All parents want the best for their kids. Kids’ needs must come first. However, divorce and its aftermath are periods of high stress and difficult decisions. Emotions run high and even the best of parents can engage in behaviors that can cause worry or harm. When a parent becomes concerned that a child is experiencing neglect or abuse while in the care of the child’s other parent, the parent should take steps to protect their child.
In Oklahoma, a court may deny visitation of the child due to abuse or neglect. This is most often a temporary measure meant to immediately protect a child from harm and to give an erring parent time and tools to ensure their child’s safety and well-being. However, a court may deny visitation in the longer term when parents are unable or unwilling to change their behavior sufficiently to ensure their child’s safety.
The Court Maintains Jurisdiction Over Children Until Adulthood
In order to protect children, family courts maintain jurisdiction over the children until they reach the age of majority, 18 years of age in Oklahoma. This includes temporary emergency jurisdiction over abandoned children and in all cases in which court action is required to protect a child from mistreatment or abuse. A court may intervene on behalf of the child even when no custody or visitation order is in place.
The Best Interests of the Child Govern
In this and in all matters regarding children in divorce matters, courts are guided by the best interests of the child. A judge may look at a number of factors in determining what may be in the child’s best interests.
Some factors that a court may weigh in allegations of neglect or abuse include:
- a parent’s current and former relationship with the child.
- evidence of domestic abuse, and attendant behaviors including violence, stalking, and harassment.
- a parent’s stability.
- evidence of substance use and abuse.
- a child’s physical, emotional, and mental health.
- parental physical and mental health.
- the child’s ties and functioning in school, home, and the community.
- the child’s educational and emotional needs.
A Payne County family law attorney can help make these and other arguments to the courts.
The Law You to Deny Visitation
In a divorce, the court usually works to foster a child’s relationship with both parents. However, when the child is at risk, a court will take steps to protect the child including denying or suspending visitation.
This is usually accomplished by filing a motion with the court requesting that the court deny, suspend or otherwise ameliorate the effects of neglect or abuse upon the child. In this motion, the parent must act reasonably and in good faith in their belief that the child is at risk of neglect or abuse. In their motion, the parent must include facts that support their belief. If the court finds sufficient evidence of child abuse or neglect, visitation shall be suspended. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 111.4.
An Emergency Custody Hearing Is Required to Deny Visitation
When a child is at risk, usually a parent files for an emergency hearing, whether the matter concerns custody or visitation. The motion must include an independent police report or a report from the Department of Human Services, if available, that shows that the child’s surroundings endanger the safety of the child and that the continuation of those conditions would place the child at risk of irreparable harm.
If there is no such report, the motion must include a notarized affidavit, made from personal knowledge that the child is in dangerous surroundings and that not granting the motion would likely cause irreparable harm to the child.
The hearing usually occurs within 72 hours. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 107.4.
The Court Frowns Upon False Allegations
All the information contained in the motion and supporting documentation must be accurate. False allegations will cause the court to deny the motion and impose costs, fees, and other expenses upon the moving party. If the moving party fails to pay ordered fees and costs in a timely manner, the court may find the moving party in contempt of court. Punishment includes up to 6 months in jail, a fine of up to $1000, or both.
In order to protect children, family courts maintain temporary emergency jurisdiction over any child within the state who has been abandoned, or when in an emergency it is necessary to protect the child because the child, a parent, or a sibling is either threatened with or is suffering from mistreatment or abuse.
A court may intervene on behalf of the child even when no custody or visitation order is in place. A court’s order will remain in place until another more permanent order can be rendered in a court of competent jurisdiction over the child.
In the event of a conflict between courts with jurisdiction over the child, the court in which the emergency motion has been filed will immediately communicate with the other court to resolve the emergency, protect the safety of the parent and child, and determine a period of time for the duration of the temporary order.
In all cases, the safety of the child is of paramount concern to the court. It is important that you hire an experienced family law attorney in Payne County who can look at the matter with clear eyes and who will be with you every step of the way.
Free Consultation with Payne County Family Law Attorney
Children must be protected. If you are concerned about possible neglect or abuse of your child at the hands of their other parent, it is important to act swiftly. A Stillwater family law attorney who can assess your legal matters is just a phone call away. Let us see what we can do to help you through this process. Your first phone consultation is always free at Wirth Law Office in Stillwater: (405) 673-1600.
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