Adoption / Guardianship
Adoption is the process by which
the parental ties between one set of parents and the child are severed
and legally re-established in another set of parents. Parental
ties may be voluntarily severed or they may be severed as the result of
the death of a parent. Parental ties may also be severed by court
order, generally following a jury trial in the matter. Adoptions -
by their very nature - are permanent. Couples that adopt a child
are later responsible for paying child support.
Guardianship is a temporary status
where a court appoints an adult to be the caretaker of the child or of
some asset of the child (land or some inheritance). During the
time a person is the guardian of a child, they have a fiduciary duty to
look out for the emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being of
the child and to safeguard the assets of the child. They are not
permitted to benefit from their position or the monies that are managed,
unless compensation is specifically authorized by the court.
Child Custody and
There are two types of child
custody - legal and physical. Physical custody is defined as the
party that has physical control of over the child, i.e. the custodial
parent. Legal custody is the party that is empowered to make
decisions on behalf of the child (i.e. educational or medical
decisions). Normally, the parents will retain joint legal custody
of a child.
When the court is forced to
determine the issue of custody, the judge attempts to award custody
based upon the "best interests of the child". This takes into
account various factors that are intended to determine which party will
best provide for the the emotional, psychological, moral, and spiritual
well-being of the child. The court can modify custody based upon a
change in circumstance (i.e. the re-marriage of one of the parties, one
of the parties developing a substance abuse problem, etc.)
Visitation is awarded to the
non-custodial parent to visit the child and take custody of the child
for a brief period of time. Visitation can be set out by agreement
of the parties or imposed by the court.
Standard visitation will vary from county to county, but is
generally similar to the Tulsa County form. This is the default
setting of the court. Sometimes, the court must impose special
conditions on visitation - especially in instances where abuse is
suspected. One of the common conditions is "supervised visitation,"
which requires the visiting party to hire a professional to supervise
the visitation for the safety of the child.
Child support is generally
calculated based upon the
Child Support Guidelines, which are set by statute. However,
there are certain criteria that allow for the guidelines to be adjusted
up or down, depending on the needs of the child, or other special
circumstances that may affect the financial needs of the child.
If child support is not paid, the the custodial parent can begin an enforcement action against the obligor.
In these actions, the obligor's paycheck can be garnished; assets, bank
accounts, and tax refunds may be seized, and licenses - both
professional and driver's licenses - may be suspended. These
matters can be resolved through administrative hearings, contempt
citations in District Court, and
negotiations, depending on which tactic is appropriate.
Ultimately, if money is owed, the past due child support is reduced to a
judgment and paid out.