Custody is such a dangerous word. Thousands and thousands of dollars are spent by parties trying to get sole custody or force joint custody. Most seem not to even know what they are fighting for. Worse, there are lots of statutes, appellate cases, lay people, and other sources that throw the word around without regard for what they really mean.
There is a statute in Oklahoma that, more or less, says the custodial parent is the one with the most overnights with the child. Dozens of Oklahoma cases say that no, it is not that.
There are cases that use the word custody to mean the time you spend with your children. Again, dozens of Oklahoma cases say that no, it is not that.
Other states use word like conservatorship...
When family law judges and quality family lawyers in Oklahoma, and specifically Tulsa County, use the word custody, we are referring to decision making authority on the big life decisions. Where the child will reside, where the child will attend school, which medical option to take, or perhaps what religion the child will be a member during childhood. There really are not that many big decisions.
A sole custodial parent makes the final call on big life decisions.
In a joint custody arrangement, those decisions are made together by the parents according to a written plan.
That is all custody means, how big decisions are made and who makes them.
It is not about time, generally both parents are losing time with their child — going from unfettered time to time metered at best by an agreement and at worst by a stranger in a black robe.
John Lennon wrote that life is what happens to you while your are busy making other plans. And so it is with custody. Most of life is not the big decisions, it is the little every day decisions that matter. Do you spend the time to take your kid out one on one? Do you ask about their day at school? Do you follow up with questions about friends and teachers? Did you take the time to discipline your child, because even though that is not the way you want to spend your now limited time with them, that is your job, to invest in disciplining them. THAT is life.
That is where I try to keep my client's focus in a custody battle, on life, not titles.