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How Do You File for Divorce in Oklahoma?

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Filing for divorce in Oklahoma involves specific legal steps and understanding the state's distinct requirements. Oklahoma offers both no-fault and fault-based grounds for divorce, each necessitating different documentation and approaches.

Every step, from serving your spouse to finalizing the decree, has legal nuances that must be meticulously managed to ensure the proceedings go smoothly. This article by our Oklahoma divorce attorneys at Yarborough Law Group aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the divorce laws in Oklahoma.

Understanding Oklahoma Divorce Laws

For those considering a divorce in Oklahoma, it's important to understand that the state recognizes equitable distribution of marital assets. This means the court divides marital property fairly, though not necessarily equally, based on various factors, including each spouse's financial status, contributions to the marriage, and future needs.

Eligibility Criteria for Filing for Divorce in Oklahoma

In order to file for a divorce in Oklahoma, certain residency requirements must be met. Either the petitioner or the respondent must have been a bona fide resident of the state for at least six months immediately before filing the petition.

Additionally, any person who has been a resident of any U.S. Army post or military reservation within Oklahoma for six months prior to filing the petition is also eligible to file for divorce.

Appropriate Venue for Filing Your Divorce

Divorces can be filed in the county where the petitioner has been a resident for the 30 days immediately preceding the filing of the petition or in the county where the respondent is a resident. However, the court may transfer the case to any other county where the venue would be proper under certain circumstances.

Filing Prerequisites for Divorce in Oklahoma

Filing divorce paperwork in Oklahoma can be complex, especially if you're representing yourself. While the state doesn't directly provide divorce documents, you can get them from the court clerk's office or local nonprofit organizations. Alternatively, hiring a divorce attorney can ease the process.

Whether filing alone or with an attorney, you'll need standard documents like a cover sheet, divorce petition, and summons. For uncontested divorces, additional documents like an entry of appearance and waiver, proposed divorce decree, and custody plan are necessary.

In Oklahoma, a "waiver divorce" allows uncontested divorces where both spouses participate and the non-filing spouse signs a waiver of service.

Filing fees range from $215 to $260, varying by county. If your spouse doesn't agree to waive service, you'll need to pay extra for official service through a process server, law enforcement officer, or certified mail.

ways to serve your spouse with divorce documents

Grounds for Divorce in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the legal framework for divorce is largely characterized by the prevalence of no-fault dissolutions, with the principle of incompatibility serving as the main reason for most marital separations.

Grounds for Divorce Without Fault

No-fault divorces in Oklahoma provide a quicker procedure, as neither spouse is obligated to present substantial evidence showing that the other spouse's actions or behaviors directly resulted in the marriage's dissolution.

Instead, the court will grant a no-fault divorce when one spouse merely states that the couple's inherent incompatibility has made the continuation of the marital union unworkable.

Grounds for Divorce Based on Fault

On the other hand, a fault-based divorce requires the submission of evidence showing that the marriage's breakdown was directly due to one spouse's specific actions or behavior.

The state's laws provide a detailed list of fault-based grounds, which include:

  • Desertion of the marital relationship for a continuous period of at least one year.
  • Adultery indicated by the presence of extramarital affairs or infidelity.
  • Impotence and inability to engage in marital relations.
  • Cases where the wife was pregnant by another man at the time of the marriage.
  • Extreme cruelty, including physical, emotional, or psychological abuse committed by one spouse against the other.
  • Fraudulent contractual agreements made during the marriage.
  • Chronic alcoholism or habitual drunkenness.
  • Severe neglect of marital duties or responsibilities by one spouse.
  • The imprisonment of one spouse due to a felony offense.
  • Mental incapacity lasting for a continuous period of five years.

The acquisition of a final divorce decree outside of Oklahoma does not release the other spouse from the obligations of marriage as recognized under Oklahoma law.

Steps to File for Divorce

Here's a breakdown of the steps required to file for a divorce in Oklahoma:

Filing for an Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce ("waiver" divorce) follows a relatively simple procedure. This is facilitated by the mutual agreement between both parties concerning all aspects of the divorce, including property division, child custody, and alimony. Here's a guide to initiating an uncontested divorce:

  • Prepare the Necessary Divorce Documentation: These include a cover sheet, a petition for divorce, an Entry of Appearance and waiver, and a proposed divorce decree.
  • File the Divorce Papers: Once the required divorce forms are prepared, they must be filed with the court clerk at the district court in your county.
  • Serve Your Spouse: If your spouse hasn't signed a waiver of service, you must serve them with the divorce papers through a process server or the sheriff's office.
  • Await Response: If your spouse has signed the waiver of service, there's no need to wait for their response — however, if not, they have 20 days to respond.

Once the waiting period has elapsed, the court will review your case and sign the divorce decree, effectively finalizing your divorce.

