child custody

Oklahoma Supreme Court Acknowledges Same-Sex Parenting

Non-Biological Parent’s Rights

In recent years there have been several Oklahoma court cases that established certain parental rights for non-biological parents in same-sex relationships (Eldredge v. Taylorand Ramey v. Sutton).  However, a more recent case, Schnedler v. Lee, poses slightly different facts than Eldridgeand Sutton.  Rather than two parents fighting for custody, in Schnedlerwe have three adults who have vastly different characterizations of the relationships that existed between themselves and the child in question. 

Schnedler v. Lee

In Schnedler, the Plaintiff states in the initial filing that she and the Respondent were in a relationship for more than ten years.  During that time, they had a daughter, whom they raised together.  The Plaintiff also states the sperm donor, who is the Third-party Defendant in the case, had no contact with the child and provided no financial support during the ten-year period, and it was only after the couple separated that the biological father had any contact with the child.  Furthermore, the Plaintiff says the donor signed a document indicating that he waived his parental rights and the Plaintiff, Respondent, and child lived for ten years as a family unit.  The Plaintiff states in 2015, when she and the Respondent separated, the Respondent initially followed an agreed visitation schedule for approximately seven months but then abruptly and arbitrarily refused to allow the Plaintiff any further visitation with the child.

  The Respondent states very different facts. She acknowledges she and the Plaintiff were at one point in a dating relationship, but shortly after the child was born they terminated their relationship and were no longer living together as partners but simply as roommates.  The Respondent claims the Plaintiff did not act as a parental figure in the child’s life, and the Respondent made it clear she was the child’s sole parent. The Respondent further states that the biological father of the child (Third-party Defendant) had been in regular contact with the child, and he had provided some financial support, while intending to maintain a “father-daughter” relationship with the minor child.  The Third-party Defendant corroborates much of this version of the facts.  

Three-Prong Test

Initially, the trial court and the appeals court sided with the Respondent, even though the court in Ramey“held that when persons assume the status and obligations of a parent without formal adoption they stand in loco parentis to the child and, as such, may be awarded custody even against the biological parent” (Ramey v. Sutton, 2015 OK 79, ¶ 15, 362 P.3d 217, 221).  The trial court and the appeals court based this decision on the three-prong test developed in Ramey which states that for in loco parentisto apply the couple must be:

(1) unable to marry legally; 

(2) engaged in intentional family planning to have a child and to co-parent; and 

(3) the biological parent acquiesced and encouraged the same sex partner's parental role following the birth of the child" (Id.).

The trial court ultimately determined that even though the facts of the case met the requirements for the first two prongs of the test, that because the biological father had not participated in the application of the third prong, that the test failed and in loco parentisdid not apply and as such, she did not have sufficient standing to pursue custody and visitation.  The appeals court affirmed this decision.

Equal Footing As Biological Parent

The crux of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the trial court and appeals court lies in disagreeing with their application of the three-pronged test that was formulated in Ramey. Their analysis indicates that the encouragement of one biological parent is sufficient to meet the standards in the third prong of the Rameytest and state as follows:

In this case, the record amply and plainly reflects that Heather both acquiesced in and encouraged Lori's role as a co-parenting mother to J.L. Accordingly, all three prongs of Ramey's standing test were satisfied--irrespective of Kevin's consent, or lack thereof, to Lori's parental role. This determination, however, does not end our analysis. Just as we broadened Eldredge's holding in Ramey to remove the barrier of an express, written co-parenting agreement between same-sex partners, we hold that a non-biological same-sex co-parent has the right to seek custody, visitation, and support of his or her child on the same equal terms as the biological parent (Schnedler V. Platt2019 Ok 52).

She is a Parent

However, the Supreme Court did not end there.  In their conclusion, they state that “Lori [Plaintiff] did not act in the place of a parent; she is a parent” (Id.).  As such, she, and others in similar circumstances, have sufficient legal standing to pursue custody, visitation and support for the child in the same way as the biological parent and that doing so is in the best interest of the child.  

