A child can decide which parent they want to live with in certain limited cases. The determination relating to the custody of children is often the most challenging issue to decide in a divorce or paternity case. The primary concern of any Oklahoma court with jurisdiction over a divorce or custody case is making decisions in the child’s best interests. One potentially difficult consideration is the preference of the child. To what extent, if any, will an Oklahoma court consider a child’s preference?
Can The Child Express A Preference as to Custody?
In any action under Oklahoma law in which a court must determine custody or visitation, the child may express a parental preference. The court will not consider a child’s preference in every divorce or paternity case. But, the court will in those cases where the child possesses sufficient maturity to make such a preference.
If the child’s only reason for preferring one parent over another is something superficial the court wont consider it. This includes things like “Dad lets me play video games or stay up later. In this case the court will likely give little or no weight to the child’s preference. Even if the child possesses sufficient maturity to make an intelligent preference, the court is not bound by the child’s choice. The law still requires that the court consider all relevant factors before the child can decide which parent they want to live with. This includes custody involving married parents as well as unmarried parents sharing a child.
Does The Age Of The Child Matter?
The court may give little weight to a child’s preference if the child is under the age of 12. This is because it may be apparent that the child is not mature enough to make an intelligent preference. For example, the child is only six years old and can hardly understand the circumstances of the divorce as they unfold.
Oklahoma law expressly states a rebuttable presumption that a child who is 12 years of age or older is of sufficient age to form an intelligent preference. Even if the child is 12, the court will still consider other evidence alongside this expression of choice in determining custody or visitation. This includes both joint custody or sole custody. The court will always make a final decision based on the child’s best interests.
How Does The Court Proceed?
Any petition for a divorce, legal separation, or annulment in Oklahoma must state whether the parties have minor children of the marriage. If there are minor children of the marriage, the court is required to “make provision for guardianship, custody, medical care, support and education of the children.” Courts do not favor one parent over another when making custody and visitation decisions. Instead, Oklahoma courts focus on the best interests of the minor child.
In most divorce cases, minor children are not required to appear in court. If the child is allowed to express a preference, the court may conduct a private interview with the child. This is done in chambers without the parents, attorneys, or other parties present. These other parties may provide the court with questions or topics for the court to consider in its child interview. However, the court is not bound to ask any question presented or explore any topic requested by a parent, attorney, or another party. At the request of either parent, the court will record any child interview conducted in chambers. If the proceeding is transcribed, the parents are entitled to have access to the transcript only if they appeal the custody or visitation determination.
Tulsa Custody Law Attorneys
Cases involving child custody are challenging for both parents. Attorneys must be able to handle the nuances of divorce and custody law. This includes the emotional issues related to child custody and visitation. The knowledgeable family law attorneys at Kania Law Office are experienced in cases where child custody is an issue. We can help you deal with the technical and emotional issues in a divorce case involving minor children. For more information about how our family law lawyers can help you call (918) 743-2233 or contact us online.