How to File for Custody in OK — With or Without Divorce

Filing is the first step toward getting a child custody and visitation order.

Married parents must request custody and visitation orders as part of their divorce. Unwed parents don't have to get orders, but it is highly recommended — especially for fathers who won't have custodial rights otherwise.

For an Oklahoma court to decide child custody, the child must have resided in the state for the past six months.

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Case types that involve custody

Filing for any of the following will allow you to request child custody and visitation orders.

Custody and visitation

Parents who've never married can ask for orders covering just custody and visitation. Custody is the right to make decisions about a child. Visitation, also called parenting time, is the time the child spends with a parent.


Divorce (also called dissolution of marriage) ends your marriage. You'll decide custody and visitation, divide joint assets and finances, and set spousal and child support.

To file for divorce in Oklahoma, you must reside in the state for at least six months and in the county you're filing in for at least 30 days.

Oklahoma allows no-fault divorces. This means you do not need a ground (reason) for the divorce, like infidelity. If you do state a ground, you'll need to prove in court that your spouse behaved in the way you're alleging.

Legal separation

Legal separation allows you to remain married while living separately and dividing everything you would in a divorce. You can get a legal separation in Oklahoma if one spouse currently lives there.

Separation can help prepare you for divorce as you will have already worked out terms. However, these arrangements can change if you divorce.

You don't need a ground for legal separation.


Fathers of children born out of wedlock must establish they are the child's legal father to seek custody and visitation.

The child's mother and father can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form if they're sure of the child's paternity. The father would still need a custody order to gain parental rights and responsibilities.

When the child's paternity is uncertain, either parent can petition the court to determine paternity and award a custody and visitation order.

Forms you will need

Once you complete the forms listed below for your case type, you'll need to make at least three copies of each. Keep one for your records, file one with the court, and give one to the other parent.

Tulsa County has a Family Law Instruction Packet that residents can use to ask for family law orders. Parents living in other counties can get forms from their lawyers or the local court. Some forms are linked below.

All cases

Fill out a Civil Cover Sheet as the first page of your forms.

Attach a Summons to the set of copies you'll give to the other parent.

Parents who request joint custody must attach a parenting plan to their petition. Even if you won't have joint custody, including a parenting plan can show the court what you believe is best for your child.

Fill out a Motion for Temporary Order Hearing if you want formal arrangements for custody, support, etc. while your case is in progress.

Custody and visitation

Fill out a Petition for Custody and Visitation to request a custody and visitation order.


Fill out a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage to ask the court to legally end your marriage and grant you specific reliefs for custody, property, etc.

Attach an Agreed Decree if you and your spouse agree on all terms of your divorce.

Legal separation

Complete a Petition for Legal Separation to ask the court to grant you a legal separation. Attach a separation agreement if you agree to all terms from property to custody and visitation.


The child's mother or the alleged father can fill out a Petition for Paternity Determination to request that the court determine the child's legal father. The same petition can request custody, visitation and child support.

Filing your forms

Take your forms to the court clerk's office in your county's District Court. The clerk will stamp your forms with a case number, keep the originals, and return the copies to you.

Expect to pay a filing fee of around $260. Fill out and file a Pauper's Affidavit if you cannot afford the cost.

Serve the other parent

Service involves giving copies of the paperwork you filed with the court to the other parent. You must serve a copy of your petition, a Summons, and a blank Answer form.

Personal service is when a friend, family member, process server or sheriff hand-delivers copies to the other parent. Process servers charge between $85 and $160. Sheriffs charge $50. Your server must fill out an Affidavit of Service afterward for you to file with the court.

You can also serve the forms via certified mail. File the mail receipt as proof of service.

When neither personal nor mail service is possible, you can get permission from the court to serve by publishing a notice about the case in a newspaper. You'll need to give the court a copy of the publication.

The other parent will have 20 days to respond. If they don't respond in time, the judge may grant you a judgment without the other parent's input.

Preparing for what comes next

Once you file all your paperwork, your case will be slotted for review.

If you filed a full agreement, a judge will sign your final orders to close your case, as long as they consider it to be in your child's best interest.

If you haven't reached an agreement with the other parent, you'll prepare for a temporary order hearing (or a parenting plan conference in Tulsa County). Take advantage of technology to be ready.

The Custody X Change online app offers custom custody calendars, parent-to-parent messaging, an expense tracker and more. You can use it to put together proposals for the other parent, negotiate, prepare settlement paperwork or organize evidence.

Be prepared for every step of your case with Custody X Change.

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