Physical versus legal child custody

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | Child Custody

When a set of Oklahoma parents decide to divorce, they must negotiate an agreement regarding the care and well-being of their children. This is much more complex than simply deciding where the kids will live. If you’re considering parting ways with your spouse in 2024, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about physical child custody versus legal custody. Both issues will be relevant to your settlement.

Every state has its own child custody guidelines. Oklahoma law typically requires one parent to seek consent from the other regarding issues like relocation of the children, for which one must give notice, and to which the notified parent may file a petition to oppose the move. In some cases, however, the court may grant sole legal custody to one parent over the other, in which case that parent does not need the other parent’s approval to make decisions on behalf of their children.

Basic overview of physical versus legal child custody

Keep these basic definitions in mind when preparing for child custody proceedings in an Oklahoma divorce:

  • Physical custody refers to a child’s permanent residence after divorce. Most judges agree that children fare best in joint custody arrangements unless evidence shows that one parent or the other is unfit.
  • Legal custody refers to the authority to make decisions regarding children’s health, education, faith and other important issues.

If you and your ex agree to share legal custody of your kids, you must consult one another before making decisions on behalf of your children. If one of you opposes the other one’s plans, the judge overseeing your case may intervene.

When does the court grant sole custody?

You may request sole child custody (for both physical and legal custody issues) in an Oklahoma divorce. The judge will expect you to provide just cause, which means that you must show evidence that convinces the court that granting you sole custody is in your children’s best interests. The court understands that a joint custody arrangement works for some families but not others.

Legitimate reasons for seeking sole child custody include issues such as parental substance addiction, domestic abuse, child neglect or endangerment, parental incarceration and numerous other issues. If the evidence you present convinces the judge that your ex is unfit for custody, the court may grant your request. In a case where a family court judge has denied your request, you may be able to file an appeal. This means that you appeal to a higher court to reverse the decision or order a re-trial of your case.