When a child is born to parents who are not married, Oklahoma law recognizes the Mother as the custodial parent. The legal presumption does not change even when the Father is on the child’s birth certificate. However, a court order can change this.
I see two common patterns in paternity cases. The first example is the Father with an existing relationship. Many times the parents lived together as a family, but were never married. The second example is the Father who has been denied contact with the child. The problem in both situations is that until there is a court order in place, the Father has no recognized parental rights.
The good news is Fathers can establish rights and obtain a court order. However, it is up to Fathers to make this happen. The first step is to hire an attorney and establish paternity. Paternity can be established by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (most people refer to this as signing the birth certificate) or by genetic testing. When I need the court to order genetic testing I file a motion along with the petition.
Custody and visitation
The next step to establish an Oklahoma Father’s rights is to obtain a court order. An Application for Temporary Orders gets you on the docket. The court will conduct a hearing and determine temporary custody and visitation. The order is based on the child’s best interest. The temporary order is an important milestone and gets your foot in the door. Now, there is a set schedule. The Father’s visitation is no longer at the mercy of the other parent. The visitation order is enforceable.
The last hurdle is the final order. Every case depends upon the individual facts. When there is an existing relationship, the starting point for visitation is different from a case where there is no existing bond. In the right circumstances, Fathers can get custody or joint custody. However, custody requires the right facts. The trick is knowing what is realistic based on what you have to work with.
Whatever the starting point, the court is tasked with acting in the child’s best interest. A child deserves two involved parents. The courts will support this. The key is that the Father must take the proper legal steps to make this happen.
To learn more about father’s rights in Oklahoma visit my webpage.
Pete D. Louden
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Pete D. Louden is a family law attorney in Norman, Oklahoma. Since 1998 he has represented men and fathers in divorce, child custody, and child support matters with extensive experience in settlement negotiations, mediations, and complex divorce and custody trials.