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Legal Information: Oklahoma

Oklahoma Custody

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Basic info and definitions

How can paternity be established in Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, paternity can be established in the following ways:

  • through a court process;1 
  • by signing an acknowledgment of paternity;2 
  • because the child was born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage ended; or
  • because for the first two years of the child’s life, the father lived in the same household as the child, and he openly acted as if the child was his.3

1 10 O.S. § 7700-201(3)
2 10 O.S. § 7700-301 
3 10 O.S. § 7700-204

What is custody?

Custody is the legal responsibility for the care and control of your minor child. Generally, there are two types: legal and physical.1

Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about your child. Generally, these decisions include:

  • where your child goes to school,
  • whether your child gets surgery, and
  • what kind of religious training your child receives.

Physical custody is the actual physical possession and control of a child.2 In other words, it covers who the child lives with on a day-to-day basis. Some types of responsibilities with physical custody include:

  • making day-to-day minor decisions such as what your child eats, what time s/he goes to bed;
  • feeding your child;
  • bathing your child; and
  • taking your child to doctor’s appointments, school, etc.

1 OKLaw.org
2 43 O.S. § 551-102(14)

What custody options are there in Oklahoma?

Even though it’s Oklahoma’s policy to ensure that a child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents,1 the judge could decide to give a child’s care, custody, and control to one of the parents (sole custody).2 If custody is awarded to one of the parents, s/he will be considered the custodial person. This is the person who has physical custody of a child more than one hundred eighty-two (182) days out of the year.3

If joint custody is awarded, the parents will share all or some aspects of their child’s physical and legal care and custody.When a court orders joint physical custody, the court must enter a “joint custody plan” that spells out in detail the rights and responsibilities of each parent. The plan should also address what should be done if the parents disagree on a major decision. For example, sometimes the court assigns (designates) one parent as the “tie-breaker,” or sometimes the court requires mediation. The judge can also order that the parents go to arbitration to resolve disagreements over the language interpretation in the order. If the parents refuse arbitration, the judge can deny joint custody.4

1 43 O.S. § 110.1
2 43 O.S. § 109(B)
3 43 O.S. § 118A(4)
4 43 O.S. § 109(H)

What is mediation?

Mediation is when a neutral third party sits down with the parents in a custody or visitation case and tries to help them agree on the custody arrangement without multiple court hearings. The parents are responsible for paying for mediation. 

In a divorce or child custody proceeding, an Oklahoma judge may require the parties to go to mediation. 

If domestic violence is involved, the judge usually will not require mediation. Be sure to tell the judge if the other parent is violent or abusive and you don’t want mediation. However, the judge can still require mediation in domestic violence cases if all of the following are true: 

  • Your mediator has training in the effect of domestic violence or child abuse on its victims; 
  • The judge believes you can negotiate with the abuser without there being an imbalance of power as a result of the abuse. This means the judge will try to decide whether or not you can reasonably get your voice and ideas heard by the abuser or if s/he may intimidate, frighten, or harm you in some way that would prevent you from feeling you can speak up; and
  • The mediation process is set up to protect against this power imbalance that generally comes with domestic violence.1

So, if your judge orders mediation and you are a victim of domestic violence, you may be able to argue that one or more of these conditions have not been met and that mediation will have a harmful effect on you.

1 43 O.S. §107.3(B)

What is a parenting coordinator and do I have to get one?

If you are involved in a divorce or custody case involving a minor child, the judge may appoint a parenting coordinator to help figure out the family issues and have both sides come to an agreement.1 The parenting coordinator will suggest to the judge what s/he thinks is best for the child and the terms you were all able to agree upon. If you object to the parenting coordinator’s report/suggestions, you can file an objection within ten days of receiving this report, which the judge will review.2 Even if the judge appoints a coordinator, the judge has the final say on custody, visitation, and child support.3

The judge may appoint a coordinator on his/her own, or you or the other parent could file a motion asking to appoint a parenting coordinator to your case. However, if you or the other parent objects to having a parenting coordinator appointed, the court will not appoint one unless:

  • there are a lot of disagreements between the parents; and
  • the judge thinks that the coordinator is in the best interest of the child.4

The court may decide that the parents have to pay for the parenting coordinator’s pay based on their income, or the judge can order a different amount per parent if the judge believes there is “good cause” to do so. The state will not pay for a parenting coordinator. If possible, the judge may appoint a coordinator to serve on a volunteer basis in cases where the judge feels that a coordinator is necessary and the parties cannot afford one.5

1 43 O.S. § 120.3(A)
2 43 O.S. § 120.4(A), (C), (D)
3 43 O.S. § 120.3(C)(2)
4 43 O.S. § 120.3(A), (B)(1), (B)(2) 
5 43 O.S. § 120.5

What are some advantages and disadvantages of getting a custody order?

