I. Focused on the Best Interests of the Child
In Oklahoma, the courts are focused on the best interests of the child. Courts look at the facts of each case and consider a series of factors, including the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s home situation and, if the child is old enough, the child’s wishes.
II. Child Custody and Visitation Laws
Laws are slowly changing. More states are recognizing a presumption of shared parenting. This presumption means that parents share physical custody of their children. Usually, on parent is identified as the residential parent for school and mailing purposes. However, visitation is shared according to a detailed parenting plan with both parents receiving significant time with the children.
If courts award sole physical custody, the parent with custody is generally considered to be the residential parent. Sole custody is often awarded in situations involving a history of family violence, mental instability, drug addiction, alcohol abuse or where the parents are unable to get along.
When these factors are present, courts sometimes require supervised visitation, which takes place in the presence of a responsible adult appointed by the court for the protection of the child. It can be difficult to terminate supervised visitation because parents wishing to do so must show proof of treatment and rehabilitation. This can be challenging to demonstrate.
III. The Role of the Guardian Ad Litem
Guardians ad litem are often appointed by the court when abuse or neglect is suspected, but they can also be appointed at a judge’s discretion. When appointed, they conduct an in-depth investigation of the family situation and issue a report to the court. Judges take the guardian’s report seriously.
For this reason, it is critical to put your best foot forward when working with a guardian ad litem. Make sure you have the right attitude both in the courtroom and outside of it. Avoid causing fights or disruptions, saying inflammatory things or engaging in name-calling. Make a positive impression by showing patience and common sense.
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