Tulsa Attorney BlogWhat Is a Legal Separation Under Oklahoma Family Law?

In Oklahoma Law, Once a Marriage Is Dissolved, the Spousal Support Has to Have an End Date

Video Transcribed: What is a legal separation under Oklahoma Family law? I’m Tulsa attorney James Wirth, and I’m answering frequently-asked questions regarding family law issues in Oklahoma. And that’s the question, is what is a legal separation, or sometimes called a separate maintenance action?

And essentially, that is where you’re going to a family law court and you’re requesting the same types of things you’d request in a divorce, but you’re also saying, “I don’t want the marriage dissolved. I want to continue being married, but I still want orders in place to protect myself.”

So a separate maintenance or a legal separation and petition and matter allows you to divide assets, divide debts. You can get child custody determinations, custody, visitation, child support. You can request alimony.

You can request the other party to pay your attorney’s fees. All of these things that you can request in a divorce, you can request. The only difference is you’re not requesting that the marriage be dissolved at the end, and there could be strategic advantages to doing that.

One of those is if the court doesn’t yet have jurisdiction for a divorce, because you have to be a resident for six months for a divorce. You do not for a legal separation.

Two, sometimes you’ve got a scenario where you want the other spouse to continue providing health insurance coverage for you. Once you’re divorced and you’re no longer married, the employer or whatever the plan is that your spouse has that’s covering you, they can no longer cover you. So sometimes it makes sense to be married for that reason, to continue getting insurance benefits.

Another one is spousal support. Sometimes there’s strategies to try to lengthen the time that you might be able to receive spousal support by lengthening the length of the marriage. And that is by continuing the marriage intact while you have a separate maintenance or a spousal support order in place and not dissolve the marriage.

Because in Oklahoma law, once a marriage is dissolved, the spousal support has to have an end date. It has to have a specific amount of time, paying a specific amount of support, and it cannot be indefinite. However, as long as you’re still married, under a separate maintenance, you can keep spousal support going. So that’s another reason.

A third reason that we receive benefits or that we see people wanting an Oklahoma legal separation as opposed to a divorce is for religious reasons. Sometimes, people don’t want a divorce for religious reasons, and the law can accommodate them on that.

That said, if either party wants a divorce, there’s not much that can be done to stop it. So if you file for a legal separation, the other party can counterclaim for divorce and say that the marriage is damaged beyond repair and allege irreconcilable incompatibility. And ultimately, if they continue pushing forward with that, the court is going to dissolve the marriage, even if you don’t want the court to.

But that talks about kind of what separate maintenance is or a legal separation is and why some people may want to do it and the benefits to it. If you’ve got questions beyond that or want to talk about your specific circumstances, contact my office by going to Makelaweasy.com to speak with an Oklahoma attorney.

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