Oklahoma, like all states, uses the "best interests of the child" standard in making custody and visitation determinations. However, this standard can be quite vague and lead to different results in similar cases depending on the judge, lawyers and other factors not related to a child's best interests. Consequently, Oklahoma has developed a set of visitation recommendations according to age and parental circumstances designed to help judges make uniform decisions that benefit children. Oklahoma also has standard rules for child support that make it easier for parents to calculate the child support they will likely pay.
In many states, judges believe babies should not have overnight time with non-custodial parents, usually fathers. However, Oklahoma visitation standards explicitly state that both mothers and fathers are capable of providing competent care to babies. Children under 18 months, according to Oklahoma's Visitation Guidelines, should have contact with the non-custodial parent several times a week to foster attachment and bonding. As the child develops into a toddler, the length of the visits should be increased; the frequency may be decreased, if necessary.
The guidelines for preschoolers encourage judges to take into account the role each parent plays in the child's life. Non-custodial parents who are heavily involved with children should be given substantial visitation time. However, if the custodial parent has historically been the primary caregiver, every other weekend plus contact during the week is the recommended visitation schedule. For children 5 to 17 years old, the guidelines advocate an "every other weekend" schedule, emphasizing that most quality parenting time occurs during the weekend and transitions should not interrupt a child's school week.
Other Visitation Considerations
It's important to note that state guidelines are for visitation and play no role in determining custody. When parents share custody, visitation schedules may be dramatically different and Oklahoma law gives no gender-based preference in making custody determinations. State guidelines also require that parents foster their children's relationship with the other parent and permit telephone or e-mail contact when they are away from them.
Child Support Guidelines
The state of Oklahoma offers a child support calculator to help parents determine their anticipated child support obligation. Parents' child support obligations are based on their income and the child's needs, and judges attempt to preserve the standard of living a child was previously accustomed to when making child support determinations. Parents are generally obligated to contribute to medical, educational and daily expenses, and it is normally non-custodial parents who pay child support. When parents share custody, both may be obligated to pay child support or pay a specific percentage of a child's regular expenses.