Child custody is one of the most emotionally-fraught issues that spouses face during divorce proceedings. Parents who were never married to each other can also find themselves in a custody battle with their child (or children)’s other parent. Our legal team in Tulsa has the experience you need to represent you in a contested custody dispute.

Bryan Stratton is an Oklahoma family law attorney with years of experience in child custody cases. Our Tulsa firm has represented parents and guardians in child custody disputes and helped them achieve results that are in the best interest of the children.

How Are Child Custody Orders Determined?

Under Oklahoma law, the child’s parents may be able to make most of the custody decisions themselves if they are able to work together to come up with a solution. A judge is typically free to take the parents’ choices into consideration and even enter orders that conform to those choices in uncontested cases.

If the case is contested—that is, the parents do not agree about custody arrangements—the legal process for determining custody takes more time and can be more complicated. In such situations, the court will have to determine which parent should have primary custody of the child. The judge will often also enter a corresponding child support order.

If you are seeking a child custody order, call Tulsa attorney Bryan Stratton today.

How Does Child Custody Work if the Parents Were Not Married?

It is important to understand that child custody (and child support) is subject to court order even if the parents were never married to each other. As in a child custody determination pursuant to a divorce case, the court may enter orders based on the parents’ agreements. If the parents do not agree, the judge will determine the particulars of the child custody arrangement. Just as with divorcing parents, the ultimate question in a child custody case is “what is in the best interest of the child?”

For more details about how custody works between unwed parents, contact Tulsa family attorney Bryan Stratton.

How Does Child Custody Work in Cases Involving Disputed Paternity?

If the paternity of a child is in dispute, a child custody order may be included pursuant to the paternity suit. Once a paternity test has been administered and the court decides the child’s paternity, the custody order comes into effect. In such a case, a father may be able to gain custody of his children where it had been previously withheld.

To learn more about the overlap between custody and paternity, call Oklahoma family lawyer Bryan Stratton today.

Are There Different Types of Child Custody?

Yes. Oklahoma family law provides for legal custody and physical custody. These are related but distinct concepts, and it is important to understand the difference.

“Legal custody” involves a parent’s rights to make decisions on behalf of the child. Such decisions range from the authorization of medical care to where a child may be enrolled in school to other legal or financial matters that affect the child. By contrast, “physical custody” involves decisions as which to parent the child lives with primarily and what each parent is obliged to do for the child’s care during periods of physical custody.

During the pendency of the child custody case, the court may assign temporary physical and/or legal custody. The arrangement as described in the temporary order may or may not resemble the final custody order.

Either parent or both parents may be awarded some form of physical and legal custody. Legal custody and physical custody involve determinations of sole or joint custody arrangements.

Oklahoma has the following types of custody:

Joint Legal Custody

Under joint legal custody, both parents have the right to make important decisions on behalf of their child as described above. This arrangement does not require both parents to agree on every decision. It simply means that each has the right to make decisions on behalf of the child.

Sole Legal Custody

If sole legal custody has been ordered, this means that only the parent with sole legal custody is legally authorized to make important decisions about medical treatment, schooling, etc., on the child’s behalf.

Joint Physical Custody

If the parents are awarded joint physical custody, this means that the child will reside with both parents for a substantial portion of the year. The schedule for when the child will live with either parent is part of the court’s order. It is important to understand that Oklahoma courts are reluctant to order joint physical custody because it causes stress and disrupts the child’s schedule.

Sole Physical Custody

Under a sole physical custody arrangement, the child will live with only of the one parent for the most part. Note that the non-custodial parent may still have visitation rights to the child.

Contact Attorney Bryan Stratton to find out more about the different types of child custody in Oklahoma.

How Are Custody Decisions Made?

Determinations regarding legal custody are often relatively simple for the court. Joint legal custody is preferred unless one parent has demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to make important decisions regarding the child. When it is appropriate, joint legal custody allows both parents to provide for the child and can be especially beneficial in emergency situations.

On the other hand, determinations regarding physical custody can be challenging. The court must decide physical custody according to the “best interests of the physical, mental, and moral welfare of the child.”

The court determines the child’s best interests by reviewing several factors, including:

  • Quality of the parent-child relationship for each parent;
  • Level of involvement in the child’s life by each parent;
  • Physical and mental health of each parent;
  • Likelihood of stability in care that each parent could provide;
  • Ability of each parent to meet the child’s emotional and physical needs;
  • Demonstrated ability (or inability) to make sound decisions for the child by each parent;
  • Whether either parent has custody of additional children who are siblings or half-siblings to the child;
  • Criminal history, if any, of each parent;
  • History of alcohol or drug abuse by either parent;
  • History of physical and/or mental abuse by either parent.

After taking these factors into consideration, the court enters a custody order laying out primary physical custody for the custodial parent and the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent.

Call Tulsa child custody attorney Bryan Stratton today to discuss your best options for getting physical custody of your child.

How Are Visitation Rights and Schedules Determined?

Unless the non-custodial parent has demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to properly care for the child, the court will order visitation. When visitation is allowed, the court may order a variety of standard visitation schedules, such as:

Weekend Visitation:

Under this schedule, the non-custodial parent will have possession of the child starting on Friday afternoon or evening and lasting through the weekend or even until Monday morning. This type of schedule is typically effective during the child’s school year and may be increased to summer visitation during the child’s summer break.

Summer Visitation:

Summer visitation schedules usually involve the child going to spend the summer with the non-custodial parent for one or more extended periods of time during the summer months. If summer visitation is in effect, the weekend visitation schedule that applies during the school year will typically not be resumed until summer is over.

Holiday Visitation:

Holiday visitation schedules are entered in conjunction with weekend and summer visitations. Holiday visitation allows for the parents to alternate physical possession of the child between major holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, etc. Other holidays may be included in the order if the parents request it. Regular weekend visitation schedules will not interrupt the holiday visitation periods.

Custom Visitation:

If the parents desire and can agree on a custom schedule, the court may order one. A custom visitation schedule might include such provisions as extra vacation time, extended weekend periods, and so on.

If you are facing a child custody dispute or if you need a modification of an existing custody order, call Oklahoma family law attorney Bryan Stratton today.

Does the Court Take the Child’s Wishes into Account?

Yes, but an Oklahoma court does not give the child full power to decide his or her custody. The judge in each case will listen to a child’s wishes and weigh the child’s preferences based on several factors, including: the child’s age, the child’s apparent relationship with each parent, the ability of each parent to properly care for the child, and so on.

Other Child Custody and Visitation Questions

Questions about child custody and visitation rights are often the ones that cause divorcing parents the most stress. Get some peace of mind by asking for help from skilled legal counsel.

Bryan Stratton is known to be one of Tulsa’s most experienced child custody lawyers. At our firm, we provide free initial consultations with no obligations. Call us today at to make an appointment to discuss your custody and visitation issues.


7134 South Yale Avenue, Suite 125
Tulsa, OK, 74136
United States (US)
Phone: (918)-221-3088
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed