Child custody issues arise in both divorce and paternity cases. Child custody in Oklahoma may also arise out of emergency guardianship or other third party parental relationships. In any litigation involving children, the question of who gets custody of the child is of paramount importance. Child custody refers to the right and authority to direct the care and upbringing of the child. This legal authority includes every decision regarding things like which school the child attends, how the child is disciplined, and medical decisions. Other examples include religious affiliation and other major life events.
Historical Look at Child Custody
Early in American law, prior to the 19th century, courts used a rule of paternal preference. The earliest decisions gave custody to the father as what might be a “property interest” in his children. As things progressed, the trend moved away from a preference for the father. Soon the preference shifted to the mother in matters of child custody.
Tender Year’s Doctrine
The tender years doctrine involved a presumption created in favor of awarding custody to the mother of a young child. This preference continued throughout the child’s life unless the biological mother was found to be unfit. This replaced early family law views favoring the father in custody issues. What the change also did is to place a burden of proof on the Father. This burden of proof required he prove in Court that the Mother is unfit. If the Father is unable to meet his burden of proof the Mother gets custody.
Modern View of Child Custody
The vast majority of American jurisdictions, including Oklahoma, have done away with the Tender Year’s Doctrine. Rather the presumption of the courts is that both biological parents are equally capable of caring for the child. Thus, no gender based bias for custody exists. This is called joint custody and comes in both the legal and physical variety.
Primary Care Giver Doctrine
This is a presumptive doctrine which places a judicial preference for child custody on the parent who up until the divorce proceeding was the child’s primary care giver. Several factors are considered to determine which parent is to be the child’s primary care giver. These factors can include: which parent (1) put the children to bed, (2) groomed the children, (3) made medical decisions, and (4) acted to teach the children basic life coping skills. Although the Primary Care Giver Doctrine and presumption are not authoritative in Oklahoma, these factors are highly probative of what is in the Best Interest of the children.
Best Interest of the Child
This is the prevailing school of thought found in Oklahoma child custody cases and most Jurisdictions in the United States. The Best Interest Doctrine no longer looks at gender or marital preference. Rather, the court determines what is in the best interest of the Child and assigns custody based on that. Some issues with this approach is that it’s rather complex and is difficult to define. Among other factors, the Best Interest approach looks to maintaining the status quo in the parent child relationship. It also attempts to keep both parents involved to at least some degree in the children’s lives. Additionally, the Best Interest doctrine examines which parent is more mature and is willing to co-parent.
Joint Legal Custody
Joint custody in Oklahoma is sharing legal custody of the children. The basic concept envisions a parenting arrangement in which both parents share legal responsibility for child-rearing. This responsibility can limit or extend to day to day decision making for the child. Joint custodial custody involves the highest level of cooperation between the parents, and will be less likely to be upheld in those situations where the parents cannot cooperate in matters concerning child-rearing.
Although the courts favor joint custody there are times when this isn’t possible. The reasons for sole custody are far ranging but always focus on the best interest of the child. As the parent asking for sole custody you will be responsible for showing the court why this is in the child’s best interest. There are many reasons that entitle you to sole custody generally they include things like domestic violence, drug abuse, a history of protective orders or other bad behavior.
Tulsa Child Custody Lawyers Near You
Child custody cases in Oklahoma come in all sorts of types. Our family lawyers handle custody cases arising out of divorce, paternity and guardianship cases in the State. Child custody and family law itself are issues that are decided by Judges using equitable principles. This means that all the circumstances surrounding your child and what’s considered to be fair and equitable is how family law cases are decided. Call us today and get a Free Consultation with one of our family law attorneys 918-743-2233