Family Law Overview

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Divorce, Child Custody, and Support in Oklahoma

Cannon Law Firm is dedicated to Fierce Advocacy for those facing Dissolution of Marriage, commonly referred to as ‘Divorce”; Child Custody, and Child Support issues in state courts in central Oklahoma. It is crucial you contact an experienced Oklahoma Family Law Attorney, if you are facing Divorce; Child Custody Orders or Modification; and Support matters. You need a Fierce Advocate to defend your rights, your property, and your relationship with your children. This page is an overview of the most common issues our firm’s potential family law and divorce clients are facing when they reach out to Cannon Law Firm.

Often times, in a divorce case or a legal separation, parents battle over custody of their children and the terms of their upbringing after divorce. In Oklahoma, however, absent a custody order from a court, both parents are equally entitled to physical custody of any child born during the marriage or any child born to the parents prior to marriage where there is a mutual agreement the husband is the child’s father. The following are some of the most common questions asked concerning Divorce, Child Custody, and Support Orders:

How do I get Divorced in Oklahoma?

A Divorce case is basically the same as any civil case; however, the stakes are far higher than losing a lawsuit and include your home, your children, your property, and much more. A divorce is started by one party, the “Petitioner”, filing a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage”, which is your opportunity to notify the court of the outcome you want regarding all the issues that must be resolved in a divorce. Oklahoma law no longer requires grounds for divorce. The “Petition” should be filed in the District Court for the county the Petitioner lives in. The “Petition” is often filed with an “Application for Temporary Orders”, which is the Petitioner’s request for Orders from the Court until the divorce is finalized. The Temporary Orders can cover child custody, child support, division of property, possession of the marital home, and many other issues. The pleadings, paperwork, filed by the “Petitioner” must be served or given to the Petitioner’s spouse, i.e. the other party to the case, “Respondent.” The Temporary Orders are in addition to Automatic Temporary Injunctions, which stop the parties from liquidating assets, removing a party from insurance, or other damaging acts.

In divorces where both parties are in agreement on the terms of divorce or the parties are not very contentious; your chosen attorney can handle all the necessary legal paperwork to complete what is called a “waiver divorce.” It is called this, because the responding party is waiving their rights and accepting the divorce. Once the Petition is filed and served on the other spouse; the other spouse has twenty (20) days to file a respond to the Petition for divorce or risk giving up rights in the case. The parties can enter a Settlement Agreement and work towards a Decree for Dissolution of Marriage or “Divorce Decree,” if they agree on all the terms of divorce. The parties can enter a “Stipulated Order”, if the parties can agree to some of the terms.

In a divorce case, when the parties cannot agree on terms, the case will proceed with hearings; discovery; and eventually trial, if the parties waive mediation (an opportunity to appear before a neutral, uninterested, third party attorney to resolve the case). At trial a judge or jury will decide all the terms of divorce, including: child custody, division of assets, child visitation, and support orders, among other issues. The decisions at trial will be enforced upon the parties. You have the right to appeal a decision by the judge; however, there is no guarantee you will like the result from appellate review either. You should discuss the process involved in seeking a divorce and your options with an experienced family law and divorce attorney before filing your Petition or before the deadline to response runs out.

How Do You Get a Custody Order from the Court?

To get a custody order from the court, either parent must file a Petition for 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 6 months.  When a child has lived outside of Oklahoma for at least 6 months, Oklahoma courts might decide another state is more appropriate to determine custody. If your child has not lived in Oklahoma within the last 6 months, it is important to speak with your Child Custody Attorney before you request a Petition for Custody from an Oklahoma court.

What does Child Custody Mean?

Child custody includes both physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody determines where and with whom each child will live after divorce. Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to a parent’s right to make long term decisions about raising the children. 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 the 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.

