Child custody issues are some of the most contested matters between couples involved in an Oklahoma divorce. Sometimes, parents agree on custody — but just as often, they don’t. When parents cannot agree on whether to share custody of the children, the courts will often make that decision for them. Sometimes, a child’s preference matters in Oklahoma custody disputes. Read on to learn more about Muskogee child custody law.
Oklahoma Custody Basics
Custody can be physical or legal. Each of these can be either shared, also referred to as joint or sole. Sole custody means that one parent has custody.
Joint custody is often granted if it is in the best interests of the child. In this case, the parents share time with the child. The split in time could be a 50/50 split or it could be a different split. Usually, the child lives part time with one parent and part time with the other.
In sole custody, the child lives with one parent — the custodial parent. The other parent receives visitation rights. When a child has a preference, the court takes that preference into consideration.
Legal custody refers to the question of who makes major decisions regarding the children. This too can be either joint or sole.
What Factors Are Involved In Determining The Best Interests Of The Child?
Courts look at a number of factors when looking at the best interests of the child:
- the willingness of parents to allow contact;
- extended family relationships and closeness;
- special needs of the child;
- stable home life of both parents;
- physical and mental health of parents;
- child’s preferences, if old enough;
- existence of substance abuse issues;
- any history of domestic abuse; and
- history of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
Courts try to get a good picture of what the relationships between parents and the child are like, what the home life feels like on a daily basis, and what the child will need in order to thrive and develop both in the short term and in the longer term.
The Role Of The Child’s Preference In Oklahoma Custody Determination
The child’s age or maturity level has a great deal to do with the weight of a child’s preference in the issue of custody. In order for a judge to give the child’s opinion weight, the child must be able to state the reasons for their preference in a clear, logical, and well-reasoned manner.
There is a big difference between a preference based on a parent’s purchase of a preferred cereal or the parent’s permissiveness around bedtime and a preference based on deeper issues. A child who can reasonably articulate that one parent is more stable (even though perhaps boring) and the other more fun (but maybe less safe) is likely to be considered by a judge.
Age is part of the mix, but maturity is perhaps more important than age. However, many Oklahoma judges will not give much credence to a younger child’s opinion. Many judges require that a child be at least 12 years old.
A child’s preference is still a preference. The judge must make a custody determination that is in the child’s best interests. However, that is not always in accordance with a child’s preference.
Tribal Jurisdiction And Custody
In 2020, the Supreme Court decided McGirt v. Oklahoma; this restored recognized reservation boundaries of five tribes to include most of Eastern Oklahoma. Both state and tribal courts are still sorting out how McGirt will affect family law matters.
For now, it is important for tribal members to know that they have a choice of jurisdiction. Members of tribes may approach their tribal courts in family law matters. Tribal courts may accept or decline the matter, transferring it to state court.
Our office is admitted to practice in some tribal courts and can seek further admittance if a particular matter requires access to tribal courts. Talk to a Muskogee attorney today.
Free Consultation: Muskogee Divorce Attorney
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