There are many reasons people choose not to file for custody. Some parents decide not to get a custody order because they don’t want to get the courts involved. Some parents make an informal agreement that works well for them. Parents may be concerned that going to court will provoke the other parent. They may worry that if they start a custody case, the other parent will suddenly fight for, and may get, more custody or visitation rights than they are comfortable with.

If the other parent is uninvolved with the child now, he or she may become involved just because a case was started. Also, if the other parent fights for custody, the case may drag on for a long time, which can be emotionally and financially draining. The court will look into many aspects of your personal life that you may prefer keeping private such as past mental health issues, your criminal record, substance abuse issues, and details of your personal relationships.

However, getting a custody order from a court can give you certain legal rights. Getting a custody order can give you:

  • the right to make decisions about your child; and
  • the right to have your child live with you.

Without a custody order, it is possible that both parents may share these legal rights, even if one parent takes care of the child every day. However, if you file for custody, the other parent may also request these rights, and it will be up to the judge to decide. 

We strongly recommend talking to a lawyer who can help you think through whether filing for custody would be best for you, depending on the facts of your situation. You can find legal help by clicking on the Oklahoma Finding a Lawyer page.

Should I start a court case to ask for supervised visitation?

If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order visits with your child to be supervised.  If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request, although this may depend on your situation.

However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice before you start a court case to ask for supervised visits.  We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney specializing in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last based on the facts of your case. 

In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure.  Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain number of visits, or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time – and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised.  Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent has more frequent or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even more custody rights. 

In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best, please go to Oklahoma Finding a Lawyer for legal advice.

Who can get custody or visitation

Who can seek custody?

Most commonly, custody will be given to one parent (sole custody) or both parents (joint custody). However, it is possible for a non-parent to appear before the court to try and prove that both parents are unfit in order for the non-parent to get custody of a child. Grandparents, adult relatives, and any person a child has been living with in a caring and wholesome environment are among the people who can ask that parents be declared unfit so that custody could be granted to the non-parent petitioner. However, this does not mean that a non-parent can get custody just by coming to court and saying, “We can take better care of the child than either parent.” A parent must be declared “unfit.”1

We recommend that you talk to an attorney when you are involved in a divorce or any custody dispute, especially if anyone (a parent or non-parent) is trying to get custody. Go to our Oklahoma Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.

Note: In any situation where the court has to decide custody or visitation of a child, the court may decide to appoint an attorney, known as a guardian ad litem, to represent the best interests of the child.2

1 See, for example, Weber v. Linch, 579 P.2d 213 (Okl.App.,1978)
2 43 O.S. § 107.3(A)


Can a parent who committed domestic violence, stalking, or harassment get visitation or custody?

In a custody or visitation case, the judge should consider evidence of domestic abuse, stalking, or harassing behavior by either parent.1 If the judge believes a parent has committed one of these behaviors, s/he will assume that it is not in the child’s best interest to allow the abusive parent to have: 

  • unsupervised visitation;1
  • sole custody; 
  • joint custody; or 
  • any shared parenting.2  

However, the abusive parent can offer evidence to convince the judge to change his/her mind and still grant the abusive parent custody rights. In addition, an abusive parent can get visitation if the judge can provide for the safety of both you and your child during those visits.For more information, see How can the judge protect me if I have been a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or harassment from the other parent?

Note: To decide if a parent is abusive, the judge will use the following definitions: 

  1. domestic violence: 
    • physically harming you or threatening to do so;
    • causing you to reasonably fear being physically harmed; or
    • intentionally causing you, your child, or another member of the household emotional distress. This can include using coercive control through physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, economic or financial abuse;
  1. stalking as defined in Oklahoma Statutes Section 1173 of Title 21; and
  2. harassment: 
    • a purposeful pattern of conduct that seriously alarms you or is a nuisance to you and serves no legitimate purpose. This includes: 
      • harassing or obscene telephone calls; or 
      • behavior that would cause a reasonable person to be in fear of death or bodily injury.4

1 43 O.S. § 109.3
2 43 O.S. § 109(I)(1)
3 43 O.S. § 111.1(3)
43 O.S. § 109(I)(2)

How can the judge protect me if I have been a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or harassment from the other parent?

