Child Custody in Oklahoma


Area of Law: 

When a couple divorces and there is a minor child involved, the divorce decree will specify who has physical custody as well as legal custody of the child. Physical custody determines where and with whom the child will live. Legal custody specifies who has the legal right to make important decisions about the child related to issues such as education, religion, medical issues, and discipline. Spouses often reach an agreement regarding child custody on their own, but if they do not, an Oklahoma court will intervene and establish custody arrangements based on the best interests of the child. provides a complete summary of divorce and custody laws in the state of Oklahoma.


There are typically several different custody arrangements that may be made for children of divorced parents. In most cases, courts will award physical custody to one parent with whom the child will live most of the time. The parent with physical custody, or the custodial parent, often shares legal custody, or the right to make decisions regarding the child, with the non-custodial parent. Many child custody arrangements involve joint custody in which the child spends a relatively equal amount of time with each parent.


According to Oklahoma law, the court may order joint or sole child custody based on the best interests of the child; the child's preferences may also be taken into consideration. In Oklahoma, there is no presumption for or against joint or sole custody. Child custody or visitation will not be granted if it is established that the child will be exposed to a risk of harm. An Oklahoma court may consider the following factors when awarding custody to either parent:


  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child or children frequent and continuing contact with the non-custodial parent
  • That there is no preference of one parent over the other as a custodian because of the parent's gender


Under Oklahoma law, split custody involves each parent being awarded custody of at least one of their natural or legally adopted children. “Bird-nesting” is a form of divided custody. The child stays in one place, and the parents rotate in and out of the child's home on a scheduled basis. The parents may or may not share the alternate living quarters. According to, bird-nesting requires substantial cooperation between parents and is rarely successful.


In Oklahoma, the court may provide for the visitation of the non-custodial parent with his or her child unless it is found that it is not in the child's best interest. If either or both parents request joint custody, plans for the exercise of joint care, custody, and control of their child must be filed with the appropriate Oklahoma court. The plan must include provisions detailing the physical living arrangements for the child, child support obligations, medical and dental care for the child, school placement, and visitation rights. The court will not modify the plan unless the modifications are shown to be in the best interests of the child.


For a comprehensive review of child custody laws in Oklahoma, go to