Overview of Divorce Laws in Oklahoma
If you are considering a divorce in Oklahoma, it is important to understand the divorce laws and how they apply to your situation. This guide will help you understand the rules and procedures so that you can equip yourself with the information you need to get through divorce in Oklahoma.
Here are some of the important legal issues that are common to many divorces in Oklahoma:
- Equitable Distribution and Asset Division
- Spousal Support and Child Support
- Child Custody and Visitation
- Divorce Process
- Other Divorce Issues
Equitable Distribution & Asset Division
Marital Property and Division of Assets in Oklahoma
Oklahoma follows equitable distribution laws when it comes to marital assets. The courts will attempt to come up with a distribution that is fair and equitable but may not be a 50/50 split.
Before this can happen, it must be determined what assets and what debts are considered marital property. The value of the marital assets are determined, and the marital debts are subtracted. What’s left over is divided.
A fair division can be impacted by many factors such as each spouse’s ability to work, who will be primarily responsible for taking of any children, alimony and child support payments from one spouse to another, any fraud or conduct that decreased the value of the marital property, and other related factors.
Most assets accumulated during a marriage are considered marital property, but there are exceptions, such as with gifts or an inheritance. Separate property is awarded only to the spouse who owns it.
The value of property is determined by its current “fair market value,” which is what a buyer would be willing to pay, and a seller willing to accept, for the property on the open market.
Read More: Who Gets the House in a Divorce?
Courts divide debts in Oklahoma the same way they divide assets. They are split in an equitable manner, although not always on a 50/50 basis.
If one spouse was found to have caused a considerable amount of marital debt during a marriage, they may be held to a different standard than the other spouse, meaning they might have to shoulder a larger part of that debt.
Gifts and Inherited Property
In Oklahoma if you inherit an asset or you are given a gift that is meant only for you as a stand-alone spouse, and if you do not commingle it into the family’s finances, you will have a much better chance of keeping that property for yourself. Judges to have a fair amount of discretion and that means how all assets are divided, are subject to court review and approval to ensure a split is just and fair.
It may be possible preserve a gift or inheritance as sole ownership by having a spouse sign a pre- or postnuptial agreement agreeing that the asset belongs exclusively to the other spouse, no matter how it is characterized in the marriage.
Pensions, IRAs, 401Ks and Retirement Plans
Just like other marital assets, pensions and retirement accounts must be considered when dividing assets in an Oklahoma divorce. Generally, this applies only to the amounts accumulated during marriage. Any amounts that a spouse accumulated before a marriage or after separation are considered separate property.
Legally splitting pension and retirement accounts is done by executing a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. A spouse may get as much as 50% of a retirement account or possibly more, or it may be bartered away in exchange for receiving other marital assets, such as the family home.
The QDRO must be approved by the courts and then it is submitted to the plan administrator who must also approve it. This can take several months, but once in place it establishes the other spouse as an alternate payee and the account will be divided according to the specifics of the QDRO.
To avoid the seemingly inevitable hassle of executing a QDRO, try using an online service like QDRO Counsel! QDRO Counsel is the leading brand in online qualified domestic relations orders and will ensure that all of your information is taken into account, all without needing to leave your home.
Determining the exact value of pensions and retirement accounts can be a complex process, and many times an expert such as an accountant, business appraiser, pension valuator, actuary, or a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is retained to make an accurate assessment.
Spousal Support and Child Support
Spousal Support in Oklahoma
Alimony is also called spousal support in Oklahoma. It is usually paid in monthly installments but can also be paid in a single lump sum. It is sometimes granted on a short-term basis or for longer periods of time, depending on the particulars of a marriage. There is no set formula for determining amounts or duration in the state.
The courts will look at several factors when determining a fair alimony payment. Some of those will include:
- Demonstrated need after marriage to allow for an economic readjustment period
- The length of the marriage
- The health and age of each spouse
- The earning ability and education of each spouse
- The parties’ physical condition and financial means
- The mode of living to which each spouse has become accustomed during the marriage
- Evidence of a spouse’s own income-producing capacity and the time necessary to make the transition for self-support.
