will terminate visitation if the abusive parent repeatedly violates visitation agreement terms.
If a child is severely distressed by visitation with the non-custodial parent and a qualified mental health professional determines that the visitation is causing the distress, the court will terminate visitation.
The court will also terminate visitation if a parent has clearly threatened to run away with the child or harm the child or other parent — or has actually done so. This can occur in families with severe domestic abuse, where the level of threatened physical and emotional abuse may be high.
All of these records are kept confidential for the sake of the child or children involved.
The failure of a parent to pay child support is not grounds for the custodial parent to refuse the non-paying parent visitation. The two are separate issues in the eyes of the law.
Nor can a non-custodial parent refuse to pay child support if the custodial parent refuses to allow visitation. The parent with the grievance must seek help from the court rather than fail to adhere to the terms of the custody agreement.
The Court’s Powers
Every court in Oklahoma has the power to enforce its orders. Failure to comply with a court order regarding child support or visitation may be prosecuted as an indirect contempt, which allows the court to impose fines and jail time at its discretion. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 566
However, if a parent refuses to allow their child to get into a car when that driver is under the influence, that refusal is a defense to a contempt of court proceeding.
The court may award fees and costs to the parent who prevails in a non-compliance situation.
In all cases, the safety of the child is of paramount concern to the court. If you have an issue regarding child support or child custody, bring your questions or concerns to an experienced Tulsa family law attorney.
Free Consultation with a Tulsa Family Law Attorney
We are here to help when you need it most. We offer a free consultation with an experienced Tulsa family law attorney.
Call Wirth Law Office – Tulsa at 918-879-1681 or toll free at 1-888-Wirth-Law (1-888-947-8452). You can also submit the question form at the top right of this page.