What is Family Law?
Oklahoma family law governs the creation, maintenance, and dissolution of family relationships. Family law includes procedures for divorce, of course, and for child custody and support after a divorce. Family law further addresses various circumstances where biological family relationships emerge outside a legal framework — paternity matters, in particular.
Guardianships, foster care, adoption, protective orders, and termination of parental rights are all addressed in Oklahoma family law. Certain criminal laws are also cited in family law cases for various reasons.
Domestic violence or domestic abuse can affect the outcome of a divorce or child custody matter. Failure to meet child support obligations can also bring Oklahoma criminal law into a matter that originated in an Oklahoma family court. Bigamy — marrying multiple spouses — could cast the shadow of Oklahoma criminal law onto a related family law case.
Beyond these, some more archaic Oklahoma laws might be considered as related to family law. Adultery, for example, remains illegal under Oklahoma law. Prosecutions are rare, if any, but the presence of an adultery law can affect perceptions of spousal rights in a divorce.
Title 43: Oklahoma Marriage Laws
The main body of Oklahoma family law is contained in Title 43 of Oklahoma statutes. The title is named “Marriage.”
The title spells out the legal foundation of a marriage contract:
“Husband and wife contract towards each other obligations of mutual respect, fidelity and support.” Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 201
Oklahoma marriage laws prohibit husbands and wives from altering their contractual relationship, with two exceptions. Spouses can reach agreements to hold property separately. They can also alter the contract by agreeing in writing to an immediate separation.
Otherwise, marriage contracts are dissolved either through divorce or annulment. Divorce is by far the more common way to end a marriage. Title 43 lays out requirements for divorcing couples in Oklahoma, including guidelines for alimony.
The Marriage title in Oklahoma statutes further addresses matters of child custody and child support, aligning Oklahoma law with similar laws in other states. A section on determining parentage provides procedures for paternity actions involving parents outside the United States.
Title 10: Oklahoma Children’s Code
Family law in Oklahoma goes beyond the families created by marriage. Family lawyers work with unwed parents to establish paternity and parentage. They assist parents accused of neglecting children. Legal actions involving children, including adoption, foster care, and termination of parental rights comprise parts of family law in Oklahoma. Most of those laws are found in Title 10, under the title “Children.”
Title 10 addresses such far-ranging aspects of children’s lives as their grandparents’ rights to provide foster care when necessary, volunteer attorneys appointed to represent children and even a law that prohibits certain entities from using disparaging names to describe children born out of wedlock.
Where modern science has brought new approaches to creating a family, Oklahoma’s Title 10 has an answer. It addresses artificial insemination and gestational agreements in Oklahoma.
Title 10A: Oklahoma Children and Juvenile Code
Oklahoma’s juvenile justice laws are codified as Title 10A. While the chapter defines the boundaries of juvenile delinquency in Oklahoma, it also addresses some vital family issues. It provides for district attorneys to terminate parental rights in some cases. It sets out the rights and duties of people or agencies who take custody of children. The Children and Juvenile Code even includes a program to provide mentoring to children involved with the juvenile justice system while their parents are incarcerated.
Title 30: Guardianships
Guardianships comprise a unique kind of family relationship. Whether a guardian is considered a family member or not, guardianships fall squarely within the purview of a family law attorney in Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, guardianships are afforded a full chapter in state law, accordingly titled “Guardianships.” Beyond general provisions, the chapter has sections addressing guardianships of minors and guardianships of adults. The title provides procedures for terminating a guardianship, and for civil relief where a guardian conceals or misappropriates property of a ward.
Title 12: Civil Procedure
Family law is adjudicated in civil courts. The procedures and rules Oklahoma district courts follow in civil proceedings are contained in Oklahoma’s Title 12: Civil Procedure. A divorce attorney in Tulsa, OK must read Oklahoma’s Civil Procedure title in the context of other titles that directly address family matters.
What’s more, local court establish rules to govern tedious minutia that otherwise might disrupt an orderly judicial process if not regulated. Each district court established rules that extend the civil procedures prescribed in Title 12. Failure to recognize those rules and procedures — in the context of other family law titles — can result in a less than favorable outcome.
Title 56: Poor Persons
When a child living with a divorced spouse receives public assistance, the other parent could be obligated to reimburse the state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s Poor Persons’ title describes the circumstances and procedures whereby Oklahoma Department of Human Services may pursue child support collection. The title also provides for criminal prosecution of legally responsible parents who do not provide food, shelter, clothing, or medical assistance to their child. Parents applying for public assistance are required to seek prosecution of the non-supporting parent.
Title 43: Criminal Law
For the most part, family law is civil law. In some cases, failure to meet civil obligations to a family can result in criminal charges. Another significant area of overlap between family law and criminal law tends to occur around domestic abuse. While domestic violence in Oklahoma is prosecuted under criminal law, a criminal case can affect a civil family law case.
In particular, judges may be required to order a spouse to leave the house when domestic abuse charges are pending. Family court judges are required by law to consider a record of criminal domestic abuse when making child custody decisions. Merely having an unrelated criminal case open during a divorce or child custody proceeding can affect the family law matter. Evidence introduced by prosecutors in a criminal case could be fair game for an attorney in a divorce case.
Free Consultation: Tulsa Family Law Attorney
Changes to the legal structure of a family tends to have a life-changing impact on those involved. Before you accept the suggestions of a spouse who wants to end a marriage contract, talk to a Tulsa Okla. divorce lawyer who can discuss your interests. You have financial interests, legal interests and personal interests in your family future that are too important to leave to spouse wanting out of their own marital obligations.
In a free consultation, you can find out how a qualified family law attorney could protect your interests. To get started, call Wirth Law Office at 918-879-1681 or send your question using the email form on this page.