    This court case is important because it expands the rights of those living in non-traditional family situations, so that they can have greater protection under the law.  The landscape of relationships and families has changed so much in recent years and it is crucial that our legislature and judiciary work to provide equal protection under the law that coincides with the needs of society.

 Author: Lauren Stanley

Provided by: Boeheim Freeman Law, 918-884-7791, www.onyourworstday.com

Child Custody - Battle or Balance?

What is “Best Interest of the Child”?

When you are involved in a child custody battle, whether it is from a divorce or a paternity case, it is a difficult to maintain a balance between your compassion, your fears, and your frustrations. Should you be aggressive? Should you crush the other parent? Should you be in total control, or should you be kind, caring, and compassionate towards the other parent? Believe it or not, there is a right answer. What is in the best interest of your child?

But, how do determine what that means? After years of experience doing child custody cases and working with children through that process, it became clear that children need four things:

  • Unconditional Love

  • Stability

  • Safety

  • Truth

Unconditional Love

Love without conditions. This means to love unselfishly. To care about their happiness first and being willing to do anything in order provide them happiness without expecting anything in return. In other words, unconditional love is given without expecting or even really caring if that love is reciprocated.

Stability

Order and continuity are essential to maintaining a child’s mental and emotional well-being. A stable environment provides a sense of constancy and predictability. Routine is an essential component of a child’s overall well-being. Although many adults perceive children as liking surprises and spontaneity, their enjoyment for the unpredictable emerges from a knowledge that they can and will return to a stable and reliable routine; something they can trust to be real and they can count on.

Safety

Stability feeds right into the issue of safety. Does the child feel safe and secure in their home and in their relationships. Are there strangers coming in and out of the house that make them feel afraid? Do the adults in the home behave unpredictably due to substance abuse or a lack good coping skills? Are disciplinary standards appropriate and consistent? Is conflict effectively dealt with in the household? Children are very sensitive to these dynamics and absorb everything around them. If the world around them is chaotic and perilous, their behavior will reflect that.

Truth

Kids don’t like to be lied to and most of the time they know when it’s happening. It is important for children to be able to trust their parents. Moreover, it is important that parents tell children the truth, so that they can learn healthy coping skills. Children learn from adults and it does not set a good precedent to teach them that it is acceptable to lie. If truth is a vague and optional concept it tends to undermine the love, stability, and safety that are so crucial to a child’s development and well-being.

Conclusion

It is important to find an aggressive and compassionate attorney who can help guide you. Make sure your attorney is thinking about the best interest of your child, and not just about their own wallet. The best Tulsa attorney will help to ensure everyone is working to create a solution that is in the best interest of your child, but is not afraid to fight when the other side can’t be rational.

Author: Lauren Stanley, MSt

Brought to you by Boeheim Freeman Law (918-884-7791)

Divorce - Protect Your Money and Your Life

Divorce - Protect Your Money and Your Life

While in a divorce, it is critical to modify your will, trusts, and advanced directives. Forgetting to do so, can lead to disaster if the worst was to happen. Protect yourself with a knowledgable and experienced attorney. Author: Ciera N. Freeman - Boeheim Freeman Law

Medical Marijuana & Child Custody in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Law

Marijuana Licensees with Minor Children:

No medical marijuana license holder may be denied custody of or visitation or parenting time with a minor, and there is no presumption of neglect or child endangerment for conduct allowed under this law, unless the person's behavior creates an unreasonable danger to the safety of the minor.  63 O.S. § 425A(D) (OSCN 2019), Medical Marijuana

Marijuana Licensees - Protect Yourself Against Claims of Neglect

Parents who are licensed marijuana users are expected to act with the same precautions as those who are prescribed other controlled substances.  As with all medications, keep medical marijuana our of plain sight, out of the reach of children, and in properly labeled containers; and take medical marijuana in proper doses and during times when is does not inhibit your ability to parent.  Never drive with children after medicating.  In a home where there are duel patients who are parenting, alternate intake of the medication to ensure that one parent is alert and capable of taking care of an emergencies that may arise. 

Marijuana Licensees - What to do DHS or Family Court Gets Involved

Sensible use and safe storage of prescribed marijuana when children are in the home of the licensee affords protections to the licensee from DHS or family court interference with child custody.  If your licensed marijuana usage becomes an issue in your child custody or DHS case, call the family law attorneys at Boeheim Freeman Law918-884-7791

The Flu and Your Family

It has been a harsh flu season. See how hard Oklahoma has been hit. The map found at the link may help you decide whether to travel or not.

Should Grandparents Have Rights?

Nuclear or Extended Family

Whether grandparents have rights is not a complex question. The underlying premise is that an extended family (grandparents, aunts, and uncles) is healthier and advantageous to the social and mental health of a child. It goes without saying that a nuclear family, mom and dad, is the most important component of a child’s cognitive skills and emotional well-being, but the extended family plays an enormous part in the educational advancement of children.

Extended Family Improves a Child’s Educational Success

Research and work done by Mads Meier Jæger, a Professor at the Department of Education, at Aarhus University shows that the extended family contributes significantly to the total effect of family background on educational success. -Link to Research- In short, the interaction of grandparents with the parents and with the child have a greater impact on improving the child’s educational success than other factors, including improved economic or social status.

What Does This Mean?

In most cases, a healthy amount of grandparent interaction can make all of the difference to a child’s healthy upbringing. Obviously, a parent should insure the safety and well-being of their child. If a grandparent is abusive, or is placing the child at risk, they should not be given the opportunity for visitation without supervision, but in most cases a child needs the multi-generational stimulation provided by their grandparents.

Author Brian J. Boeheim of Boeheim Freeman Law

Boeheim Freeman Law - Grandparent Rights

The State of Oklahoma Statute

The Importance of Parents in a Child's Life

In reflection

As I reflect on the past year, it strikes me that one of our country’s greatest struggles is to provide the children of this world with positive role models. Parents are the first and arguably the most important role models any child can have. Whether it is a mother and father, two mothers, or two fathers; it is imperative to provide every child with the greatest opportunity to view and experience strength, wisdom, and compassion.

The Pain of Separation

Studies have shown that when parents are affectionate and supportive, it greatly affects a child’s cognitive and social development. It also instills an overall sense of well-being and self confidence. Too often a child is separated from one or both of his or her parents. Illness, accident, or apathy prevents far too many children from enjoying the diversity and the breadth of knowledge that two parents can provide. One parent or grandparents may do a marvelously heroic job caring for a child, but parents are truly a blessing to a child’s development.

Anger’s Effect on Children

When parents decide that they are no longer compatible partners in life, the inevitable result is that the children will be marginalized. It is not intended, or desired, but it is a fact. Very seldom is there an amicable dissolution of a marriage. There is anger, frustration, and remorse that festers in the bowels of almost all divorce action. These emotions tend to be highlighted during the negotiation and litigation of child custody and visitation. Not only will these efforts limit one of the parent’s ability to contribute to his/her child’s growth, but it will also impact the perception that the child will have of each parent, permanently damaging their strongest role models.

Fight Compassionately

Each parent should fight for their children. They should fight with their last breath to insure that their child is provided the greatest opportunity to have complete and effective role models. We all want our child to say to themselves, “I hope to find someone that is strong, smart, and loving; like my mother/father.” This is why when you are going through a divorce that involves child custody and visitation, you must set aside the anger. You must set aside the frustration. You must set aside the remorse. You must be a better person for your children and demonstrate for them strength, wisdom, and compassion.

Author - Brian J. Boeheim, Partner at Boeheim Freeman Law