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Understanding the primary caretaker standard

In child custody cases, Oklahoma courts tend to prefer granting residential custody to the parent who has had the role of being the child's primary caretaker. This is true whether the couple was previously married or if they are unmarried.

A parent who can demonstrate to the court that they have been the primary caretaker is more likely to be awarded physical custody. Judges do this because psychologists believe that children should have strong relationships with their primary caregivers in order to better transition through their developmental stages. The court will try to determine how the two parents have divided the various tasks involved in taking care of their child. This includes bathing and grooming, preparing and planning meals, buying clothing and doing the laundry, helping the child with homework, taking him or her to extracurricular activities, attending open houses and other such tasks.

If the court believes that both parents appear to have participated equally in caring for their child, then the judge will next look at what is in the child's best interests. This involves the court looking at a variety of factors, including the relationship the child has with all of the members of each household, the school the child attends, and any evidence of a parent having a problem with substance abuse.

Parents are often much happier with the outcome when they are able to negotiate agreements between themselves rather than litigating child custody matters through court. A person who is having a dispute over child custody may want to get help from a family law attorney. An attorney might help a client negotiate a parenting plan agreement with the other parent.

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