Filing for a Contested Divorce

A contested divorce presents a more intricate process, involving disputes between spouses over one or more divorce-related matters. Here's a step-by-step guide to filing a contested divorce in Oklahoma:

  • Draft Essential Divorce Documentation: This includes a cover sheet, a petition for divorce, a summons, and a proposed divorce decree, akin to an uncontested divorce.
  • File the Divorce Papers: Proceed to file the divorce forms with the court clerk situated at the district court in your county.
  • Serve Legal Notice to Your Spouse: Serve your spouse with the divorce papers, ensuring they are duly notified of the ongoing divorce proceedings.
  • Await Response from Your Spouse: Allow your spouse a 20-day window to respond; if they contest any aspects of your petition, they may file a counter-petition.
  • Attend Court Proceedings: If disagreements persist on divorce-related matters, a judge will assess the evidence presented.

Upon resolution of all contentious issues, the judge will sign the divorce decree, thereby formalizing the divorce proceedings.

Addressing the Problems and Terminating the Matrimonial Union

In the event of an undisputed divorce, you and your spouse are required to present the following legal documents to the court:

  • A matrimonial settlement agreement.
  • A child visitation schedule and parenting plan (if applicable).
  • Financial statements from both parties.
  • A child support calculation and custody timetable (if applicable).

The presiding judge will examine these documents and arrange a final hearing no fewer than 90 days after the initial submission. However, if both parties are in agreement, this 90-day waiting period can be waived.

In the case of a disputed divorce, the judge will necessitate an initial hearing to ascertain what issues, if any, the parties are in agreement on. This hearing will also lay out the roadmap for the trial. The judge may mandate mediation and an additional hearing before setting the final trial date.

It should be noted that a disputed divorce typically takes a significantly longer time to resolve compared to an undisputed divorce. Regardless of the duration of the divorce proceedings, once the final divorce decree is issued, both parties are legally prohibited from remarrying for a minimum period of six months.

discovery process during spousal dispute

Navigating Divorce Mediation in Oklahoma

Navigating divorce mediation in Oklahoma provides a constructive avenue for couples seeking an amicable dissolution of their marriage. This process involves enlisting the guidance of an impartial third party, known as a mediator, to facilitate open communication between spouses.

Divorce mediation offers distinct advantages, including cost-effectiveness and reduced emotional strain compared to traditional court proceedings. Additionally, the accessibility of online mediation enables couples to participate from any location with internet connectivity.

Successful mediation often leads to uncontested divorces, streamlining the entire process. However, it's essential to recognize that while mediation holds potential benefits, its suitability may vary depending on individual circumstances. Hence, a thorough evaluation of its applicability to your situation is paramount.

Additional Dimensions of the Oklahoma Divorce Process

Understanding several significant facets is crucial for navigating the divorce process effectively in Oklahoma:

Legal Separation in Oklahoma Divorce

In Oklahoma, legal separation provides couples the option to maintain marriage while living apart and managing separate finances. The residency requirement is absent for filing a legal separation petition, necessitating only the submission of a supporting affidavit.

Dividing Marital Assets in Oklahoma Divorce Proceedings

Oklahoma employs an equitable distribution model to divide marital property in divorce, aiming for fair rather than equal distribution. Factors considered include marriage duration, spouses' health, liabilities, asset value changes, and child custody arrangements. Courts may honor spousal agreements on asset division.

Alimony in Oklahoma Divorce Cases

Alimony eligibility is contingent upon the need arising from the marriage and the other spouse's ability to pay. Each case is decided on its merits, with no set formula for determining alimony. Factors include the duration of the marriage, contributions made, and post-divorce financial situations. Alimony may cease upon remarriage or death unless continued support is justified.

Child Support and Custody in Oklahoma Divorce

Child support and custody determinations are guided by the child's best interests. A statutory formula is utilized to calculate child support based on parental income, custody arrangements, and child-related expenses.

Custody decisions encompass physical and legal custody, with options for sole or joint custody tailored to meet the child's needs. Non-parental custody is rare, requiring a compelling case for the court's consideration.

Assisting You Through Your Divorce

Our team is dedicated to providing you with the guidance and assistance you need to successfully navigate the divorce process. From understanding legal separation options to ensuring proper property division and addressing child custody matters, Yarborough Law Group is here to help you every step of the way.

Contact us today and let our family law attorneys guide you through your divorce with confidence.

Cole Yarborough

Cole Yarborough, a top graduate from Oklahoma City University School of Law, brings a unique blend of experience to Yarborough Law Group. His background as a private investigator, process server, and legal intern, combined with a family legacy in law and law enforcement, equips him with a comprehensive understanding of both criminal and civil law, making him a formidable advocate in various legal matters.

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