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February 27, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

The Oklahoma State Senate has passed a bill, SB 1612, that would put teeth into requirements that custodial parents who interfere with the visitation rights of non-custodial parents be punished. Authored by Senator Ron Sharp and passed by the Senate by a 44 – 2 vote, the bill would require judges to take action in the event a custodial parent “unreasonably denied” or interfered with visitation. Here’s a short article reporting on the bill (Grandlake News, 2/24/14).

“Sadly, we have a common occurrence of noncustodial parents being denied their visitation rights by angry, bitter custodial parents without consideration of how it’s affecting their children. Kids need both of their parents and if a judge has ruled on visitation then both parents need to honor that schedule,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “Noncustodial parents can be fined for not paying their child support and we need to also ensure that custodial parents hold up their end of the agreement.”

Custodial parents can be fined, forced to post a bond, required to give compensating time at the convenience of the non-custodial parent, required to attend educational sessions, etc. If the custodial parent is found to have unreasonably denied or interfered with the visitation of the non-custodial parent three times, the court would be required to find her/him in contempt and be punished accordingly.

Finally, SB 1612 would require the state to create a form that non-custodial parents can fill out when they claim their visitation rights are being denied. That’s important. No longer will Oklahoma fathers be forced to figure out how to enforce their meager visitation rights. They can go to the clerk’s office, get the form, fill it out and hand it back to the clerk. Everything else will be taken care of by the clerk’s office. A hearing will be scheduled within 21 days of filing and the clerk will issue notice to all parties. No muss, no fuss.

Most importantly, the terms of SB 1612 are mandatory. If enacted into law, judges will no longer have the discretion to give denial of visitation the usual pass. Three-peat offenders must be held in contempt.

It’s not a cure for everything that ails family courts, but it’s a definite improvement over the status quo.

Many District Attorneys in the state have divisions dedicated to securing child support payments from noncustodial parents. Those who fail to pay their child support face imprisonment and fines. Sharp noted, though, that hardly any effort has been made in Oklahoma to protect the visitation rights of noncustodial parents.

That’s putting it mildly. The federal government pays states $5 billion a year for child support enforcement and only $10 million a year for visitation support. Plus, that measly $10 million is specifically prohibited from being used to provide attorneys for non-custodial parents trying to enforce visitation. Custodial parents enforcing child support orders meanwhile receive the full power of the state attorney general’s office. That means they get free lawyers, motivated by Washington’s largess, to help them. It’s not exactly a level playing field.

SB 1612 won’t make it one, or anything close to it. No, for that to happen, both Washington and the states would have to start taking fathers’ relationships with their children as seriously as they do mothers’. No one thinks an Obama Administration, whose sole approach to the crisis of fatherlessness in America has been to repeatedly blame fathers, will act to ensure that children’s relationships with their fathers aren’t eroded by family courts and their radically anti-father custody orders.

Still, enactment of SB 1612 into law will improve Oklahoma fathers’ chances of hanging onto the wisp of a relationship the courts of the states routinely allow them. Thanks to Ron Sharp for seeing what’s going on and taking steps to correct it.

The measure is now before the House of Representatives.

National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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#childsupport, #visitation, #fathers, #non-custodialparents, #OklahomaSenate

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