If the judge gives the abusive parent visitation rights even though s/he has committed domestic violence, stalking, or harassment against you, the judge can order the following safety measures:

  • a third party will pick up and drop off the child, or the exchange will take place in a protected setting;
  • supervised visitation paid for by the abusive parent;
  • the abusive parent must complete a batterer intervention program;
  • no unsupervised or overnight visitation until the abusive parent completes the batterers intervention program and a substantial period of time has passed since s/he last threatened or abused you; 
  • the abusive parent cannot have or consume alcohol or drugs (controlled substances) 24 hours before and during visitation; 
  • the abusive parent must complete a lethality/danger assessment with a qualified mental health professional; 
  • anything else that is necessary to protect you, your child, and any other household member;and
  • keeping your address confidential if you request it.2

If visitation is ordered, visitation can be terminated if:

  • the abusive parent violates the conditions for visitation;
  • your child becomes severely distressed as a result of the visitation, which can be determined by a mental health professional or a domestic violence specialist; or
  • it’s clear to the court that the abusive parent has threatened to harm you or the child or threatened to flee with the child.3

1 43 O.S. § 111.1(4)
2 43 O.S. § 111.1(7)
3 43 O.S. § 111.1(6)

Aside from domestic violence, stalking, and harassment, are there other reasons why the judge might not order custody or visitation?

The law says the judge is supposed to assume it is not in the child’s best interest for a parent to get custody if the parent:

  1. is a registered sex offender or lives with one;
  2. has been convicted of a crime involving child abuse or lives with someone who has;
  3. is dependent on alcohol or drugs and can be expected in the near future to seriously harm or attempt to harm himself/herself or another person as a result of such dependency; or
  4. has been convicted of domestic abuse within the past five years or lives with someone who has.1

However, even if a parent meets one of these above criteria, the parent can still try to offer evidence to change the judge’s mind and get custody rights.1 

If you are looking to get the other parent’s rights terminated, you can file a petition to terminate parental rights if the other parent was convicted in criminal court of any of the following:

  • rape;
  • rape by instrumentation
  • permitting a child to participate in pornography;
  • lewd molestation of a child under sixteen years of age;
  • child abuse or neglect;
  • enabling child abuse or neglect;
  • causing the death of a child as a result of the physical or sexual abuse or chronic abuse or chronic neglect of the child;
  • murder of any child or aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit murder of any child;
  • voluntary manslaughter of any child;
  • a felony assault that has resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or another child of the parents; or
  • murder or voluntary manslaughter of the child’s parent or aiding or abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit murder of the child’s parent.2

Note: Custody or visitation is not supposed to be granted to a parent if you can prove that it will likely expose the child to a probable (foreseeable)risk of serious harm.3

If an abusive parent is seeking visitation or custody, we strongly suggest that you get help from a lawyer who has experience with domestic violence issues and custody. To find an attorney in your area, see our Oklahoma Finding a Lawyer page.

1 43 O.S. § 112.2(B)
2 10A O.S. § 1-4-904(8)(b)
43 O.S. § 112.2(C)

If my child was conceived from rape, can the offender's rights be terminated?

If your child was conceived as the result of rape, you can file a petition to terminate the offender’s parental rights. If, after a hearing, the judge believes that you have proven your case, the offender’s rights can be terminated.1

In addition, the offender’s rights can be terminated based on a conviction in criminal court of rape or rape by instrumentation, regardless of whether or not it resulted in your child being conceived.2

10A O.S. § 1-4-904(11)
10A O.S. § 1-4-904(8)(b)

I am the child's grandparent. Can I get visitation?

If the parents don’t allow you, the grandparent, to visit with your grandchild, you may need to go to court and file a petition for visitation. The judge may grant you reasonable visitation rights if:

  1. It is in the child’s best interests to have visitation with you; and
  2. Either of the following is true:
    • The parents are proven to be unfit; or
    • You have proven that a fit parent is not acting in the best interest of the child by denying you visits because:
      • the child will/can be harmed by the denial of contact with you; and
      • the child’s family unit has been disrupted by something like divorce, the death of a parent, or the child being deserted, etc.1

Note: There are specific scenarios that your situation would have to fall under to apply for grandparent visitation, even if you believe you meet the factors above.  To read the specific circumstances you must meet, go to our Selected Oklahoma Statutes page and read subsection A.1 of section 109.4.  To read the factors the judge will consider when deciding if it is in the child’s best interest, go to our Selected Oklahoma Statutes page and read subsection E.1 of section 109.4.

1 43 O.S. § 109.4

How the custody process works

Can I get temporary emergency custody?

