5 Reasons to File Divorce First in Oklahoma

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CANNON & ASSOCIATES is dedicated to Fierce Advocacy for those seeking to obtain or change custody of a minor child. It is crucial you contact an experienced Oklahoma Family Law Attorney, if you are a seeking to establish legal custody or physical custody of a minor child in Oklahoma. You need a Fierce Advocate to help you obtain rights to your minor child as a parent or protect your child’s rights. This page is an overview of the most common issues in Oklahoma child custody disputes, clients are facing when they contact CANNON & ASSOCIATES.


Parents in child custody cases, whether a divorce or legal separation, battle over which parent their child should live with or have physical custody the majority of the time. In Oklahoma, absent a custody order from a court, both parents are equally entitled to physical custody of any child born during the marriage. Please visit our page on Paternity in Oklahoma, for insight on child custody for children born outside of marriage.


Parents must file a Petition for Custody with the Court in order to get child custody. Once the Petition has been filed, the court must decide whether or not it has authority, or “jurisdiction,” to determine custody of the child. A court typically has jurisdiction over a child that has resided in Oklahoma for the past six (6) months.  When a child has lived outside of Oklahoma for at least six (6) months, Oklahoma courts might decide that another state is more appropriate to determine child custody. If your child has not lived in Oklahoma within the last six (6) months, it is important to speak with your attorney before you request a Petition for Custody from an Oklahoma court.

Oklahoma law requires family law judges consider the “best interest of the child” in regards to their physical, mental, and moral welfare pursuant to OKLA. STAT. tit. 43 § 109. You can use the fact your children prefer to live with you to your advantage in child custody cases in Oklahoma.


If you wish to change a Final Custody Order, you must file a “Motion to Modify Custody Order.” This is typically done in the same court and child custody case that issued the original order. When you file a Motion to Modify Child Custody, you have to provide a reason why a change in the custody order is necessary. The standard to change custody orders differs depending if the custody order is a “Sole Custody Order” or a “Joint Custody Order.”

If a custody order is a “Sole Custody Order,” a parent must demonstrate that there has been a “permanent, material and substantial change in circumstances that affect the best interests of the child” before the court will change a Final Custody Order. A court will consider the factors mentioned below in determining whether such a change in custody is in the child’s best interest. These changes must be significant and affect the child’s life. For example, the presence of an abusive situation is often grounds to change an order. Once the Motion to Modify has been filed, the court will set a hearing date. At the hearing, the parent who is asking for the change will have to prove to the court that there is a permanent, material substantial change in circumstances and that a chance of custody is in the child’s best interest.

In order to change a “Joint Custody Order,” the court must be shown that the parties are not able to cooperate and agree on what is in the child’s best interest. When this happens, either parent can ask the court to terminate joint custody and award sole custody. Again, the courts will look at the aforementioned factors to determine what is in the child’s best interest. 


Child custody includes both physical and legal custody. Physical custody determines where and with whom each child will live. Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to a parent’s right to make long term decisions about raising the child. For example, a parent with legal custody makes decisions regarding a child’s education and medical care. A court can award Sole Custody or Joint Custody. Sole custody exists when only one parents has the right to make decisions regarding where a child will live (physical custody) and/ or decisions about raising a child (legal custody). Physical custody exists when the child lives with one parent and the other has visitation rights and both parents have a say on how to raise the child, i.e. decision making authority over the child’s mental, physical, and emotional well being.

A court can also issue a “Temporary Custody” order. A temporary custody order involves a physical and legal custody agreement between the parents or an order by the court that is legally binding until a final order from the court has been entered. A court’s final order may differ from the agreements made in the temporary order.


Oklahoma courts determine custody of a child by asking what is in “the best interests of the physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.” In making this decision, an Oklahoma Family law judge will consider the following factors:

  • The wishes of each parents and the wishes of the child (depending on the child’s age)
  • The quality of the relationship between the child and each parent
  • The child’s relationship with grandparents, siblings and other significant people in the child’s life;
  • The child’s relationship to his or her school, religious institutions, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all parties;
  • Any past, present or possible future spousal or child abuse by either parent;
  • Any past or present drug or substance abuse by either parent;
  • Any past or present criminal actions by either parent (other than minor infractions or offenses that were committed a long time ago)
  • Each parent’s involvement in the past in getting the child to medical appointments
  • Each parent’s involvement in the child’s schooling
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a safe home environment
  • The willingness of each parent to help foster a relationship and visitation with the other parent
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable home life
  • Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s material needs
  • Each parent’s ability to spend time with the child


A parent denied child custody will have certain visitation privileges. A court awards different types of visitation based on what is in the child’s best interest. Weekend visitation involves visits over a weekend from a set time on Friday until a set time on either Sunday night or Monday morning.

Holiday visitation involves a schedule to alternate certain holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Spring Break. An order can include other holidays. Finally, courts award Summer Visitation. This visitation provides one or more extended periods of visitation during the summer months.


Child custody issues are emotional and legally complex. Seeking custody or visitation should not be done without the help and support of an experienced family law attorney.

Oklahoma law requires family court judges enforce fair treatment of mothers and fathers; however, this law is not always followed. When it comes to child custody and child visitation in Oklahoma, it is very important you hire the right attorney to Fight for You and protect your rights.

It is my hope this page has answered some of your questions regarding child custody in Oklahoma, if not please visit FAQ: Family Law and/or contact CANNON & ASSOCIATES for a free confidential consultation.


Experience matters when time with your children is on the line. It is important to know the attorney you hire is dedicated to your cause. John Cannon, owner of CANNON & ASSOCIATES, PLLC is a father and understands the importance of the issues you are facing. He will personally represent you and work along-side you during the entire process. He will keep you informed. John has the experience you need and will bring it to bear in your case.

Additionally, John Cannon has an outstanding record of reaching the best possible outcome for hundreds of clients, evidenced by receiving the highest possible AVVO rating – 10 (superb). Contact CANNON & ASSOCIATES, PLLC to protect your rights and Fight your Case. You may send an email inquiry, complete the contact form on our website, or call at 1(405) 657-2323 for a free confidential consultation.

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