It sounds like the situation is a lot more complex than the question provides details about, however, this question comes up more often than not in mixed families. Family law in Oklahoma is intricately complicated in regard to children and custody. Therefore, it would be important, especially with divorce circumstances including children and stepchildren, to employ the knowledge and experience of an Oklahoma family law attorney who can help you negotiate the legal system.
General Physical Custody Rules
Generally, in the absence of a child custody order, Oklahoma allows both parents to claim physical custody of the children until the court makes a ruling and finalizes a custody order. The law does state that this pertains to children who were born during the marriage or wherein a paternity agreement is in place. The father is, in fact, entitled to physical custody if his name is on the birth certificates until a custody order is drawn up by the court.
The complications come in with the stepchildren. Stepparents’ rights to request either custody or visitation of children who are not their naturally born children are often difficult to exercise. While the law will consider the stepparent similarly to a biological parent by evaluating the bond the child has with the stepparent, the complication of “standing” must be addressed.
Defining & Determining Standing
Standing is a court term, defined as whether a party has the right to be heard on a court issue. In child custody hearings, standing is determined by evaluating several factors:
- Does the stepparent have a significant level of participation in the child’s life?
- Has the stepparent been in the child’s life longer than the biological parent?
- Does the child have emotional ties to the stepparent?
- How much financial support has the stepparent provided to the child?
- Would the child experience detriment if denied visitation with the stepparent?
Most of the time, stepparents are not granted access to the courtroom during the divorce proceeding. Furthermore, most courts believe that divorce laws provide for custody hearings, but do not provide for battles between the parents and the stepparents of the children. On most occasions, visitation is considered for stepparents, rather than custody. If there are drug use or mental health issues or other reasons the children may not be safe, a stepparent could petition the court with evidence.
Let Us Help
However, if you have reason to provide to the court that the children would not be safe with the custodial parent, reach out to an experienced Oklahoma family lawyer who is willing to fight for the best interests of the child. After all, when custody and visitation hearings are being evaluated in court, the court will always consider the best interests of the child. Contact, call us at 405-232-7980, or visit our office in Oklahoma City today to get your free consultation