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Parental Equality in Custody Cases Advances in OK House

As I have previously posted, Oklahoma House Bill 1151 is making its way through the Oklahoma legislature, and this week it received a unanimous vote in favor in the Oklahoma House Judiciary Committee. This moves the legislation to the floor of the Oklahoma House where it must pass to be sent to the Senate. As I've stated previously, the bill is necessary to improve equality of parenting in Oklahoma custody cases.


A presumption of equal access to children by both parents is not the law of Oklahoma for final custody orders. There’s a conflict in the current statute between temporary orders and final orders as it relates to a presumption of equal access, and this bill will clean up that conflict as well as provide that judge’s give explanation for their decisions when equal access to children is not ordered.


This bill is a step toward equality for parents in custody decisions whether mother or father because the current law does not provide a presumption of equality for both parents when entering a court in Oklahoma to seek a final custody decision.


Recent studies and reports such as The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), the “Warshak Consensus” paper,1 and others have concluded that children are best served when parenting plans facilitate shared parenting and time between parents. In a recent study by the website Custody X Change, custody time between dads and children was evaluated with each state ranked. Oklahoma came in 49th.


Empirical studies have consistently shown that children suffer emotionally, academically, and developmentally when they don’t have a close relationship with their father post-divorce during childhood. Math, reading, social skills and emotionality are affected based on the post-divorce relationship children have with their father. Girls who do not feel close to their fathers have demonstrated lower self-esteem and are at greater risk of depression over those who remain close to their fathers.[1] Boys suffer in the areas of self-control, sleep, and motivation when they remain with their mothers post-divorce, yet boys who live with their father post-divorce prove to be more mature and independent and even warmer in their relationships.[2] Therefore, the systemic disenfranchisement of fathers is not only unfair to fathers, but it is detrimental to children.


"Numerous studies have shown that women who report having a close relationship with their father during childhood developed a strong sense of personal identity and positive self-esteem, as well as enjoying greater confidence in their adult relationships with men.”[3]


It is established that children with fathers who are involved in their lives have higher cognitive and developmental functioning, greater empathy, and stronger internal locus of control.[4] These "father positive" children are also more successful academically, athletically, and socially.[5]


"A number of studies suggest that fathers who are involved, nurturing, and playful with their infants have children with higher IQs, as well as better linguistic and cognitive capacities.”[6] The same study concluded that "children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and as they grow older, have better social connections with peers.”[7] Study after study establish that fathers are critical to the well-being of children and that the relationship is important from the day the child is born.

Joint time with both parents is not only the best arrangement for the children but is also more beneficial for the parents. Fathers who get to exercise at least quarter-time visitation with their minor children report more satisfaction and feel more competent than fathers who have limited visitation such as a traditional schedule of one weeknight and every other weekend, or even those with sole childrearing responsibility.[8] And mothers who share custody have been shown to be more satisfied with the parenting arrangement than those who have sole custody with periodic contact with the dad.[9] Even mothers benefit from a more engaged father-child relationship which also provides more equality in opportunity for mothers to pursue life post-divorce.

Please contact your Oklahoma legislator and ask them to support House Bill 1151. You can find your legislators HERE.


[1] U. Palosaari, H. Aro, and P. Laippala, “Parental Divorce and Depression in Young Adulthood: adolescents’ Closeness to Parents and Self-Esteem as a Mediating Factor,” Acta Psychiatry Stand 93 (1): 20-26 (January 1996).


[2] Richard Warshak and John Santrock, “the Impact of Divorce in Father-Custody and Mother-Custody Homes: The Child’s Perspective, “ in New Direction for Child Development: Vol. 19. Children and Divorce, ed. L.A. Kurdek (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1983), pp. 19-46.


[3]M. Maine. (2004). Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters and the Pursuit of Thinness, Second Edition. Nashville: Gurze Books.


[4] M.E. Lamb (1997). Fathers and Child Development. In M.E. Lamb (Ed.), The Role of the Father in Child Development, 3rd ed. New York:John Wiley and Sons.


[5] H.B. Biller, J.L. Kimpton (1997). The Father and the School-Aged Child. M.E. Lamb (Ed.).


[6] Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-Being. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.


7] Id.


[8] Kyle D. Pruet, Fatherneed: why father care is as essential as mother care for your child (New York: Random House, 2000), 110.


[9] Id.

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