An Oklahoma bill that could make divorce lawyers wealthy and force some children to remain in homes where one parent wants to leave inched forward Feb. 20, 2014, when the Government Modernization Committee voted 5-3 in favor of the measure.
House Bill 1548 would prohibit no-fault divorce in cases where either party objects to a divorce. If a court were to find one party responsible for the contested divorce, the other party would receive the lion’s share of marital property – 75 percent. The party found at fault would also be required to pay the other party’s legal fees.
No-fault filings would also be prohibited when spouses have been married longer than 10 years or when there is living minor child from the marriage. The proposed state mandate to enforce marriage raises the specter of potentially bizarre scenarios sufficient to inspire a television drama series about Oklahoma divorce courts.
You Have ED So I Get Your Truck
Just imagine the plot that could be constructed around a spouse’s legal effort to prove impotency – a recognized ground for divorce in Oklahoma – motivated by potentially gaining three-fourths of the couple’s oil-industry fortune. The plot thickens as we realize the Oklahoma divorce attorney representing the partner of the allegedly impotent spouse gets paid from the fortunes earned during the marriage by the wealthy but sexually dysfunctional partner.
Working the impotence angle, plot writers could move the show into the U.S. Supreme Court where the nation’s top justices would be asked to decide if the definition of impotence applies to women and men alike. Are women unable to bear children considered impotent? What about men surgically rendered impotent as part of medical treatments? So much for “in sickness and in health.”
Gender-based equal-protection cases advanced on 14th Amendment reasoning might not be the only causes of action that could cite post-Civil War amendments. Disgruntled divorcees these days on occasion already claim settlement awards amount to involuntary servitude. In our fictional TV series HB 1548 could be construed as institutionalizing involuntary servitude by way of forced marriage.
You see, there is an archaic cause for divorce still on Oklahoma law books called “gross neglect of duty.” With no-fault divorce off the table, spouses could have reason to argue that anything from unwanted sexual activity to taking out the trash comprises a marital duty. Certainly U.S. jurisprudence would not allow a country lawyer elected to a judicial post in a rural Oklahoma county to have the final word on what is a marital duty.
And remember – 25 percent of marital property is in play because the winner gets 75 percent under the proposed law. Under current law, divorcing couples split marital property equitably, which usually results in a 50/50 division. Plus, under the proposed law the losing party pays attorney’s fees. The proposed law could create a significant financial incentive for sexual activity to be granted solely as a marital duty.
HB 1548 would do more than provide plotlines for TV drama writers and creative arguments for ambitious appellate attorneys. The bill provides ample subject matter for lengthy appeals that could tie up courts for years to come. It would take money from families with children to pay Oklahoma divorce lawyers for escalating arguments between the parents. It would inject government into the private business of families.
A law that requires divorcing spouses to prove fault would create financial incentives for partners to spotlight their spouse’s failures instead of seeking mutually beneficial ways to part company. A mandate that increases acrimonious court battles would be particularly problematic when the parents need to co-parent children after the divorce.
Did Somebody Say Freedom?
It is ironic that the proposal to impose government mandates in marriage contracts comes from a legislator who has opposed the growing role of government in health care. The bill’s sponsor – Creek County lawyer Mark McCullough – consistently voted in 2010 to advance a constitutional amendment that would prohibit any law or regulation requiring participation in a health care system.
Oklahoma voters in 2010 approved State Question Number 756. A significant majority of voters closed ranks against what many saw as authoritarian government to add Section 37 – the Health Care Freedom Amendment – to Article II of Oklahoma’s constitution. One might wonder what motivates an attorney and legislator who opposed authoritarian health care initiatives to initiate an authoritarian proposal to dictate terms of marriage contracts.
We would hope Oklahoma legislators will refrain from undue fault finding in the private lives of unhappy husbands and wives. The bizarre scenarios that could result from the proposed Fairness in Fault Act would best be left to the realm of fiction.
In reality, modern adults often find that they just do not get along and the best way to resolve an unworkable marriage is to end it with as little acrimony as possible. In families where minor children are involved, money that would be spent on divorce attorneys under HB1548 would be better spend on creating happy, healthy home lives for those children.
Free Consultation: Tulsa Divorce Attorney
As Tulsa divorce attorneys, we wish the best for all families but recognize that some times things do not work out. For a free consultation about divorce in Oklahoma, contact the Wirth Law Office’s Tulsa divorce attorney today at (918) 879-1681 or toll free at (888) Wirth-Law. If you prefer written correspondence, you may submit a question through the form at the top right of this page.