Judges Have Wide Discretion in Determining What Is Appropriate for Oklahoma Alimony, the Law Does Not Give a Lot of Rules on It
Video Transcribed: What are the alimony laws in Oklahoma? I’m Tulsa Attorney James Wirth. I’m answering frequently asked questions, and that’s the question that came in is what are Oklahoma’s alimony laws or spousal support laws? Well, yes, spousal support, alimony, it is a thing in Oklahoma, and the law does not give a lot of rules on it.
So, judges have wide discretion in determining what is appropriate. The court’s going to look at what is equitable, what is fair in determining what is appropriate for spousal support, but typical things that we look at is we’ve got one party that has much better ability to pay bills and one party that is in need, so we’re going to look at the finances of each party and determine.
Obviously, we have to have a marriage first. In those scenarios, we look at the income of the party. If you’ve got one party with no income and lots of expenses and is used to a certain level of living, but doesn’t have the ability to earn what it takes to get there, that is a party that has a need for spouse support or alimony. That’s one of the requirements. The other part is we’re going to look at the other side. What is that party’s income? What is that party’s expenses?
After their expenses are paid, do they have money left over? If so, then they’ve got the ability to pay. We’ve got need and then we’ve got ability to pay. Then lastly, we want to show that that need is tied to the marriage. That person that is need, are they in need, because they gave up their career to take care of the kids? Are they in need, because they gave up a career, or a job, or schooling in order to take care of the husband and to have more household duties? If so, then that need is going to tie it to the marriage.
You’re look for those things, and then it comes down to what’s the amount? The amounts are going to be determined on how much is the need and how much is the ability to pay, when you go to court on these things, each part is going to have their own financials for each party. They’re going to say, “Well, this is what the income is, or this is what the income should be imputed to, because they have the ability to earn. This is what the expenses are, what they should be,” because one party may argue that these expenses are completely reasonable.
The other party is going to come in with their own numbers and say, “No. She doesn’t need all those things,” or, “He doesn’t need those things.” Then the court has to determine what are the appropriate income for each party? What are the appropriate expenses? What is the need? What is the ability to pay? Balancing these things out, the court can determine an amount now for spouse support, but spouse support in Oklahoma is never permanent.
It is always supposed to be rehabilitative. How long is it going to take this person to get back on their feet to be able to support themselves? Then it comes down to what is the duration of spousal support? Again, no rules. Judge has wide discretion. Some people talk about a rule of thumb of one third the length of the marriage, but that is not a set rule, just a rule of thumb. It’s the best guideline we have, because there are no guidelines. The judge gets to decide what is fair.
When we go into court representing a party, if we’re representing somebody asking for spousal support, and we’re going to have a plan. We know the law doesn’t allow permanent spousal support, so our plan is going to be we need to do one, two, three, four, all these different things, and then we’re going to be able to support ourselves. That could be we need this time for additional schooling. We need this money for additional schooling.
Then we have this plan that we need spousal support for this amount of time. Then we’re going to be able to support ourselves. Then on the other side, same thing. If we’re representing somebody who is trying to prevent a large order for spousal support, we’re going to have a plan that’s probably shorter and that say that the parties should be able to do this and this based on their educational background.
They should be able to get this job. We present those plans. If we don’t reach an agreement, then the judge is going to decide what is fair and equitable. That’s the general information. For specifics you’re going to want to talk to an attorney about your circumstances. If you want to talk to a Tulsa Family Law Attorney in my office you go to makelaweasy.com.