When two people get divorced, one of the most important issues people with minor children face involves child custody. The couple must grapple with the issues of child support, legal and physical custody, and parenting time throughout the divorce process. When parents can agree on these issues, the decisions can be left up to them. When they can’t agree, however, the judge will have to decide all of these issues based upon the child’s best interest. In this article, we’ll discuss what the court considers to be the “best interest” of the child and whether the child’s preference will factor into the judge’s decision.
Physical And Legal Custody
Child custody is usually broken down into two versions; physical and legal custody. Physical custody is what you probably think of when you hear child custody. It refers to where the child is physically living. Physical custody can be broken down further into either sole physical custody or joint physical custody. Legal custody, on the other hand, is more about guardianship than the possession of the child. A legal custodian can decide where the child will go to school, what religion the child will be raised in, and which medical treatments the child will undergo. Again, legal custody can either be sole or shared. A common arrangement is when one parent retains physical custody while both parents have legal custody.
The Child’s Best Interest
The best interest of the child is the priority of the judge. Oklahoma operates under the assumption that a child of divorce should have all the advantages that any other child enjoys. Therefore, the judge looks over several factors when making his ultimate decision. Those factors include:
- Each parent’s willingness to foster a working relationship with the other parent
- Each parent’s overall stability
- The child’s current relationships with school, family, and community
- Any evidence of domestic violence or chemical dependency
- The educational and emotional needs of the child
- The child’s preference in certain situations
Does The Court Consider My Child’s Preference?
An Oklahoma court will consider the child's preference in a custody matter after the child has turned 12 if the judge determines the child is capable of expressing a preference, and; it is in the best interest of the child to do so. It is important to note that a judge is never bound by the expressed preference of a minor.
If you have questions about child custody or want to change your current custody agreement, call Outhier & Caruthers, PLLC, at 580-234-6600 today.