This November, a new law is set to go into effect in Oklahoma which is designed to drop the hammer on custodial parents who either interfere with or deny visitation ordered for the noncustodial parent. Oklahoma Senate Bill 1612 was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin this past June and could prove to be a trend-setting law for other states to follow suit, provided no major unintended consequences are discovered after it becomes effective this November.
The law provides the following:
Any order of the court providing for visitation shall contain a provision stating that the custodial parent has a duty to facilitate visitation of a minor child with the noncustodial parent. [43 OS 2011, Section 111.3(A)] and When a noncustodial parent has been granted visitation rights and those rights are denied or otherwise interfered with by the custodial parent, … the noncustodial parent may file with the court clerk a motion for enforcement of visitation rights … on a form provided by the court clerk. [43 OS 2011, Section 111.3(B)]
Furthermore, the judge, if he finds that the custodial parent has indeed “unreasonably” denied or interfered with the noncustodial parent's visitation, has several options he may choose from for remedies, such as:
- Enter a specific visitation schedule;
- Provide for makeup time for the parent who was denied visitation;
- Order the custodial parent post a bond, conditioned upon his or her compliance with the Order granting visitation rights;
- Order one or both parties to attend counseling or classes which focus on the impact of visitation disputes on children;
- Order supervised visitation;
- Or any other relief which he or she sees fit with respect to the facts of the case.
Another very important twist to this new law is that the award of attorneys' fees for the prevailing party is no longer discretionary for the judge – rather, it is mandatory. While this law is more than well-intentioned, the very fact that these cases can be started with the simple filling out of a form provided by the clerk, raises concerns for some about the increase in pro se litigants starting actions against their exes without a thorough enough understanding of the law, thus clogging an already overburdened family court docket system. However, it is encouraging to see that legislators are apparently listening to (and acting upon) the concerns of noncustodial parents, who for so long, have simply been forced to bite their tongue when dealing with an interfering, unreasonable, or controlling custodial ex.
You can read more about this new law and how some attorneys in OK are supporting this new measure here.