As life events change, whether through the loss of a job or a health issue, or the other spouse gets married, alimony can be modified by going back to court and asking for that consideration.
Child Support in Oklahoma
Oklahoma has child support guidelines in place to determine the amount of support that each parent must provide.
Guidelines are based on each parent’s adjusted gross income which are combined and then The Oklahoma Child Support Guideline Schedule is used to determine each parents’ baseline support.
Each parent’s percentage share of the combined gross monthly family income sets that parent’s percentage share of the base child support obligation. The parent who is not the primary custodian of the child generally pays the primary custodian his or her share of the base support.
The guideline schedule goes to $15,000 per month total combined income. When parents make more than that, child support is computed using the maximum from the schedule, plus an additional amount that is determined by the court.
Support continues until a child turns 18 years old. If a child is still in high school, child support is paid until the child graduates or turns 19 years of age, whichever happens first.
All child support in Oklahoma is collected by income assignment. This means an order to withhold income for child support directs an employer to pay a portion of the parent’s earnings for child support. The withheld earnings are directed to a Centralized Support Registry operated in Oklahoma by the Department of Human Services.
Modifications to the amount of child support a parent pays can be requested based on if there have been major changes in either parent’s life since the previous child support order was put in place. A change might be the loss of a job, or a new baby or a shift in the amount of time your child spends with you.
Child Custody and Visitation
Child Custody in Oklahoma
Custody and visitation issues in Oklahoma are driven by the best interests of children in a divorce. Courts can give custody to one or both parents and do not give preference to a mother or father based on gender. They are also reluctant to separate siblings whenever possible.
The court may consider a child’s preference as to where he or she wants to live as early as age 12, but they do not have to follow the child’s wishes.
A court can grant visitation rights to a grandparent if it is determined to be in the child’s best interest.
When custody is established, a court usually also decides the amount of visitation each parent will have with the child.
Many factors may influence how this is determined. This can include a child’s emotional, social and educational needs, the home environment of each spouse, the ability of each spouse to provide care for the child, the relationship a child has with each parent, and several other factors.
Substance abuse can be one of the fault-based reasons for getting a divorce in Oklahoma. By proving substance abuse existed and contributed to the break-up of a marriage, it may be possible to gain certain advantages when it comes to child custody or a division of assets, depending on the circumstances of the marriage.
Even if substance abuse is not the state ground for the break-up of a marriage, it can still be cited when it comes to child custody. If it is determined that a child is at risk due to a parent’s substance abuse problem, it is not likely that a court will grant that parent custody.
When it comes to custody and visitation, things like casual drinking or recreational marijuana use likely won’t influence a decision much, if at all. Illegal drugs will probably have much more of an impact.
Bifurcation of marital status
Bifurcation of marital status in Oklahoma is sometimes granted and means that both parties can legally divide their divorce into two stages.
The first part satisfies the grounds for the divorce and allows a couple to become legally divorced without taking care of all the details.
The second part addresses those issues, typically such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony or other contentious issues that may have stalled or become major sticking points that are keeping the divorce from being finalized.
Keep in mind that bifurcation is not judicially efficient due to the need for two court actions or trials. It can also be more expensive and drag out the process for a much longer time period.
Financial disclosures are mandatory as part of an Oklahoma divorce. Both spouses are required to disclose all of their marital assets to the court so that a fair and equitable distribution can take place.
Specifically, this means All marital assets valued at $100 or more must be included in that financial disclosure. Your net income and debt payments must also be included as well.
When a spouse files for divorce, an automatic injunction is put in place that prohibits selling, changing title, or concealing marital assets that goes into effect immediately. It includes financial accounts, such as bank, retirement, profit sharing, pensions and any other type of account that holds funds that are available or can be borrowed against.
Disclosing assets is also important in figuring out child support and alimony issues.
Spouses are sometimes reluctant to release this type of information. When that happens, legal remedies may be employed, such as a subpoena served directly on a financial institution, to get all of the required information.
Keep in mind that if a spouse lies on a financial disclosure document, they may be liable for both criminal and civil penalties. A court may award additional compensation in the form of assets or cash. A spouse could also be ordered to pay all or a portion of the other spouse’s attorney fees.
After a spouse petitions for divorce in Oklahoma, the defendant has 20 days after being served to respond to the divorce complaint.
If they do not respond, it may be possible to seek a default judgment by asking the judge to grant the divorce despite no response.
In this case, a defendant who does not respond forfeits their right to contest terms of the divorce, including child custody and support, alimony a division of assets and debts and other related issues.
Other Divorce Issues
Domestic violence is one of the grounds of divorce in Oklahoma, falling under the umbrella of extreme cruelty.
It includes any kind of physical abuse, emotional abuse, stalking, or any other kind of harassment including those made through phone calls, mail, or social media inflicted on one spouse, children or other family members by the other spouse.
Aside from having a negative impact on a marriage over the long-term, the immediate threat must be dealt with as soon as possible. This may mean leaving the residence as soon as possible, seeking a Domestic Violence Protective Order and working with law enforcement if assault or other crimes have been committed.
Domestic violence will definitely have an impact on child custody. Because the best interests of a child always come first, if domestic violence by one parent can be demonstrated, it could mean restrictions or complete denial on custody or visitation privileges.
The statewide toll-free hotline for domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking is 1-800-522-SAFE (7233). You can also go online to the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to find information on domestic violence, sexual assault, verbal abuse, getting a protective order, Internet safety and safety planning.
When a divorce complaint is filed, it puts in place a temporary injunction. As part of this, a spouse cannot alter or cancel the other spouse’s health insurance until a divorce is completed. Any children must also remain covered as well.
After a divorce takes place, virtually all employers dictate that a spouse can no longer remain on the other’s health insurance plan after a divorce. This means they must get their own healthcare coverage if not covered in a settlement agreement.
Some settlements dictate that one spouse must continue to pay for health coverage, both for the spouse and for any children. In other cases, coverage for children is mandatory more often than not and may be split by both spouses.
An ex-spouse can apply for COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) benefits if their spouse was covered by an employer during the marriage.
It allows you to continue with your spouse’s current coverage for up to 36 months as long as you pay the premiums. The major drawback is that this can be very expensive because an employer will no longer cover any portion of the premium.
Infidelity and Adultery
Infidelity and adultery can be cited as the reason for a divorce in Oklahoma. If it can be proven, adultery or infidelity could have a big impact on a division of assets, alimony, child custody and other issues if it can be proved that these actions had a direct impact on the other spouse’s finances.
Military Divorces in Oklahoma
Military divorce in Oklahoma are handled the same as civilian divorces in some ways. But in other respects, there are some notable differences.
For example, under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, active military members are protected from default judgements while they are on active duty. Although this protection is in place, a servicemember may choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork that allows the divorce to proceed uncontested.
It’s best to file a divorce in the United States even if deployed overseas. Military divorce laws allow servicemembers and their spouses to file for divorce in:
- The state where the nonmilitary spouse resides
- The state where the service member is currently stationed
- The state where the service member claims legal residency.
The grounds for a military divorce in Oklahoma are the same as they are for a civilian divorce. But in addition to state property division laws, the federal government has established the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) that governs how military retirement benefits are calculated and divided when a divorce takes place.
The terms of this act determine how the direct payment of a portion of a military retiree’s pay is given to the former spouse. A key element is that the former spouse must have been married to the former servicemember for a minimum of 10 years while the military member has served on active duty.
In addition to a division of assets, child support and spousal support are handled differently than in a civilian case. Federal law dictates that these awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemembers pay and allowances.
Under the 20/20/20 rule, a former spouse who has not remarried may receive medical, commissary, exchange and theater privileges under the Morale, Welfare and Recreation program Requirements for benefits include:
- The former spouse was married to the military member for at least 20 years at the time of the divorce, dissolution or annulment.
- The military member has performed at least 20 years of service that is creditable in determining eligibility for retired pay (the member does not have to be retired from active duty).
- The former spouse was married to the member during at least 20 years of the member’s retirement-creditable service.
Former spouses may also be entitled to TRICARE medical coverage if he or she meets certain requirements as well.
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