Divorce Laws of the State of Oklahoma
(written by Mr. Sudhir Shah and Miss Sonam Bohra)
1) Oklahoma Statutes contain all the laws prevailing in the state. The said statutes are divided into various titles. In the same manner Title 43 called Marriage and Family contains all the provisions relating to Marriage and Divorce.
2) A petition for divorce must be filed with the District Court of the County in which the plaintiff or the defendant resides.
3) The following are the residency requirements for filing a petition for divorce with the district Court of the state:
4) Provisions for service of summons:
Personal service: the following persons may serve the divorce papers personally upon the defendant:
Service of divorce papers is affected by:
Certified Mail: the plaintiff may also elect to serve the papers by using mail service. Such mail may be sent by the plaintiff’s attorney or any person authorized by law to do so.
The plaintiff may elect the certified mail service for service of process. But in such case return receipt must be requested.
Publication: if the plaintiff fails to locate the defendant then he may explore the option of service by publication. Publication refers to publishing a notice in the newspaper which is circulated in the County in which the petition for divorce is filed. The said notice must be signed by the Clerk of the Court and published once in a week for 3 weeks. However such newspaper must be the one which is permitted to publish legal notices.
If the County does not have any such newspaper in which legal notices may be published then that newspaper may be used which has a general circulation and is circulated in the adjoining county.
5) The following are the grounds for divorce in the state of Oklahoma:
· abandonment for one year;
· when the wife at the time of her marriage, was pregnant by person other than her husband;
· extreme cruelty;
· fraudulent contract;
· habitual drunkenness;
· gross neglect of duty;
· imprisonment of the other party for the commission of an offence at the time the petition is filed;
· securing of a divorce decree by husband/wife from any other state;
[Note: the above ground can be understood with an example which is as follows:
‘A’ and ‘B’ are married to each other. ‘A’ obtains a decree of divorce form the New York State Supreme Court. ‘B’ is still not relieved from marital obligations. But ‘B’ can file petition for divorce with the District Court of the state of Oklahoma.
This is so because as per the marriage and divorce laws of the state of Oklahoma even if ‘A’ has obtained a divorce decree ‘B’ is still considered to be married. But if ‘A’ has obtained divorce from another state ‘B’ can file for divorce on that basis]
6) No fault divorce: incompatibility is the basis on which an action for divorce may be filed with the Court of competent jurisdiction. In case of no fault divorce neither of the spouses blames the other for giving rise to a cause for divorce. This shows that if the spouses find themselves incompatible with each other they may approach Court pleading a divorce.
7) Default divorce: in the state of Oklahoma the non filing spouse has 20 days period to file an answer, to the divorce papers that have been served upon him. Such 20 days period begins from the date of receipt of divorce papers. However on the failure of the spouse to file an answer the Court has power to enter the default of the spouse and grant divorce to the filing spouse. This is so because summons contains the information that default shall be entered upon failure to file an answer.
However the party against whom default judgement is entered may approach the Court anytime within 3 years from the date of the divorce decree pleading the Court to set aside the divorce decree. However the applicant has to notify the other spouse regarding his intention of appealing against the default divorce. However the applicant has to notify the Court that he had no notice to appear before the Court at the time when the divorce action was filed.
Before discussing the alimony and property distribution factors, it is pertinent to know what the Oklahoma law lays down. The law is as follows:
The husband must support himself and his wife out of his property or by his labor. The wife must support the husband when he has not deserted her out of her property or when he has no community or separate property and he is unable from infirmity to support him.
8) Alimony factors: the Court may order that spousal support be paid out of the separate property of one spouse. In other words if the Court finds it proper to do so the Court may order one spouse to pay maintenance to the other spouse out of its own real or personal property. The Court may order spousal support on an installment basis or otherwise.
The order may provide for payment of the support amount to the clerk of the Court. In such case it is the duty of the obligor to pay the amount to the Court clerk. The Court clerk is then supposed to mail the payment to the deserving spouse.
9) Property distribution factors: the state is an equitable distribution state; hence the Court divides the property among the spouses in an equitable fashion. The separate property is awarded to that spouse to whom it belongs rightfully. All that property which has been acquired by both the spouses after marriage by their joint efforts shall be divided among both of them in such fashion as the Court shall consider just and reasonable.
However if an antenuptial agreement exists between both the spouses then the property shall be divided as per the terms of such agreement.
10) Child custody factors: best interest of the child shall be the prime factor considered by the Court in determining the custody of the child. In doing so the Court may grant custody of the child to only one parent or to both the parents jointly. Both the parents may themselves submit a parenting plan to the Court, which is considered by the Court. Parenting plan includes the physical living arrangements for the child, child support obligations, medical and dental care for the child, school placement, and visitation rights.
The concerned Court authorities develop a visitation plan and advisory guidelines if the parties to the action are unable to agree upon the custody of the child. In awarding custody the Court shall consider:
It is the policy of this state to assure that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interests of their children and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.
11) Child Support factors: the motion for child can be filed by any of the following persons:
Ø is eighteen (18) years of age or older,
Ø does not suffer from mental disability, and
Ø is determined by the court to be capable of managing the child’s financial affairs.
The Court shall take into account the child support guidelines while arriving at the amount of child support. As per the guidelines child support is computed as a percentage of the combined gross income of both parents. The child support obligation of each parent is calculated. The obligor parent is asked to pay the amount to the other parent. How child support obligation is calculated is provided for in Title 43 section 119 of the Oklahoma Statutes.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS