Legal Information: Oklahoma

Custody

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Updated: 
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

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