Divorce is hard on everyone involved. It is a time of huge upheaval for parents and especially for children. Warring parents can lose sight of their children’s well-being while trying to sort out the immediacy of issues that divorce can bring. Therefore, Oklahoma custody laws ensure that children are protected in the process.
When dealing with Muskogee child custody law, it is helpful to understand how courts consider the best interests of the child.
What Does The Best Interests Of The Child Mean?
Sometimes what is best for the parents may not be best for the child. To act in the best interests of the child means that decisions regarding custody and visitation are made to help ensure that the child’s health, happiness, and all aspects of the child’s well-being are fostered and nurtured both in the short and long term.
How Is Child Custody Decided In A Muskogee Divorce?
When children are involved in a divorce, issues of child custody and visitation must be decided. Courts encourage parents to come to an agreement regarding both issues on their own if possible. When they do, the court will usually implement the desires of the parents as long as their decision is in the best interests of the child.
When parents cannot agree, the court will have to decide these issues. In doing so, it will use the child’s best interests as a guide. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 112
Understanding Oklahoma Custody Laws
Custody can be physical or legal. Physical custody refers to the physical location of the child. With whom does the child live? Physical custody can be joint, sometimes also called shared.
In joint custody, the parents share physical custody of the child. In this arrangement, the child spends half the time living with one parent and half the time living with the other parent.
Physical custody can also be sole. The means that the child lives with one parent — the custodial parent. The other parent receives visitation rights.
Legal custody refers to the question of who makes major decisions regarding the children. This too can be either joint or sole.
The Parenting Plan
When one or both parents request joint physical custody, the parents must submit a parenting plan to the court. A parenting plan can be submitted jointly or separately. It covers the parent’s plan for the logistics of care around their child. It includes:
- where the children will live and when;
- medical and dental insurance information;
- child support plans;
- visitation schedule; and
- where the children will go to school.
The parenting plan is reviewed by the court. If the plan is in the best interests of the child, the court will make orders based on it.
If not, the court will make other orders that it deems in the best interests of the child. Usually, this means joint custody — but not always. If the court feels sole custody would be in the best interests of the child, it will make that decision.
What Factors Are Involved In Determining The Best Interests Of The Child?
There are a number of factors that a court may consider 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 health of parents;
- mental health of parents;
- child’s preferences, if old enough;
- any substance abuse issues;
- history of domestic abuse; or
- history of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
No one factor will usually sway a court one way or the other. Rather, the court tends to look at the totality of the circumstances in making a custody or visitation decision.
A Note On Tribal Jurisdiction In Oklahoma Custody Laws
In 2020, the Supreme Court decided McGirt v. Oklahoma; this restored recognized reservation boundaries of five tribes to include most of Eastern Oklahoma. State and tribal courts are still sorting out how McGirt affects family law matters.
For practical purposes, 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.
Tribal courts have jurisdiction to hear child support and custody matters, among other issues, for a child of any federally recognized tribe. (25 U.S.C. ch. 21 § 1911(A, B) Indian Child Welfare Act)
Generally, tribes that have robust tribal court systems are the most willing to accept jurisdiction in family matters involving their members residing within the boundaries of their jurisdiction.
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 right away.
Free Consultation: Muskogee Divorce Attorney
Are you facing a divorce in Muskogee and feel that you need help? Get the help you need and avoid making regrettable errors during a time when you are possibly going through intense emotions. Talk to a Muskogee divorce attorney today.
Our knowledgeable divorce attorneys pride themselves on providing you the best possible legal representation at reasonable rates.
Call 918-884-7774 today for an initial free consultation with a Muskogee divorce attorney.