Early Steps in an Oklahoma Divorce
One of the spouses must file a petition in an Oklahoma family court as one of the first steps in an Oklahoma divorce. A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is also known as a Petition for Divorce. The petition is filed in the county in which you and your spouse live.
The petition provides the court with the names of all the parties and information regarding the children of the marriage. It also provides the court with the grounds being relied upon for the dissolution. The party filing the petition is the “Petitioner” and the other party is the “Respondent.”
The Petition for Divorce must be served upon the responding spouse. There are particular rules regarding how these documents must be served upon your spouse. Once served, you have to show the court that you have served your spouse. This is often done with a Proof of Service, which is also filed with the court.
Once served, the Respondent usually has 20 days to file a responsive pleading to your petition, usually called an answer. The answer must also be served upon the Petitioner.
The Automatic Injunction
The filing and service of the Petition for Divorce trigger an immediate temporary injunction that freezes all marital assets other than regular day-to-day expenditures. This prevents either party from taking, selling, encumbering, concealing, or disposing with any marital property, retirement accounts, or insurance policies without the written consent of the other party or an order from the court.
It can also prevent either party from destroying or damaging property or electronically stored communications or materials. The injunction also bars the parties from making any changes to beneficiary designations on all financial documents and accounts.
Once you have been served with the responsive pleading, if the divorce has issues that will be contested, discovery begins regarding those issues.
If the couple is in agreement regarding all issues, they or their attorneys can prepare a Marital Settlement Agreement regarding the division of property, assets, debts, and issues regarding the children and possible support. When couples are in agreement, a divorce can be finalized quickly. Otherwise, one or both parties may ask the court for temporary orders covering the duration before a final Tulsa divorce decree.
Possible Temporary Orders
Once the divorce process has begun, a Tulsa family court may also make other temporary orders upon an application by either party. These temporary orders usually require a hearing. Such orders may include:
- temporary child custody, visitation, and support,
- possession of the family home during the divorce,
- the management of bills and other assets, and
- spousal support.
As one of the steps in an Oklahoma divorce, the court will try to ensure that the children continue to have regular contact with both parents.
Discovery During Tulsa Divorce
Sometimes spouses can agree on how assets are to be divided.
But most often, there is some disagreement among the parties regarding the handling of assets and liabilities. The question of what is marital property and what is separate property is one that often takes time to determine. While the way that property is held provides information regarding the intent of the parties, it is not always clear cut.
If further information is required, interrogatories and a demand for the production of documents can be helpful. Spouses can make financial disclosures and exchange information regarding assets and debt owed, identify witnesses, as well as provide bank statements and investment account statements.
Reaching a Settlement Agreement and the Final Decree
Agreeing with your spouse about anything during a Tulsa divorce can be difficult. But the more you can agree on, the faster and less expensive the process is.
Issues such as the division of assets and property, division of debts and other liabilities, child custody, visitation, and support, and spousal support must all be agreed to. This can be done directly or through your attorneys.
Oklahoma uses guidelines for the calculation of child support. There are times when couples choose an amount of support that differs from the guideline amount. This must be reviewed and approved by the court.
For those issues that you are unable to agree on, there is other help. Courts can order mediation to help a couple move toward resolution. Meeting with a mediator can be helpful if the couple is not too far from a mutually agreeable settlement.
For couples that are far from an agreement, the court will set a trial date at which both sides present evidence regard the issues at hand. The judge then issues a ruling; this becomes the final divorce decree.
Free Tulsa Divorce Consultation
For a free consultation with a Tulsa, Oklahoma divorce lawyer, call the Wirth Law Office at 918-879-1681 (or toll free at 1-888-Wirth-Law/1-888-947-8452).
You can also submit the question form at the upper right-hand corner of this page.