All good parents want to protect their children. Often, the period leading to a divorce and after is fraught with high emotions. The concerns that we have regarding the health and safety of our children become heightened.
And while this can be an emotional time for all concerned, when a parent becomes concerned that their child is suffering some sort of neglect or abuse when in the other parent’s care, there are steps that a concerned parent can and should take. In Oklahoma, a court may deny visitation of the child due to abuse and neglect.
Courts look to the best interests of the child when determining such matters as custody and visitation. When both parents can meaningfully contribute to a child’s life, the courts try to balance parenting time with both parents. When the child is at risk, however, a court will take steps to protect the child.
Okla. Law Permits The Suspension of Visitation
A parent who, acting reasonably and in good faith believes that their child is either the victim of child abuse at the hands of the other parent, or is suffering from the effects of domestic violence, may take necessary actions to protect the child, including refusing to permit visitation. This belief must be supported by fact. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 111.4.
This allows a concerned parent to file a motion in family court. If the court finds that there is evidence to substantiate suspected or confirmed child abuse or neglect, visitation shall be suspended.
Motion For Emergency Custody Hearing
The parent must file a motion for an emergency custody hearing. Oklahoma law requires that an independent report, such as a police report or a report from the Department of Human Services, be attached to the motion if one is available. The report should demonstrate that the child is in surroundings which endanger the safety of the child and that if such conditions continue, the child would likely be subject to irreparable harm.
If there is no such report, the motion must include a notarized affidavit or declaration from an individual with personal knowledge that the child is in surroundings which endanger the child’s safety and that failure to grant the motion would likely cause irreparable harm to the child. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 107.4.
The court then has 72 hours in which to conduct a hearing. If the court fails to conduct a hearing within that time, the moving party may present the emergency motion to the presiding judge of the judicial district, which will conduct the hearing within 24 hours.
Consequences of False Allegations
It is important that all the information within the motion, report and affidavit be true and correct. If the court finds that any of the information is false, the motion will be denied and all costs, attorneys fees, and expenses will be ordered to be paid by the moving party within 30 days.
Failure to make the payment constitute grounds for contempt, which is punishable by up to 6 months in the county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 107.4.
The Court Has Emergency Jurisdiction
In order to protect children, family courts maintain temporary emergency jurisdiction over any child within the state who has been abandoned, or when in an emergency it is necessary to protect the child because the child, a parent or a sibling is either threatened with or is suffering from mistreatment or abuse.
A court may intervene on behalf of the child even when no custody or visitation order is in place. A court’s order will remain in place until another more permanent order can be rendered in a court of competent jurisdiction over the child. In the event of a conflict between courts with jurisdiction over the child, the court in which the emergency motion has been filed will immediately communicate with the other court to resolve the emergency, protect the safety of the parent and child, and determine a period of time for the duration of the temporary order. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 551.204.
In all cases, the safety of the child is of paramount concern to the court. It is important that you hire an experienced family law attorney who can look at the matter with clear eyes. It is easy to lose perspective when emotions are running high, and an error, in fact, can be costly.
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 to help you. Call (918) 879-1681 for a free consultation or submit a question through this website.