Knight, Stockton & Cunningham, PLLC: Poteau Child Custody Attorneys
Compassionate, Aggressive Representation in Child Custody Cases
Child custody is a common issue faced in Oklahoma divorce and separation cases, however, it can also be one of the most sensitive. Each parent wants what is best for the child, but each may have different ideas about what constitutes “best.” Determining how a child custody case should proceed is challenging, time consuming, and costly. By working with an experienced custody lawyer from the start of your case, you can protect your rights and the best interests of your child while working towards a positive resolution to the case that benefits the whole family.
What Is the Most Important Thing in a Oklahoma Child Custody Case?
While there are numerous factors that go into making a child custody determination, there is one thing that trumps them all – what is actually in the best interests of the child. Any judge will agree, and the far majority of time spent on a child custody case is spent evaluating a number of different scenarios to determine whether they will have a positive or negative effect on the child. Each stage of a child custody case relates back to whether it is in the child’s best interests, and the ultimate goal of the court is to finalize a custody arrangement that allows the child to remain safe and nurtured for the remainder of their childhood.
How Does a Court Determine What Custody Arrangement is in the Best Interest of a Child?
Determining what custody arrangement is best for a child or could be potentially harmful to a child is no easy task. It involves evaluating a significant amount of evidence and even then, it is not always crystal clear as to what arrangement will provide the child with the brightest future.
Some of the factors that are considered by a family court in a custody case include but are not limited to:
- The age and physical health of both parents
- The mental health of both parents
- The ability of each parent to provide for the child financially
- The location of where each parent lives and its proximity to the child’s educational and social activities
- The condition of each parent’s home and their ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the child
- The ability of each parent to take their child to and from school and social activities
- The willingness of each parent to foster a continuing relationship with the other parent
- Who the child has been living with primarily since the separation of the parents
- The child’s wishes if he or she is old enough to petition the court
- Whether there is a history of physical or sexual violence against the child or another parent
When determining custody, each of these factors and more must be carefully evaluated. A custody decision has the power to change the lives of everyone involved permanently, and it is a determination that must be made only after considering all the facts of a case.
Types of Custody Arrangements
There are many different types of child custody arrangements that can be ordered based on the evidence brought forward in a case.
Primary Physical Custody
Physical custody means that a parent has the right to live with the child. When parents live farther apart from each other, the court is more inclined to award primary physical custody to one parent and visitation to the other in order to help stabilize the child’s routine.
Shared Physical Custody
Shared physical custody, or equal physical custody, means that the child will live with each parent for an equal amount of time. This type of custody arrangement is reserved for parents who live extremely close together or in situations where shared physical custody would not disrupt the child’s routine or schedule.
When a judge awards visitation, he or she is awarding a set time for the non-custodial parent to spend with the child. For example, this may be weekends, every other weekend, or some holidays. What visitation schedule is awarded largely depends on the child’s schedule and the schedules of both parents.
Primary Legal Custody
Legal custody means that a parent has the right to make important decisions for the child, such as where the child will go to school or what type of medical care the child will receive. If one parent has the ability to make sound legal decisions for the child and the other does not, the court is more likely to award primary legal custody or sole legal custody to only one parent.
Shared Legal Custody
Often, when both parents demonstrate the ability to make sound legal decisions for the child, the court will award shared or equal legal custody to both parents. This means that both parents will need to discuss major decisions like where the child will go to school or what type of medical care the child will receive together and reach an agreement on the matter. Shared legal custody can be awarded to both parents even in cases where primary physical custody is awarded to only one parent.
Most courts recognize that it is in the best interest of a child to have a continuing relationship with both of his or her parents. Therefore, a family court will always strive to issue a custody order that allows both parents to spend adequate time with the child. However, there are some cases in which shared parenting is not in the best interest of the child. For example, if one parent has been shown to be abusive or completely lacks the mental and physical capacity to care for the child, the court may award sole custody to one parent. This means that only one parent has physical and legal custody of the child, and no visitation is scheduled.
What child custody arrangement is best for you and your family may not be clear in the beginning of your case. It is important to take into account all the evidence at hand and evaluate each potential scenario in detail before reaching a final decision on what child custody arrangement will be put into place.
When to Speak With a Child Custody Attorney
Child custody cases are no doubt complex, and they can also be financially and emotionally draining. Heated, drawn out custody battles may be difficult for the child or children involved as well, especially if they are old enough to understand more about what is happening. In order to protect both your rights as a parent and the best interests of your child, it is critical that you reach out to an experienced child custody attorney in your area.
Knight, Stockton & Cunningham, PLLC understands how sensitive child custody cases can be. We take a compassionate yet aggressive approach that allows us to offer our clients and their families with comfort while simultaneously advocating for their rights and interests in a zealous manner. If you are considering a divorce or separation and have children, contact us to learn more about your rights and what the next step should be. If you’re already involved in a custody case, let us help you work hard towards the best possible outcome for you and your loved ones. Call now for a consultation to discuss your case in detail.