There are several grounds for which an individual may seek a divorce in Oklahoma. However, the overwhelming majority of divorces are granted on the grounds that the married couple are now incompatible. Any other grounds such as adultery requires specific proof. Oklahoma generally has jurisdiction to grant a divorce if one or both of the parties have resided in Oklahoma for the at least six months. A divorce is commenced with the filing of a Petition in the county in which one or both of the parties has resided for the preceding six months. Common Law Marriage is still recognized in Oklahoma, but requires evidence that parties actually believe they were married by presentation of evidence such as joint tax returns or a spouse designation for health insurance coverage.
A divorce can be obtained by agreement or by a Judge at trial. When the parties have reached an agreement before commencing proceedings, our firm charges a flat fee to represent one of the parties to draft, file, and obtain a Decree of Divorce with the Court. An agreed Decree of Divorce can be entered by the Court as early as ten (10) days after filing the petition where there are no minor children of the marriage, and ninety (90) days after filing the petition when there are minor children of the marriage.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding the terms of a divorce, our firm will aggressively litigate to a conclusion all issues of the divorce at the attorney's hourly rate. Our firm requests an initial retainer fee commensurate with the issues and facts of each particular case. The case will then proceed with the attorney billing for all services on the case at the attorney's hourly rate.
Things to do if you are about to go through a divorce
- Secure Financial Information - Secure and maintain separate records of all financial holdings such as a bank account, IRA, 401k, land purchases, and stocks; including separate holdings only in your spouse's name.
- Document All Personal Property - There is generally no documentation of the extent of a person's personal property such as jewelry, furniture, household goods, and tools. Take pictures and or video of everything you and your spouse own with a date stamp in case you need to prove such items were in possession.
- Do Not Move Out of the Marital Residence - Moving out of the marital residence before a divorce is commenced can often place the party that moved at a significant disadvantage in the divorce proceeding depending upon the facts of the particular case.
- Freeze or Close Spousal Access to Joint Credit Accounts - To protect your credit, make sure your spouse lacks the ability to increase marital debt before the commencement of the divorce.
- Insist Upon Maintaining a Significant and Positive Relationship with Your Children at All Times - Insist upon establishing and maintaining a schedule of physical custody/visitation that is reasonable and reflects the best interests of the children.
The Divorce Procedure
The divorce commences with a filing a Petition. A Summons will be issued and served upon your spouse commanding a response to be filed with the Court within twenty (20) days of service. The Summons is also accompanied with a Notice of Automatic Temporary Injunction forbidding either party from such things as transferring property or altering financial accounts. In most cases, there is a need to request a Temporary Order from the Court. The purpose of a Temporary Order is to establish the rules of conduct between the parties concerning the children, property, and debt until the Court has the time to have a trial on the merits of the case. Most Temporary Order Hearings occur within forty-five (45) days of the filing of a Petition. Throughout the proceeding, it is usually necessary to obtain information from the opposing party. The process by which information is obtained from the opposing party is called “discovery”. There are several different means of discovery available and depend upon the type of information that is being requested. The divorce trial will be heard by the Judge in which the case was assigned at the time the case is filed.
Property and Debt Division
The marital estate includes all property and debt which was acquired through the joint industry of marriage. Marital property includes retirement acquired during the marriage. A person can have separate property that is not part of the marital estate if it was acquired by gift, inheritance, or was acquired exclusively before the marriage. The court will make a division of all marital property and debt based upon the equities and facts of each case.
In many divorces, one spouse has the need for continued support after the conclusion of the marriage. In order to support an award of support alimony, a party must prove a need for the support alimony and that the opposing party has the ability to pay. For example, The need can be established at a minimum by showing that reasonable monthly expenses exceed the party's income and that the spouse has enough disposable income after expenses to pay the deficit.
Our firm handles many military divorce and custody matters each year. There are certain statutory protections for service members and their spouses that do not apply to civilians. Our firm is well versed in the regulations and federal statutes applicable to military divorce, custody, and retirements. Below are helpful links regarding military divorces.
Child Custody/Paternity Actions
A parent can seek custody of a child in a divorce proceeding or in a paternity proceeding. The difference between a “sole custody” and “joint custody” lies conceptually within the realm of decision making, not time spent with a child. A parent that is awarded sole custody by the Court, has the right to make all material decisions concerning the child subject only to other parent's designated visitation periods. A parent with Joint Custody is required to jointly make material decisions and share physical custody of the child according to the provisions of a “Joint Custody Plan”. Joint Custody does not require equal physical custody periods between the parents.
Guardian ad Litem
A child may express a preference if the Court determines the child has sufficient maturity to make a preference. The Court will many times appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to represent a child, investigate the family dynamic, and make recommendations to the Court regarding the child's best interest. The costs of the Guardian Ad Litem are shared by the parents as ordered by the Court.
A parent can seek an order for visitation with a child in a divorce or a paternity proceeding. The Court is required to determine a visitation schedule that is in the child's best interest. Every decree is required to provide a specific minimum amount of visitation between the noncustodial parent and the children. Each county has adopted a minimum standard visitation schedule. Although the schedules vary slightly, they generally provide the same framework. Examples of Standard Visitation Schedules can be found at the link below.
All custody orders are to be accompanied by a calculation of child support pursuant to the child support guidelines unless the income of the parties exceeds the guideline maximum. The child support guidelines are computed by detrmining the combined adjusted gross incomes of the mother and father. A statutory table provides the total amount that the legislature has estimated it will cost to sport number of children of the parties. The noncustodial parent must pay his or her proportionate share of the support figure from the table. The parents also share their proportionate amount of the cost of health insurance, uninsured medical expenses, and take daycare . Child support is generally paid by way of an employer income assignment. Below is a link to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services child support calculator.
The payor is given a “shared parenting” adjustment from base child support for the number of overnight visitation periods that the Court awards exceeding 120 overnight periods per year.
Modifications of Custody, Visitation, and Child Support
All existing orders of custody, visitation, and child support are modifiable at any time upon showing the Court there has been a substantial change of condition. The proceeding begins with the filing of a Motion to Modify with the Court that issued the prior order.
Hourly Rates and Retainer Fees
Uncontested divorces are billed as a flat fee that ranges from $1000 to $1,500 depending upon the complexity of the case. All contested Family Law matters start with the payment of a retainer ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 depending upon the complexity of the case. A retainer is a payment of fees in advance to the attorney for services to be performed in the matter at the billing rates of the attorney and paralegal. Our hourly rates are $300 per hour for attorneys and $125 for paralegals.