Under Oklahoma law, there really are only a few key differences between obtaining a divorce and getting a legal separation. These differences are the end result, which is the termination of the marriage with a divorce and continuation of the marriage with a separation, and the requirements with regards to residency and for grounds. There is no residency requirement to obtain a legal separation. However, if you wish to get a divorce in Oklahoma, then you will need to satisfy a residency requirement consisting of 6 months in the state and 30 days in the county where you are filing. Unlike a legal separation, which does not require you to provide a reason for filing, you will need to identify exactly why you are getting divorced. There are 12 different reasons for divorce that are officially recognized by the courts:
- Incompatibility, but this reason comes with the requirement that you attend a program that will inform you about the effects of divorce on a child if you and your spouse have children
- Abandonment for at least a year
- Extreme physical, emotional and/or mental cruelty
- Gross neglect of one’s duty to their spouse
- Fraudulent contract
- Existence of a divorce decree obtained elsewhere that has led to one spouse being free from the obligation while still keeping the other spouse married
- Impotency, which is the physical inability to procreate
- If the wife was already pregnant by another man when she married her spouse
- Imprisonment for a felony at the time your are filing for a divorce
- Habitual drunkenness
- Insanity for 5 years wherein the insane spouse has been institutionalized for all 5 years and for whom a poor prognosis of recovery has been properly made, but this reason comes with a residency requirement of living for 5 years in the state before you can file
What Paperwork Do I Need to File for Divorce?
To file for divorce in Oklahoma, you have to file a Petition for Divorce and a Civil Cover Sheet with your local court. While you can obtain a form from the court for the Civil Cover Sheet, you will need to come up with your own Petition for Divorce from scratch. You do not need to inform your spouse of your intentions while you are considering divorce, and even while you are creating your Petition for Divorce, but you will have to let them know that you are filing for divorce after you file your petition with the court because you will then need to serve your spouse a copy of your petition.
Community Property vs. Separate Property
When it comes to property distribution in a divorce proceeding, Oklahoma adheres to the principle of equitable distribution. This means that judges will split up marital property based on what is fair, as opposed to dividing the marital property equally between the two spouses. Marital property is generally any property the couple acquired during the marriage that does not otherwise qualify as separate property. In Oklahoma, separate property encompasses:
- Property acquired by either spouse prior to getting married
- Any property that the spouses agreed to keep as separate property in an antenuptial contract
- Any Special Monthly Compensation that a spouse is receiving from the US Department of Veterans Affairs for service-connected loss
- Any Combat-Related Special Compensation that a spouse is given as compensation for their combat-related bodily function loss or limb loss
Generally, all of your separate property is yours and will not be included when the court divides property between you and your spouse. However, the court does have the ability to take some of your separate property and give it to your spouse for the support any children you may have had together in the event that your spouse is given primary custody of the children.
What Should I Do If There Are Children Involved?
A divorce that involves children will have the additional matters of child custody and child support that should be resolved. If you wait to resolve child support at a later date, then you may end up spending more than you anticipated because the cost of hiring a lawyer to deal with just child custody and child support lawyer can range from $3,000-40,000, depending on the complexity of the matter.
As previously mentioned, you will need to take a parenting course on the impact of divorce on kids if your reason for divorce is incompatibility. You may be required to take the course even if you are getting divorced for another reason, especially if the court is considering giving full custody to you. If you are seeking to get joint custody instead of full custody, then you need to submit a joint parenting plan to the court describing just how you and your spouse plan to co-parent. Once you have submitted your parenting plan or otherwise made your custody desires known, the court will determine if the arrangement you have in mind is in the best interest of the child by considering a number of factors, such as:
- Each parent’s involvement with the daily care of the child
- The physical and mental health of each parent
- If either parent has any criminal history
- The child’s connection to their school and community
Upon the determination of a suitable custody arrangement, the court will then determine how much, if any, child support you or your spouse will need to pay. If one parent is granted primary custody, then the other parent will likely be required to contribute to raising the child through child support. Remember, the court can also require you to hand over some of your separate property to provide financial support to your child. The amount that you may have to pay for child support is based on your gross income, although a number of other factors such as the other parent’s gross income may impact that amount.
Do I Need to Pay Alimony?
In certain situations, the court may require you to pay alimony, also known as spousal support, in the form of real property, personal property, and/or money. Whether or not you will be required to pay alimony depends on whether the court determines that such financial support would be equitable with regard to the overall situation. Any requirement for alimony will end when the spouse receiving the alimony gets married again or dies. Alimony can also be modified if the spouse receiving alimony moves in with a new significant other or if the financial circumstances of either spouse change.
Where Can I Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?
Since divorce involves so many important parts of your life such as your finances, you should speak with an Oklahoma divorce lawyer. They can help you understand the divorce process and assert your rights during such a difficult time.