Can an abusive parent get visitation or custody? What if s/he is a sex offender or an addict?
Possibly, yes. However, if the judge believes that there has been domestic violence, stalking, or harassment, the judge will assume that sole custody, joint custody (legal or physical) or any shared parenting plan is harmful to the child and not in the child’s best interest. It will be assumed that it is in the child’s best interest to live with the non-abusive parent.1 However, the abusive parent can offer evidence to prove that the judge should change his/her mind and still grant the parent custody rights. For the legal definition of domestic violence, stalking, and harassment, please go to our OK Statutes page and read Title 43, section 109, subsection I (2).
The law also says the judge is supposed to assume it is not in the child’s best interest for a parent to get custody (the law doesn’t mention visitation) if the parent:
- is a registered sex offender or lives with one;
- has been convicted of a crime involving child abuse or lives with someone who has;
- is dependent on alcohol or drugs and can be expected in the near future to seriously harm or attempt to harm to himself/herself or another person as a result of such dependency; or
- has been convicted of domestic abuse within the past 5 years or lives with someone who has.2
However, even if a parent meets one of these 4 above criteria, the parent can still try to offer evidence to change the judge’s mind and get custody rights.
Note: In any case, 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 foreseeable (likely) risk of serious harm.3
If an abusive parent is seeking visitation or custody, we strongly suggest that you seek the assistance of an attorney who has experience with domestic violence issues and custody. To find an attorney or shelter in your area, see our OK Finding a Lawyer page.
1 43 O.S. § 109(I)(1)
2 43 O.S. § 112.2(B)
3 43 O.S. § 112.2(C)