The Financial Incentive Behind Custody Battles Explained
Why is she insistent on fighting you so hard over custody? My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m a Tulsa father’s rights attorney here with Dads.Law, where fathers are not disposable. And I want to talk to you a little bit about an unfortunate feature of Oklahoma law that has a way of incentivizing unnecessary litigation. And this is a particular problem in paternity cases, and I want to kind of explain to you guys why.
Oklahoma Law and Joint Custody Preference
It is the policy of the Oklahoma legislature, and it is codified in the statute, that the preference is for joint custody. And there’s a couple of places under Title 43 where that’s discussed. Now, with this in mind, you also have child support guidelines, and those are codified under Title 43 as well. And the child support guidelines, one of the factors that controls the amount of child support that’s paid, if any, is the number of overnights that go to each parent.
Impact of Child Support Guidelines on Custody Cases
The unfortunate effect of this is that, and this is a particular problem in paternity cases because under Title 10, which is the law that deals with children and with parentage, in a child born out of wedlock, the mother is statutorily presumed to have sole custody, as in some contrary action of a district court. So, as a starting point, she has full custody.
Now, under the guidelines under Title 43 for child support, if you’re dealing with a non-marital situation involving a child, then when paternity is filed and established, and the court orders child support, the court can actually look back two years and assess child support at that same monthly rate, which can result in some pretty sizable judgments.
The Financial Incentive to Fight Joint Custody
Now, there’s also statutory interest that applies, and in a paternity situation, the court has the power to order you as the father to reimburse mom for the cost of the birth. So, in other words, she could be potentially looking at a fairly sizable judgment, depending on the amount of child support ordered and some other factors, if you haven’t already been supporting the child. And that large amount of money is a powerful incentive to fight you when you’re saying, hey, I want more time with my kid, because if it hits a certain threshold of overnights, that judgment is significantly reduced and may be eliminated entirely because if you guys ruin roughly equal amount of money, and you have roughly equal amount of time, the court will presume under the guidelines that each of you is providing your fair share of support of the child, just based on when they’re in your care.
And yeah, unfortunately, that does provide what we might call perverse incentive to fight joint custody, not out of a genuine concern for the child, but because monetarily speaking, it is beneficial to do so in some situations. And because attorney’s fees are always an issue in these cases too, that can be a double-edged sword.
Take Action and Seek Legal Counsel
On the one hand, if she drags you through the courts really bad, you prevail, and the court ultimately determines that you had no good reason to do that, you might get your attorney’s fees back. But on the other side of the coin, she could get her attorney’s fees as well if she can persuade the court that you unnecessarily complicated the litigation. So again, this kind of thing is somewhat incentivized under these statutes.
This is why sometimes women will fight men over, especially in the paternity context, will really fight men over custody because they’re being monetarily incentivized to do so. And if you have questions about that, if you’re dealing with a paternity situation, you need good counsel. The place you can find good counsel is at dads.law. Where fathers are not disposable.