Priority of Preferences in Oklahoma Child Custody Cases

Priority of preferences in Oklahoma child custodyIn Oklahoma, courts will always strive to place the custody a child with one or both of the parents in a divorce.   But what happens when one or both parents are unable to care for the child. One or both parents may be deceased, unable or unfit to properly care for a child. In that case, Oklahoma law sets out a list of other people in order of their priority of preference for child custody.

Other Preference Priorities

After parents, the court will look to:

  1. A grandparent; then
  2. A person who was indicated by the wishes of a deceased parent ( a named guardian); then
  3. A relative of either parent (this could be an aunt, uncle or another relative); then
  4. The person in whose home the child has been living in a wholesome and stable environment such as a foster parent; then
  5. Any other person deemed by the court to be suitable and able to provide adequate and proper care and guidance for the child. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 112.5

The court’s first preference is with the parents unless it is proven by clear and convincing evidence  that the parent has willfully failed to support  the child for a period of at least 12 months as either set out in a child support order, or according to the financial ability of the parent if no such order exists.  Token support or small amounts contributed by a parent do not qualify as meeting a parent’s support obligation.

If there is clear and convincing evidence that the child has been left in the physical custody of a nonparent by a parent or parents of the child for a year or more, and  the parent or parents have not maintained regular visitation or communication with the child, a court will award custody to a person other than the parent or parents. This rule does not apply to parents on active duty in the military. Again, token visits do not qualify as meeting a parent’s visitation or communication obligation. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 112.5

Problems of Parental Fitness in Custody Determinations

When awarding custody, a court maintains a presumption that both parents are fit unless the parent is:

  • a registered sex offender;
  • a violent or potentially violent drug or alcohol abuser;
  • has been convicted of domestic abuse within the past 5 years;
  • is residing with another person who has been convicted of domestic abuse within the past 5 years; or
  • or who has been convicted of any of the following: child sexual abuse of any sort or endangerment, kidnapping, incest, any crime involving minors and pornography, procurement of, or keeping a child for prostitution, first-degree rape and the like. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 112.5

In any of these cases, custody will be denied.

Custody issues have long-term effects on both parents and children. If you have questions or concerns about a custody matter, bring them to an experienced Tulsa child custody lawyer.

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 attorney. Call (918) 879-1681 for a free consultation or submit a question through this website.


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Oklahoma Child Custody Laws

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