If you are a parent, one of your biggest concerns during your divorce may be over the custody of your child. While it may be beneficial to work with your spouse to come to an agreement about child custody, sometimes this is not possible. If you and your spouse cannot decide on a custody arrangement, a court will need to decide what arrangement to award.
When determining how to award child custody, an Oklahoma court must consider what award would be in your child's best interests. In determining a child’s best interests, the court prioritizes the child’s physical, mental and moral welfare.
Courts do not have a legal preference for or against joint physical or joint legal custody. However, it is usually in your child's best interests to maintain a relationship with both parents either through joint physical custody or through the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent.
Physical versus legal custody
When a parent has physical custody, the child will usually live with that parent and that parent will be responsible for the child’s daily care. When parents share physical custody, the child may live with both parents, though the child’s time may or may not be split evenly between the two homes.
Legal custody refers to the right to make long-term decisions about the child’s upbringing. This can include decisions about where the child will attend school, what type of religious training the child will have and what non-emergency medical care the child may receive. A court can award joint legal custody even when sole physical custody is determined to be in the child’s best interests.
If you are just beginning the divorce process, you may be concerned about what the outcome will be for child custody. However, with an understanding of how courts determine child custody, you can better advocate for the arrangement in best interests of your child.