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Physical Custody: Parent’s Rights on Child Support

In Oklahoma, physical custody is considered distinct from legal custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions about how his or her child is raised and cared for, while physical custody refers exclusively to amounts and types of visitation. Read on to find out what divorcing parents need to know about how physical custody arrangements impact child support payments.

What Is Joint Physical Custody?

Joint legal custody allows both parents to play an active role in determining how a child will be raised, including what school and church the child attends, how he or she is disciplined, and even what sports or other extracurricular activities the child can pursue. Joint physical custody, on the other hand, refers only to established visitations, meaning that both parents share roughly equal amounts of time with the children. Click here to find help with understanding joint physical custody.

Court Standards for Visitation

Since there’s no way to divide the 365 days of the year completely evenly, parents have to come up with and agree upon other means of sharing physical custody. In Oklahoma, the court has set out a standard for holiday visitations where parents alternate holiday time as defined by the child’s school calendar. There’s no standard arrangement for summer visitations. Parents can also agree to deviate from state standards for joint physical custody, but both parties must agree to any alterations.

How Does Joint Physical Custody Impact Child Support?

The number of nights a child spends at each parent’s house helps to determine how much child support the parent seeking help will receive. This can make child custody even more of a contentious issue.

In cases where parents have joint physical custody of a child and split parenting time 50/50, the higher-earning parent will pay child support to the lower-earning parent. However, if one parent spends more time with the child, he or she will typically be entitled to child support even if the other parent earns less money.

Oklahoma has different methods for determining child support payments for parents with joint physical custody versus sole custody. When the non-residential parent spends 123 days or fewer with a child per year, the state uses the sole custody formula to determine child support payments.

For parents with joint physical custody, overnights spent with the non-residential parent figure into child support payments. For each overnight a non-residential parent spends with the child over 123 days per year, he or she will pay slightly less child support.

Prioritizing the Best Interests of the Child

It’s important for parents to remember that joint custody agreements are intended to support the best interests of the child. Restricting visitation with the explicit intent of increasing child support payments can be quite harmful. That being said, child support payments are designed to help the residential parent ensure that the child gets everything he or she needs to succeed, so those who have joint physical custody should keep track of visitations carefully or use a software program that can help.

The Bottom Line

Custody and child support are often the most contentious issues that come up in divorce proceedings. It’s often the case that joint physical custody provides the best solution for both residential and non-residential parents and their children. Get in touch with a family lawyer to discuss the details of these kinds of arrangements and how to calculate child support payments.

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