When you file a motion for an emergency custody hearing in Oklahoma, it must include either:

  1. a police report, a report from the Department of Human Services, or a report from another independent source that shows that:
    • the child is in surroundings that endanger his/her safety; and 
    • if such conditions continue, the child would likely be subject to irreversible harm; or
  2. a notarized affidavit from someone with first-hand knowledge that the child is in surroundings that endanger the safety of the child and that not granting emergency custody would likely cause irreversible harm to the child.1

The judge is supposed to hold a hearing within 72 hours of when you file the motion.  If the judge doesn’t conduct a hearing in that time frame, you can bring the motion to the presiding judge of the judicial district, who is supposed to conduct an emergency custody hearing within 24 hours.1

Depending on the specifics of your case, an emergency order could temporarily grant you custody, change your custody order, or terminate the other parent’s visitation.

If you also file a request for a more permanent custody order before the hearing date, the court generally has the power to keep a temporary custody order in place until a final hearing.

You may want to consult a lawyer before filing for emergency custody. To find one in your area, visit the Oklahoma Places that Help page.

1 43 O.S. § 107.4(A)

Can the child choose who has custody of him/her?

If the judge believes that it is in the child’s best interest, the judge can allow the child to tell his/her preference as to which parent should have custody or regarding limits of periods of visitation. The judge might also allow the child to testify in court about other matters.1 The child’s testimony and preference can be given privately to the judge without the parents or attorneys present.2 However, if the court has appointed a guardian ad litem for the child, s/he will be present with the child while being interviewed by the judge. The parents, attorneys, or other parties can suggest questions or topics they want the judge to consider in the child’s interview, but the judge does not have to use those.3 At the request of either party, the judge will record the child’s interview. However, the parties are only entitled to get the transcript if a parent appeals the custody or visitation order.4

Generally, if the judge thinks that the child is old and mature enough to decide which parent is best for custody, the judge will then consider this, among many other factors. The child’s choice does not bind the judge. In Oklahoma, the courts assume that children 12 years or older are old enough to tell the judge their preference, but a parent can try to prevent this by showing evidence that the child is not mature enough.5

1 43 O.S § 113(A), (B)
2 43 O.S § 113(D)
3 43 O.S § 113(E)
4 43 O.S § 113(F)
5 43 O.S § 113(C)

How will a judge decide custody?

A judge will decide custody based on what s/he thinks is the best interest of the child. This includes the physical, mental, and moral welfare of your child.1 Some factors a judge may consider are:

  • any history of causing physical harm, bodily injury, assault, verbal threats, stalking, or harassing behavior, or causing another person or a minor child to fear of any of these;2
  • which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent;3
  • a pattern of failing to allow court-ordered visits;4
  • the preference of the child, if the judge believes the child is old and mature enough to form an intelligent preference;5
  • the parents’ preference;
  • the mental and physical health of the parents;
  • the relationship between the parents and the child;
  • if either parent is a registered sex offender;
  • any conviction for child abuse or domestic violence;
  • alcohol and illegal drug use or abuse; and
  • any probable (foreseeable) risk of serious (material) harm.6

1 43 O.S. § 109(A)
2 43 O.S. § 109(I)(5)
3 43 O.S. § 112(C)(3)(a)
4 43 O.S. § 112(D)(1)
5 43 O.S. § 113
6 OKLaw.org - Custody and Visitation Considerations

Note: If your case is going to trial, you can ask the judge to make specific “findings of fact” regarding the reasons for the custody decision.  In other words, the judge will spell out why s/he decided the way s/he did.

How much does it cost to file for custody? Do I need a lawyer?

The cost to file for custody varies from case to case. If you are paying a lawyer, your legal fees could depend on the level of conflict between you and the other parent and how much your attorney charges. Also, there are court costs such as filing fees and possibly serving the papers on the other parent. If you cannot afford to pay the costs, you can ask to file an affidavit, known as an affidavit in forma pauperis or a pauper’s affidavit, in which you inform the judge that you are a low-income person and ask the judge not to make you pay the court costs.1 It will be up to the judge to decide whether to waive the court costs or not. 

If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be able to get free legal services – you can find organizations near you on our Oklahoma Finding a Lawyer page. If you cannot have an attorney represent you, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be helpful to you.

Note: If you have been the victim of domestic abuse or stalking and are seeking custody of your child, the court can order the abuser to pay for your attorney’s fees and costs of the custody proceedings if you request this. You would first have to prove to the judge you are currently being stalked or have been stalked or that you are the victim of domestic abuse by the other parent for the judge to grant your request.2

1 12 O.S. § 922 
2 43 O.S. § 112.6

Where can I file for child custody? Which state has jurisdiction?

Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), you can only file for custody in the “home state” of the child unless you meet one of the exceptions explained in Are there any exceptions to the home state rule? The child’s “home state” is the state where your child has lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for the past six consecutive months. If your child is under six months old, then your child’s home state is where s/he has lived since birth. Leaving the state for a short period of time does not change your child’s home state.

