Oklahoma City Family Law Center
Top Ten Myths of Oklahoma City Child Custody Law
1. Joint Custody means equal time with the children.
False. Simply because one parent has joint legal custody does not necessarily have anything to do with the amount of visitation that this parent will enjoy. For instance, one parent could have full legal custody over a child yet the other parent may have the majority of the actual visitation time with the child.
2. The Courts in Oklahoma generally award custody to the mother.
False. Under Oklahoma City Child Custody law in a divorce matter there is statutory language that says that Courts shall start with the idea of substantially equal time to both parties with the child.
3. Being designated primary parent in a joint custody plan is the equivalent of having full custody.
False. Many people think this distinction carries more weight than it truly does. While it can become important for relocation purposes the designation as primary parent, is in my opinion, often times over litigated. The designation as primary parent simply gives a deciding “trump card” to one parent or the other when agreements cannot be had. However, if an agreement cannot be had as to a major issue then the parties will most certainly be back in court to litigate the issue so the primary parents decision may be a short lived victory.
4. It is better to have no primary parent designated in our joint custody plan
Despite what you read in Myth 3, my opinion is simply that you must designate a primary parent in a joint custody plan so that final decisions can be had. Without one parent being designated primary, all decisions in dispute would result in going back to Court.
5. Standard visitation will allow me only a very little time with my child.
False. While many different counties in Oklahoma have variations of a “standard visitation” schedule, they typically will include visitation from friday after school until monday morning every other weekend. Additionally, many time they will include a midweek overnight visitation on the “off week”, substantial visitation during all major holidays and up to five weeks of visitation during the summertime. When you consider all these visitation times you quickly realize that with standard visitation a parent may enjoy up to 100+ overnights per year or approximately one-third of the time.
6. If I have full legal custody my child will spend the majority of the time with me.
False. Full legal custody does not necessarily mean that you have the majority of the time. Now typically that would be the case, a full legal custodian would typically have the majority of the time with the child as far as physical custody goes, but it is not necessarily an absolute. Full custody simply means that one parent or another has the complete legal custody and control over a child. What that really means is that they get to control the decision making for that child.
7. Joint custody is appropriate in all custody disputes.
False. Joint custody establishes an obligation between the two parties to communicate about major decisions with the child or children. For instance, schools, churches, medical procedures and other major important decisions that would effect the child, are all relevant considerations in a Joint Custody plan. When the parties are in a joint custody situation there is an obligation under Oklahoma law for the parties to communicate with each other. So if you and your ex-spouse simply cannot or will not communicate regularly and successfully then the joint custody plan simply will not work for your situation. Joint custody works when the parties are willing to cooperate and make it work. If you situation has become so adversarial that you cannot communicate with the other party, then a joint custody plan simply will not function properly.
8. My ex-spouse will not let me see my child so I do not have to pay child support.
False. Your obligation to pay Child support and your right to see your child have nothing to do with one another. While it is absolutely unfair for one parent to withhold visitation from the other parent, it does not excuse that parent from his or her obligation to pay any Court ordered child support. Alternatively, a parent who is not receiving their Court ordered child support cannot refuse Court ordered visitation to the parent who is refusing to pay his or her child support.
9. One the divorce decree is final, Custody and visitation cannot be changed.
False. At any time that there has been a permanent, material, and substantial change in circumstances a party may make motion to modify the existing custody order. Although it may not seem so, the burden to prove that something is permanent material and substantial is very high therefore it is very important that your original custody order grants you the custody and visitations that you desire since it can be very difficult to meet the burden to modify your order in the future.
10. My ex-spouse and I have an agreement as to custody, visitation and child support so I do not need to go back to Court.
While the Courts generally recognize agreements amongst parties the simple fact is a court order is effective unless and until it is changed. So even if you have something in writing this may bolster or assist your claim as evidence to the Court that an agreement existed but many times will not excuse a party from any Court ordered obligations. It is always the better practice to hire a lawyer, go to Court and legally modify Court orders if new agreements or arrangements have been made. Especially when parties are in agreement, these modifications can be accomplished quickly and at a reasonable cost.