Child Custody and Visitation

Why Get a Custody Order?

  • Helps establish a plan for the care and treatment of a child whose parents are separated.
  • Is required as part of a divorce
  • A state agency may have required you and the other parent to start a court case involving child custody.
Reasons for Men
  • Without marriage to the mother or name on the birth certificate Oklahoma says fathers have no rights until established by a court order. Child support can still be ordered.
  • If the child is born during a marriage a man and woman have equal rights. May still need to establish custody, visitation, and child support using the court. Informal agreements are not persuasive with law enforcement or a judge. A court order is needed in many circumstances.
Reasons for Women
  • Unless otherwise determined by a court and a father is not listed on the birth certificate - you have custody. If a father is listed on the birth certificate, father shares equal rights.
  • The mother can create a custody plan that the court can enforce.

Note: Same sex couples may have to use a different process to establish custody, visitation, and child support. 

Common Questions

  • By listing a man’s name as the father on the child’s birth certificate.
  • A man may sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity to say he is the father. If the man and woman are married another man must sign a Denial of Paternity to say he is not the father. Both of these can be challenged or revoked for a short period of time afterward.
  • DNA testing, whether through DHS or done privately if ordered by the court. 
  • A judge in court has declared a man the father and there is a filed court order signed by a judge to record this. 
  • The husband is automatically the legal father when the child is born; 
  • during a marriage or, 
  • 300 days after a marriage ends through either divorce or other means.
  • The man lived with the child for the first two years of the child's life and openly told others he is the father. 

Note: A man can be the legal father of a child even if he is not biologically related.

Physical: Which parent the child spends their time with. Includes daytime and overnight visits. 

Legal: The ability of a parent to make decisions about where the child goes to school, their healthcare, religion, and other things related to their upbringing. 

These are factors a judge considers about each parent and anyone who lives with them when deciding a visitation and custody plan:

  • The best interests of the child
  • Wishes of the parents, and sometimes of the child
  • Mental and physical health of the parties
  • Relationship of the parents and child
  • Sex offender registration
  • Child abuse convictions
  • Alcohol and illegal drug use or abuse
  • Domestic abuse convictions
  • Foreseeable risk of material harm

There are times when one parent chooses not to return the child when they should. If there is no custody order through the court, a judge or law enforcement may not help. 

With a court ordered custody plan the parent who should have the child can file a “Motion to Enforce Visitation”. This uses the court to force the other parent to return the child. Makeup visitation can also be ordered. 

  • Week on/week off: The parents alternate whose home the child is in every other week. 
  • 4:3:3:4: One parent has four overnights a week and the other has three overnights. The next week, the parents switch who has more overnights and who has fewer. 
  • Expanded Weekend: The parent with fewer overnight visits has the child from Friday after school or daycare until Monday morning when school or daycare begin. 
  • Standard Weekends: The parent with fewer overnight visits has the child every weekend from Friday evening until Sunday evening. 
  • Alternating Weekends: The same as Standard Weekends, but alternating every other week. 
  • Daytime: Time a parent spends with a child that does not include an overnight. Sometimes Daytime Visitation is the only visitation a parent has, but may also be included as additional time with any of the schedules listed above. 
  • Supervised: Time a parent spend with a child, but there is always someone else present to supervise and keep an eye on the visit. The supervisor may be family, a friend, or other trusted person.
  • Professionally supervised: Where a professional supervises the visit and writes reports. 
  • Therapeutically supervised: Where a therapist supervises the visit and writes reports. 
  • Holiday: Some national, religious, personal, or tribal events require changes to the normal schedule. Many parents choose to alternate major holidays every year. 
Last Review and Update: Apr 18, 2023
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