A measure filed Wednesday in the Senate will help ensure that the visitation rights of law-abiding noncustodial parents are protected. Sen. Ron Sharp filed Senate Bill 1612 after visiting with attorneys and community leaders from around the state and learning about the growing problem of noncustodial parents being denied their visitation rights by bitter custodial parents.
“We have noncustodial parents who are paying their child support and doing everything else the court ordered them to do but the custodial parents are still not allowing them to see their children because of past animosities. Just as noncustodial parents can be punished for not paying their child support, we need to hold custodial parents responsible for honoring court ordered visitation,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “While these custodial parents may think they’re hurting the other parent, they’re really only hurting their children. This is wrong and has to be stopped.”
Sharp pointed out that nearly every District Attorney’s office in the state now has a division completely dedicated to securing child support payments from noncustodial parents. Those who do not pay their child support face imprisonment and fines. However, there has hardly been any effort to protect the visitation rights of noncustodial parents.
SB 1612 would require the custodial parent to provide the noncustodial parent, who is current on child support, the court ordered visitation schedule. Offenders would face a fine. The legislation would also create a form that noncustodial parents could fill out at their local courthouse informing the district court that their visitation rights have been denied by the custodial parent.
The bill is coauthored by House Assistant Majority Whip and family law attorney Rep. Jon Echols who has seen firsthand how many noncustodial parents are not able to see their children because they simply cannot afford the legal expenses to fight for their visitation rights.
“One of the major problems facing many noncustodial parents is that after paying all of their support obligations they cannot afford an attorney to secure their visitation rights when the custodial parent has violated the schedule,” said Echols, R-Oklahoma City. “This bill would allow the noncustodial parent to directly file a claim to the District Court, similar to completing a small claims form. The court would then decide whether or not an attorney is necessary to restore the visitation rights. We must protect children, and that includes being able to see both of their parents.”
SB 1612 would also require that future divorce decrees define the penalty should the custodial parent deny the visitation rights of the noncustodial parent. The decree would also explain that the custodial parent must show cause as to why the visitation schedule was violated.
“This bill is an effort to ensure that both parents are involved in the child’s life regardless of the circumstances of the divorce. While a marriage may not last forever, these individuals will be parents for the rest of their lives, and their children need them,” said Sharp.
The bill has the support of numerous district attorneys, family law attorneys and community leaders from around the state.