If you and your child recently moved to a new state, generally, you cannot file for custody in that new state until you have lived there for at least six months. Until then, you or the other parent can start a custody action in the state where your child has most recently lived for at least six months. 

Are there any exceptions to the home state rule?

There are some exceptions to the home state rule.

In some cases, you can file for custody in a state where the children and at least one parent have “significant connections” if there is a lot of evidence available concerning the child’s care, personal relationships, etc. You can only do this if there is no home state or the home state has agreed to let another state have power over the case (jurisdiction).1 This can be complicated, and if you think this applies to your situation, please talk to a lawyer in both states about this.  Please see our Oklahoma Finding a Lawyer page for a list of legal resources.

You can also file for temporary emergency jurisdiction in a state other than the home state if the child is present in the state and:

  1. the child has been abandoned; or
  2. it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because either the child, a sibling, or a parent of the child is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.2

1 43 O.S. § 551-201(A)(2) 
2 43 O.S. § 551-204(A)

What are the steps to file for custody?

Before filing for custody, you may consider drawing up an out-of-court agreement with the other parent. Usually, parents will have to be flexible when it comes to custody and visitation for the benefit of the child. Oftentimes, parents who fight for sole custody will litigate in court for months or even years and end up with some joint custody agreement after settlement or trial. However, sometimes fighting for sole custody is necessary because you can’t agree with the other parent, the other parent is not allowing contact, or you fear for your child’s well-being. Especially with domestic violence, many abusers will try to keep power and control over the victim-survivor through the child, so joint custody isn’t recommended due to the power difference in the relationship.

If you decide to file in court for custody, the process usually looks similar to this:

1. File for custody. You may file in the family court or a court of a different name that hears custody cases. Generally, you will file in the county where the child lives, and depending on the circumstances, you may be able to request an emergency or temporary order as part of your petition. The exact petition you file may depend on whether you are married or not:

  • If you are a married parent filing for divorce, you can usually include the custody petition within the divorce process.
  • If you are a married parent not filing for divorce, you can file for custody on its own in the county where the child has been living for at least six months.
  • You can also seek custody in court if you are an unmarried parent. However, if paternity hasn’t been established, which means that the father hasn’t been legally recognized, then this process will likely have to happen first or as part of the custody process. For more information, see How can paternity be established in Oklahoma?

2. Prepare for the custody process

The court custody process is usually very long and emotionally and financially draining. If you represent yourself in court, you can learn about the court process and how to present evidence in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section. If you can hire an attorney, you can use this list of questions as your guide when deciding who to hire.

During the court process, you will try to prove why you should have your child’s custody. When preparing for court, you can gather evidence that helps make your case about why you should have custody of the child. This process should be directed by the factors the law says a judge should consider when deciding custody. You can see the question How will a judge decide custody? for more information. It’s important to consider that the judge will be focused on what is in the best interest of your child, and many states consider that this is to have a relationship with both parents.

3. Prepare for trial

There will be one or more hearings, including a trial if the parties cannot reach an agreement by themselves or as part of a mediation process. During trial, you or your attorney can present evidence and cross-examine the other party to help the judge make a decision.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can plan for your safety while in court and you should ask the judge to include some protections in the custody order. For example, you can ask for some of the following terms:

  • communications between the parents can only be in writing;
  • all communications can only be related to the child; and
  • a neutral third party should be present at the exchange of the child or the one to drop off and pick up the child.

You should also try to be as specific as possible in terms of the decision-making powers of each parent, who has the child on holidays, birthdays, etc., and the time and place for pick-ups and drop-offs of the child to avoid future conflicts.

4. Options if you lose the custody case

There could be a couple of options that are filed immediately after the judge makes the custody order:

  • motion for reconsideration asks the judge to decide differently based on the law or new evidence.
  • An appeal moves the case to a higher court and asks that court to review the lower court’s decision due to a judge’s error.

A petition to change (modify) the order is an option that would not be filed immediately. You could ask for a modification if, later on, a substantial change of circumstances happens. A few examples could be if the other parent gets sent to jail, gets charged with child abuse or neglect, or moves to another state. If you are already divorced, a petition for a change in custody can be filed in the county where the divorce was issued.

To find out more about how the process works in your area, please contact a lawyer. Please visit our Oklahoma Finding a Lawyer page to find legal help in your area.​ You can also watch our Custody, Visitation, and Child Support videos where we explain the process. The videos include information about the different types of custody and visitation and related legal concepts that a judge will consider, child support, and moving out of state with your child.


After a custody order is in place

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