If you are going through a divorce in Oklahoma and have children, you may have many questions about determining child custody and child support.
Whether you are considering divorce or are in the process of ending your marriage, it is important to understand the laws regarding custody and support as they pertain to your situation so that you can prepare for how the court will determine both.
When a Petition for Divorce is filed in Oklahoma by the parents of minor children, the court will have to decide issues of custody, support, and visitation as part of that divorce proceeding.
When parents can agree on child custody and child support, often the court will order custody as agreed to by the parents if it is in the best interests of the children. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 112.)
Here is what you need to know about determining child custody and child support in an Oklahoma divorce.
Understanding the Types of Custody
There are two type of custody: physical and legal. Both can be joint (shared) or sole.
Physical custody pertains to where the child lives.
It is joint if the child resides part of the time with one parent and part of the time with the other parent. That can be a 50/50 shared arrangement or any other that the parents agree to.
If it is sole, the children live with one parent (the custodial parent). However, the other parent (the non-custodial parent) retains visitation rights.
Legal custody, joint or sole, refers to the question of which parent makes the major decisions regarding the children.
The court reviews a parenting plan submitted by both parents and makes decisions based upon what it deems to be in the best interests of the children.
Factors Involved in Determining the Best Interests of Children
Courts try to minimize the negative impacts of divorce upon children. In Oklahoma, courts are guided by the belief that it is in the best interests of children to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents. To that end, courts encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 112.)
Custody is to be awarded in a way which assures the frequent and continuing contact of each child with both parents. This often results in joint custody, but it can sometimes result in sole custody with frequent visitation.
Courts do not consider the gender of the parent when making a decision regarding whether that parent should be the custodial parent. However, the location of a child in terms of proximity to school or extended family members may be considered.
Child Support Determination
Parents must continue to support their children. Child support in Oklahoma is determined by statutory guidelines that presume levels of support at various income levels. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 118.)
Both parents’ income, along with other allowable necessities, are plugged into a calculator to determine a guideline child support number.
Then the court considers how many other children are being supported, what other support payments are being made such as alimony, and how much time each child is spending with each parent. Medical and dental insurance as well as daycare costs are also accounted for when making the calculation.
Adjustments to the guideline calculation are possible in some cases. Usually, these adjustments occur based on the number of overnights a child spends with one of the parents.
The basic calculated child support figure may be adjusted if a non-custodial parent is granted at least 121 overnights of parenting time during a 12-month period or where a parent may spend differing amounts of time with each of the multiple children of the marriage. In that case, the parenting time adjustment is calculated by looking at an annual average of parenting time with all of the children.
In the case of split physical custody, either parent may be eligible for a parenting time adjustment. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 118.)
It is also possible to deviate from guidelines if the court finds it in the best interest of a child, but that can be a high burden of proof to meet and is usually reserved for cases in which there are extraordinary or special needs that must be met.
No deviation may be made that would seriously impair the ability of the custodial parent to maintain minimally adequate housing, food, and clothing for the children. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 118.)
In all of these situations, it is helpful to understand how the law applies to your unique case. No two cases are the same, and an experienced family law attorney can help you understand how the law applies to your case.
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