Divorce – State FAQ – Oklahoma
Residency requirements, venue and procedures
Q: How long must I have lived in Oklahoma prior to filing for divorce in an Oklahoma court?
A: Oklahoma law requires that one of the spouses must be a resident of the state for a minimum of six (6) months immediately prior to the filing of the petition for divorce.
Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?
A: The party filing the action is called the Plaintiff, while the other party to the divorce is referred to as the Defendant.
Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?
A: “Venue” refers to which type of court and in what locality the case is filed. In Oklahoma, proper venue for the divorce action is the District Court. The petition may be filed in the county where the plaintiff has been a resident for at least thirty (30) days, or where the defendant resides.
Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The order granting the divorce?
A: The title of the document initiating the divorce proceeding is a Petition for Divorce, while the title of the order granting the divorce is referred to as the Decree of Divorce.
Q: Are there any waiting periods associated with a divorce action?
A: In a divorce action involving minor children, the court will not issue a decree of divorce until ninety (90) days have elapsed from the date of the filing of the petition. In addition, it is unlawful for a party to divorce action to remarry (except to each other) or cohabit with another for six months from the date of decree. Any person who violates this provision is guilty of bigamy (being married to more than one person) and may be imprisoned for a term of not less than one (1) year and not more than three (3) years in the State Penitentiary.
Grounds for divorce
Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?
A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Oklahoma. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.
Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Oklahoma?
A: Oklahoma law permits divorces based upon several different causes. Among them are:
1. Abandonment for one (1) year;
4. When wife at time of marriage is pregnant for someone other than her husband;
5. Extreme cruelty;
6. Fraudulent contract;
7. Habitual drunkenness;
8. Gross neglect of duty;
9. Imprisonment for the commission of a felony;
10. Insanity for a period of five (5) years; and,
11. “No-fault” ground of incompatibility of the parties.
Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?
A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce.
Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?
A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.
Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party?
A: Either spouse may be awarded alimony out of real and personal property of the other spouse as the court deems reasonable. The court shall make such award either in a lump sum or in installments, as it deems reasonable and just.
Q: When does the obligation to pay alimony end?
A: The obligation to pay alimony terminates upon the death or remarriage of the recipient or upon the voluntary cohabitation of the recipient with a member of the opposite sex.
Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?
A: Oklahoma is a so-called “equitable distribution” state. This means that the division of property and debts between the divorcing parties should be fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal. The court has wide discretion in making whatever equitable division is fair and just.
Q: Is the “separate property” of one spouse subject to being divided up?
A: The question here is whether property “belonging to” one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.
Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?
A: The property may be subject to division. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for the common benefit of the parties, it is more likely to be available for consideration in dividing property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.
Child custody and visitation
Q: What is child custody and visitation?
A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).
Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?
A: Oklahoma courts will decide the issue of custody based upon the best interests of the child. Custody may be granted to either parent or to both parents jointly. When awarding custody, the court shall consider which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the other parent. Gender of the parties shall not be a consideration in determining custody of the child. If either or both parents have requested joint custody, the party so requesting shall submit to the court parenting plans detailing the arrangements for the care of the child. Such plans shall include provisions relating to the medical and dental care of the child, school placement, physical living arrangements for the child, child support obligations, and visitation rights. In determining custody, the child may express his or her preference, although the court shall not be bound by the preference expressed by the child. The court may require the parties to a divorce involving minor children to attend an educational program concerning the impact of divorce on children and conflict resolution between parents. The court may also order individual counseling, as it deems appropriate.
Q: Can grandparents or siblings be granted visitation rights?
A: Yes. Grandparent visitation or visitation by brothers or sisters may be granted if it is within the best interest of the child.
Q: What is “child support”?
A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).
Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?
A: The Oklahoma legislature has established child support guidelines which establish the presumptive correct amount of child support. Deviation from the guidelines require a specific finding by the court that application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate and such findings must be included in the judgment. Child support orders may be modified upon a showing of material change in circumstances of the parties. A child shall be entitled to support until the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age.