Tulsa, Oklahoma child custody considerations are uniformly determined according to what is in the best interests of the child.
Sometimes, it is easy to determine what is in the best interests of the child. For example, a court will usually find that when one of the parents is involved in criminal activity or uses alcohol or drugs to excess, it may not be in the best interests of the child to live with that parent. But this is the exception, not the rule.
In most cases, both parents are equally able and fit to care for their children. In those cases, determining what is in the best interests of the child can be more challenging.
And yet, in all divorce cases, issues of child custody, support, and visitation must be resolved.
Courts may award custody of the child to one or both parents, a grandparent, a guardian designated by a deceased parent, a relative of either parent, a foster parent, or anyone deemed by the court to be suitable and able to provide the care needed. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 112.5.)
Permissible Child Custody Considerations
A Tulsa family court is required to consider where either parent has been or is at the present time:
- a registered sex offender or living with a registered sex offender,
- a person convicted of child abuse,
- dependent on drugs or alcohol and can be expected in the near future to inflict or attempt to inflict serious bodily harm to himself (or herself) or another person as a result of such dependency, or
- has been convicted of domestic abuse within the past five years or is living with such a person.
For any of the categories above, there is a rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interests of that parent to have custody of the child. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 112.2.)
Custody, guardianship, or visitation with a child shall not be granted to any person if it is established that the custody, guardianship or visitation will likely expose the child to a foreseeable risk of material harm.
So, what else does a court look to in making a determination?
The court has broad discretion to consider just about anything that may be relevant.
A court may look at whether a parent is involved in the child’s life. A parent who takes the child to doctor’s appointments, soccer practices, meets with teachers, and the like is involved in the daily activities of living with their child; courts look favorably at that level of involvement.
Courts also look to see whether the proposed custodial parent is likely to cooperate and help implement an ordered custody and visitation schedule. It is usually in the best interests of the child to have ongoing and frequent contact with both parents.
Courts want to minimize the effect of divorce upon the children involved. Therefore, a court may look at which parent’s home is most closely tied to the child’s prior life in terms of proximity to school, friends, and other relatives.
Courts may also look to a child’s preference if the child is 12 or older. Likewise, a court may look at the age of the child in making its determination. For example, an infant who is being breastfed may likely live with the mother as the custodial parent until the child is weaned.
Prohibited Child Custody Considerations
Just as there are things that a court may consider, there are things that a court may not consider.
For example, a court may not consider the parent’s gender. Under Oklahoma family law, a father is just as eligible as a mother in custody matters — regardless of the child’s gender.
Nor may a court consider a parent’s or a child’s race when determining custody.
And while educational decisions are important, the court may not show a preference for the type of schooling the child may be receiving; public, private, and homeschooling all carry equal weight with the court.
The factors involved in a child custody determination are complex and multi-layered. If you have questions or concerns about a child custody matter, bring them to an experienced Tulsa family law attorney.
Free Consultation with a Tulsa Family Law Attorney
The Wirth Law Office is here to help when you need it most. We offer a free consultation with an experienced Tulsa family law attorney. Call 918-879-1681 for a free consultation or submit a question through this website.