This New House Bill Determines Custody of Children Born Out of Marriage
Video Transcribed: Do mothers and fathers now have equal rights in Oklahoma? I’m James Wirth, a lawyer in Oklahoma, and that is the issue that we’re talking about today. Equal rights for mothers and fathers in Oklahoma, after House Bill 3193.
Now, historically in the state of Oklahoma for kids that are born outside of marriage, the mom has had de facto sole custody until a court determines the rights of the father. And then if the kid is born into a marriage, there’s kind of this presumption, unwritten rule of kind of joint custody. It’s a de facto joint custody situation. So if it’s born outside of marriage, mom’s got de facto sole custody. Born into a marriage, kind of this de facto joint custody until you go to court and get a determination otherwise.
So how is that affected by the new law that went into effect November 1st of 2022, House Bill 3193? Well, on paper it tries to make it equal between mother and father, both if the child is born outside of marriage and if it’s born into a marriage. So let’s talk about what it says.
So first off, the historical law is Title 10, Section 7800. And it says, “Except as otherwise provided by law, the mother of a child born out of wedlock has custody of the child until determined otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction.” So generally, there wasn’t this as otherwise provided by law. Other laws didn’t really exist. So for the most part, that was the case. The mother of a child born out of wedlock has custody until determined by the court.
But now we have the new law that just went into effect and it changes that a little bit. And what it provides is that where there has been an acknowledgment of paternity at the time of birth, then at that point, this shall give the mother and father equal rights and obligations to the child. The child whose parentage has been determined as set forth shall be treated as a child of parents who was married at the time of birth.
So this is clearly an intent by the legislature to give equal rights to parents that have a child born to them, whether they’re married or not married. So now if you’re not a married couple and have a child born, you’re supposed to have the same rights as if you were married, meaning equal rights between mom and dad.
In practice, that can be a little bit more difficult. So we’re kind of seeing how this works in practice and not a lot has changed as of yet. So if you’re in this situation as a father of a child born out of wedlock, obviously you want to file with the court to get your rights established. But before that is done, you just want to keep a copy of that acknowledgment of paternity that’s signed at the hospital normally at the time of the child’s birth, where both mom and dad sign off acknowledging the paternity, and then that’s sent into Vital Records Department of Human Services in order to get the father on the birth certificate. Retain a copy of that acknowledgment of paternity because that can be useful to demonstrate that you’re on there and therefore that you have equal rights.
Now, if you do not have the acknowledgment of paternity at the time of birth, then at that point you still don’t have equal rights. You got to file it in court. Got to file a paternity action, or custody actions to get your rights established. So we’ve got this new change in the law that is attempting to give equal footing to moms and dads, but we’re not yet sure exactly how it’s going to play out. But there are things that you can do to protect yourself as I mentioned. If you are the father of a child born outside of marriage, get the acknowledgment of paternity signed at birth if you’re certain about paternity. If not, file a paternity action with the court and then keep a copy of that acknowledgment of paternity until you get a court order in place. In this case, once you have a court order, you want to hang onto a certified copy of that court order.
If this is an issue that you’re dealing with, don’t just take general information from this video. You’re going to want to talk to a child custody attorney in Tulsa privately, confidentially. To get that scheduled with an attorney at my office, go online to makelaweasy.com.