Whether you live in Oklahoma or elsewhere, divorce for any married couple will accomplish two things: (1) severing the marital relationship, and (2) dividing assets and debts. If they have been married for a significant length of time and one of them will be unable to be self-supporting after the divorce, the issue of alimony may also arise. If there are minor children, they will also need to resolve issues of child custody and support. The terms divorce and dissolution of marriage are used interchangeably in Oklahoma law, although divorce is the more frequently used term.
Residency and Where to File
In order to file for divorce in Oklahoma, either you or your spouse must be a resident of Oklahoma for at least 6 months. You may file in the District Court in the county where you have resided for at least 30 days, or in the county where your spouse resides.
The simplest procedure is an uncontested divorce, where you and your spouse reach an agreement about all issues. You begin the divorce procedure by filing a Petition for Divorce, along with other supporting documents. For an uncontested divorce, one of these documents will be a marital settlement agreement outlining the division of assets, and your agreement regarding any children. These documents are filed with the court, and copies of them are provided to your spouse. You will attend a court hearing, at which time the judge will make sure that all of your paperwork is in order, perhaps ask you a few questions, and enter your Decree of Divorce.
Grounds for Divorce
Grounds for divorce are legally recognized reasons to get a divorce. This is the justification for severing the marital relationship. Oklahoma, like most states, has what are commonly called no-fault grounds for divorce, and several traditional fault-based grounds. To get a no-fault divorce in Kansas you need to state in the Petition for Divorce that “the parties are incompatible.”
The fault-based grounds for divorce are: abandonment for 1 year, adultery, impotence, the wife was pregnant by another at the time of the marriage, extreme cruelty, fraud in connection with the marriage, habitual drunkenness, gross neglect of marital duty, imprisonment for a felony, confinement for incurable insanity, and divorce in another state which does not release the party in Oklahoma of the obligations of marriage. However, in most cases, there is no reason to use either of these, since they add complexity to the process by requiring proof.
A divorce involves dividing property and debts between you and your spouse. Generally, each party will keep his or her separate property, which is property acquired (1) before marriage, or (2) after marriage by a party “in his or her own right.” All other property is marital property. Unless the parties reach an agreement on the division of property and debts, Oklahoma divorce law provides that the judge will decide the matter “in a just and reasonable manner.” The judge may also refer the issue to mediation.
Alimony in Oklahoma
Alimony is referred to as separate maintenance in Oklahoma. Unlike most states, Oklahoma divorce law does not provide much in the way of guidelines. All the Oklahoma law says is that separate maintenance may be awarded to either party “as may appear just and reasonable.” The judge may also refer the issue of separate maintenance to mediation.
Child Custody in Oklahoma
If you and your spouse have any minor children, there will have to be a custody determination. This basically comes down to figuring out how the children’s time will be divided between the parents, and how decisions will be made. Absent an agreement on custody, the court is directed to consider “what appears to be in the best interests of the physical and mental and moral welfare of the child.” Oklahoma child custody law provides extensive guidance in relation to visitation and grandparent visitation, but very little in relation to the determination of actual custody. This leaves much to the discretion of the judge. The few specific custody factors to be considered are scattered throughout the Oklahoma divorce laws, and include:
- any false allegations of abuse or neglect by a party,
- any determination by the court that a party has committed domestic violence, stalking, or harassment directed at the other party,
- the wishes of the child, if the court determines the child is of a sufficient age to form an intelligent preference,
- which party is more likely to allow frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other party, and
- if the party seeking custody (or a person residing with him or her) is or has been subject to the registration requirements of the Oklahoma Sex Offenders Registration Act or any similar act in any other state, has been convicted of a crime listed in the Oklahoma Child Abuse Reporting and Prevention Act, is an alcohol-dependent or drug-dependent person who poses an imminent threat of inflicting serious bodily harm to himself or herself or another, or has been convicted of domestic abuse within the past 5 years.
If either or both parents request joint custody, they must file a proposed parenting plan, outlining the living arrangements for the child, child support, medical and dental care, school placement, and visitation rights. They may file a joint parenting plan, or separate plans.
In a no-fault divorce (based upon incompatibility), the parties are required to attend an educational program concerning the impact of divorce on children, and to pay a fee of between $15 and $60. The court may also require the parties to attend “an educational program concerning, as appropriate, the impact of separate parenting and coparenting on children, the implications for visitation and conflict management, development of children, separate financial responsibility for children, and such other instruction as deemed necessary by the court.” The judge may also refer the issue of custody to mediation, and order the parties to undergo individual counseling (if they can afford it).
Child Support in Oklahoma
A decision must also be made about how the children will be financially supported. This almost always comes down to one parent paying money to the other. Child support is determined by taking into account the needs of the child, and each parent’s relative ability to meet those needs. This is determined by reference to the Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines.
Child support continues until the child reaches the age of 18. However, if the child has not graduated from high school, support may be continued until the age of 20 or graduation from high school or an alternative high school education program, whichever occurs first.
A wife’s maiden or former name may be restored, and a husband’s former name may be restored, if the name was changed as a result of the marriage.
A Decree of Divorce is not final for 6 months, or until any appeals are concluded, whichever occurs last. It is a felony (bigamy) for either party to marry, or to cohabitate with someone (adultery) within this period.
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