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 Temporary Order is often entered with the first thirty days after filing your divorce or custody action and may often set parameters that will be enforced after the case is finalized, i.e. Temporary Orders may be very close to the final orders in your case. Although, a court’s final order may differ from the agreements made in the temporary order, it is often not. It is very important to have experienced counsel assist you in preparing and presenting your cause for Temporary Orders. You should contact an experienced Child Custody Attorney for assistance with your case.

How Does a Court Decide which Parent to Award Physical Custody?

Oklahoma courts and experienced Family Law and Child Custody Attorneys will tell you “the best interest of the child” determines child custody. The question examined by the Court is what is in “the best interests of the physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.” Court/Judges in Oklahoma consider the following factors in custody matters:

  • 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

The parent not awarded physical or sole custody is often awarded certain visitation privileges. There are different types of visitation, which the Court can order based on what is “in the best interest of the child”. 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 that alternates between certain holidays, including: birthday visitation, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day visitation, Christmas visitation, Thanksgiving visitation, Fall Break visitation, Summer Break visitation, and Spring Break visitation. These holiday visitation periods provide some amount of certainty of time the non-custodial parent with have with the children. Your Child Custody Attorney can explain the process and implication of the custody award.

Can You change a Final Custody Order?

You can seek to change the final custody orders in your case. In order to  request the court change the final orders, you must file a “Motion to Modify Custody Order.” Generally, your motion should be filed in the same court and in the same case that issued the original order. When you file such a motion 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.” You should speak to an experienced Child Custody Attorney before filing a Motion to Modify Custody.

Changing Sole Custody Order

A parent must demonstrate “a permanent, material and substantial change in circumstances that affect the best interests of the child,” in order for a custody order to be modified in a Sole Custody case. The non-custodial parent has the burden of proof, i.e. must show the Court/Judge the change in circumstances warranting a change in custody.  The court will consider the above listed factors 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. An unfortunate and common example, the presence of an abusive situation is often grounds to change an order or neglect, failure to care for the child, by the primary custodial parent.

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. It is crucial to have an experienced Child Custody Attorney assist you through this process.

Changing Joint Custody Order

A parent must show a change is “in the best interest of the minor child,” in order to change a Joint Custody Order, the court must be shown the parties are not able to cooperate and agree on what is in the child’s best interest. A parent can seek an award of Sole Custody, i.e. terminate Joint Custody, when the parents are unable to cooperate on the best interest of the child. Again, the courts will look at the aforementioned factors to determine what is in the child’s best interest. As with a change to Sole Custody, the parent seeking the change has the burden of proof, which is “best interest of the child” in Joint Custody cases.

How is Child Support Determined?

Child support is a statutory right of a child, not the custodial parent. That means, it cannot be waived and it should go to the benefit of the minor child. An experienced child support attorney can assist you in calculating your child support obligation, if you will be the party making child support payments or your spouse’s child support obligation, if they will be the party making child support payments to you.  Additionally, you may follow this link to attempt to calculate the child support obligation in your case. The most important take away is your child support and family law attorney can help you reach a better result or structure on child support; however, it is a right of your child or children, which the court will enforce. An experienced Child Support Attorney can assist you through this process.

Conclusion

Family law consists of many specific areas of law: Divorce and Separations; Paternity; Child Custody; Child Support; Spousal Support; and other issues. Each of these areas have specific procedures and laws, which dictate the proceedings and affect the outcome of your Divorce, Child Custody case, or other Family Law matter. It is my hope this page has answered some of your questions regarding the family law issues you or your loved one are facing, if not please contact Cannon Law Firm.

Experience matters when your children and other family law matters are on the line. It is important to know the attorney you hire is the attorney handling your case and experienced in family law. John Cannon, owner of Cannon Law Firm, PLLC, will personally represent you, work along-side you during the entire process, and keep you informed. John has the experience you need and will bring it to bear in your case. Additionally, he 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 Law Firm to protect your rights and Fight your Case. You may send an email inquiry, complete the contact form on our website, or call at 405-888-7369 for a free consultation.

 

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