Child Custody

Can a Parent Lose Custody of a Child?

Oklahoma considers what is in the best interests of the child before awarding child custody keeping the child’s safety and wellbeing at the forefront of all decisions. The state recognizes two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody when making child custody orders. While it is generally in the child’s best interests for parents to have joint custody, Oklahoma takes child abuse and violence very seriously and may refuse parental rights. Today, we review how a parent could potentially lose child custody.

Factors that May Lead to a Termination of Parental Rights

An Oklahoma court cannot terminate a parent’s rights to child custody and visitation without convincing evidence that continuing this relationship would be detrimental to the child’s safety and wellbeing. That being said, Oklahoma has adopted a zero-tolerance policy regarding domestic violence charges that result in a conviction.

In the most extreme cases, parental rights must be forfeited to protect the child. Termination of parental rights is permanent and cannot be reversed. Some circumstances that might result in the termination of parental rights include:

  • Sexual assault of any child
  • Domestic violence conviction (depends on the severity)
  • Murder or attempted murder of any child or the child’s other parent
  • Felony assault resulting in serious bodily harm to the child, another child of the parents, or the child’s other parent
  • Abandonment
  • Imprisonment (for an extended period of time)
  • Long-term mental illness
  • Failure to provide for the child’s needs

How Domestic Violence Can Alter Child Custody & Visitation Rights

In instances where domestic violence has occurred in the past 5 years, Oklahoma law requires a judge refrain from awarding joint or sole custody. Sometimes instead a protective order will be granted, and the judge will establish a visitation order. In this case, the order may contain the following limitations:

  • Visitation must occur in a protected and safe setting
  • Visitation must be supervised by a third-party or agency
  • The abusive parent must enroll and complete an intervention program in the state that is certified by the Office of the Attorney General
  • The abusive parent must not drink alcohol or take a controlled substance for 24 hours before visitation time begins
  • The abusive parent must complete an assessment by a qualified mental health professional to ensure he/she is not considered lethal or dangerous
  • The abusive parent may not be given overnight visitation rights until he/she has not exhibited abusive behavior for a substantial period of time

It is never okay for a child to witness or experience domestic violence. There are many resources available to victims of domestic violence, which should be accessed immediately.

If you suspect domestic violence in your household, it is important to contact the 24-hour, domestic violence hotline in Oklahoma at 800-522-7233. If you need the assistance of an attorney, do not hesitate to contact our experienced domestic violence lawyers online or at (405) 294-1511.

Failure to Provide

In Oklahoma, if a parent is proven unfit or unable to provide for their child, their parental rights can be terminated. A parent should be able to provide adequate care, food, shelter, and/or protection. This also applies to situations where one parent is absent from a child’s life. If one parent is not present for the first 12 to 14 months of a child’s life, the other parent can request to terminate their parental rights.

To file for parental termination, you must fill out a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights. The court must be consulted and then award you with full custody.


If you are imprisoned in Oklahoma you may lose your parental rights. If the crime you committed does not relate to the wellbeing of your child, you may not have to forfeit these. However, if you are sentenced to more than 10 years behind bars and continuing a relationship with your child would not be in the child’s best interest, these rights could be terminated.

Do You Still Pay Child Support if You Lose Child Custody & Visitation Rights?

If your parental rights are taken away from you, you are still responsible for making child support payments until the other parent’s petition for full custody has finalized/final paperwork has been completed for adoption.

If you are in a situation where you could lose your parental rights or are worried about the safety of your child, contact our office online today or call us at (405) 294-1511. Every child has the right to a happy and healthy life.