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Legal Information: Oklahoma


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December 8, 2023

If a custody order is already in place, how can I change it?

You can file a motion with the court asking the judge to change (modify) your final custody order, and it will be up to the judge whether to allow the change or not.  

There can be a few different ways to modify a joint custody order:

  • If you and the other parent agree on changes to the plan for joint care, custody, and control, you can file these changes with the court and ask the judge to include them in a new order;or
  • If only one parent wants to change the order or wants to terminate joint custody, s/he can file a motion to modify.  The judge will hold a hearing and may change the order if s/he believes it is in the best interest of the child.2

To change a custody order from joint to sole or from sole to joint, you will be required to show the court that there has been a permanent, important (material), and substantial change in the custodial situation that negatively affects the child and that changing custody would be in the child’s best interests.3  This is a tough standard, but it’s meant to prevent parents from constantly battling in court to change custody and to keep stability in the child’s life.  For example, if the custodial parent was convicted of drug possession, the court may agree that this is a substantial change in circumstances and might consider whether your home now is better for the child than the other parent’s home.

Note: When military services requires a parent to be separated from a child, the court will not enter a final order modifying an existing custody order until the parent has completed the term of duty requiring separation.4 A military deployment cannot be used as evidence of a substantial, material, and permanent change of circumstances to modify custody permanently.5

1 43 O.S. § 109(E) 
2 43 O.S. § 109(F), (G) 
3 See, for example, Boatsman v. Boatsman, 697 P.2d 516 (Okl. Supr. Ct, 1984.); Buffalo v. Buffalo, 211 P.3d 923 (Okla. Civ. App. Div., 2009)
4 43 O.S. § 112(5)
5 43 O.S. § 112.7

Can I change the state where the case is being heard?

If you move to another state, you may be able to change the state where the custody case is being heard, especially if the other parent no longer lives in the state that made the initial custody order or if there is no longer a significant connection between the child and the state that issued the order. In other words, if the court finds that there is no evidence from the original state anymore about the child’s life, then a new state where there are significant ties with the child may be able to hear the case (have jurisdiction.)1 You will generally have to ask the judge who is hearing the case to change the jurisdiction of your case. See our Changing a final custody order page for more information. 

1 43 O.S. § 551-202(1), (2)

If there is a custody order in place, can I relocate with my child?

If your home is your child’s primary residence, you may need to notify the other parent if you want to relocate. If you are moving less than 75 miles away, you may want to contact an attorney to ask if there’s anything you need to do before moving. 

However, if you plan to move more than 75 miles away for 60 days or more, you must give the other parent a written notice of intended relocation.1 The notice must be sent by mail to the last-known address of the other parent, and you must send it at least 60 days before you intend to move. If you did not know about the move 60 days in advance and you can’t delay the move, you have to send it within ten days of finding out about the move.2

The notice needs to include the following information:

  1. where the new residence will be, including the specific address, if known;
  2. the mailing address, if different;
  3. the home telephone number, if known;
  4. the date of the intended move or proposed relocation;
  5. if applicable, the specific reasons for the proposed relocation;
  6. a proposal for a revised schedule of visitation with the child, if any; and
  7. a warning to the non-relocating parent that s/he must object to the relocation within 30 days, or the relocation will be permitted.3

If the judge believes that you or your child would be in danger by giving the required identifying information in the notice, the judge can:

  • order that the address, telephone number, and other identifying information is not included on court documents;
  • waive the notice requirements as necessary to protect you and your child;
  • order anything else that the judge thinks is necessary to meet the parties’ needs, and that is in the child’s best interest.4

If the other parent disagrees with the move, s/he has to file an objection in court within 30 days of receiving the notification.  The other parent can request a temporary or permanent order to prevent the relocation.5 Note: A non-parent with a visitation order cannot legally object to the relocation but can file for a new visitation schedule.6

If you don’t properly notify someone who has custody or visitation rights about the relocation, the court may take that into account when determining whether or not:

  1. to allow you to move; 
  2. to change the custody or visitation arrangements; or
  3. to make you pay any attorney fees and costs of the other party who objects to your relocation.7

If the relocation has taken place without notice, this can be the reason why the judge orders the child’s return.7

1 43 O.S. § 112.3(B)(1)
2 43 O.S. § 112.3(C)(1)
3 43 O.S. § 112.3(C)(2)
4 43 O.S. § 112.3(E)
5 43 O.S. § 112.3(G)(2)
6 43 O.S. § 112.3(G)(3)
7 43 O.S. § 112.3(F)   

When deciding if I can relocate with my child, what factors will a judge consider?

In deciding whether to allow a proposed relocation, the judge will consider the following factors:

  1. the nature, quality, and amount of involvement, and length of the child’s relationship with the parent proposing to relocate and with the non-relocating parent, siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life;
  2. the age, developmental stage, needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child;
  3. the likelihood of being able to preserve the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child through a visitation arrangement, considering the length of travel and the financial circumstances of the parties;
  4. the child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child;
  5. whether there is an established pattern of conduct of the person seeking the relocation, either to promote or prevent the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent;
  6. whether the relocation of the child will improve the general quality of life for the relocating parent and the child, including, but not limited to, a financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity;
  7. each parent’s reasons for wanting or opposing the relocation; and
  8. any other factor affecting the best interest of the child.1

The judge cannot grant the relocation just because the judge had already given the parent a temporary order allowing the move while the case was pending. Also, the judge cannot consider whether or not the person seeking relocation of the child has declared that s/he will not relocate if relocation of the child is denied.1  

Note: The relocating parent has to prove that the proposed relocation is made in “good faith.” If s/he does that, then it is up to the non-relocating parent to show that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child.2

We strongly encourage you to get a lawyer for the relocation hearing. You can find legal referrals on our Oklahoma Finding a Lawyer page.

1 43 O.S. § 112.3(J)
2 43 O.S. § 112.3(K)

Can a parent who does not have custody have access to the child's records?

A parent without custody can access your child’s records unless you have a court order restricting the non-custodial parent’s access. This includes medical records, school records, and many other records that may have your home address and contact information. If you do not want the non-custodial parent to get access to these records, you must request that the court restrict the other parent’s access. The judge will only do this if s/he believes that doing so would be in the best interests of the child.1 Be sure to tell the judge about any domestic abuse in your household. 

1 43 O.S. § 109.6