Oklahoma Divorce Law
Divorce and Legal Separation in Oklahoma
Oklahoma Divorce Basics
To file for divorce or annulment of a marriage, either party must have been an actual resident of Oklahoma, in good faith, for six months immediately preceding the filing of the Petition. If a party has been a resident of any U.S. army post or military reservation within the state for six months immediately preceding the filing of the Petition, he/she may bring an action for divorce or annulment, or may be sued for divorce or annulment of a marriage.
The Petitioner (filing party) may file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Annulment in the district court of the county where he/she has been a resident for the 30 days immediately preceding the filing of the Petition or in the county where the Respondent (non-filing party) is a resident, provided the action may be assigned for trial in any county within the judicial district by the chief judge of the district.
In an action for divorce where there are minor children involved, the court generally will not issue a final order for at least 90 days from the date the Petition is filed, although the court may waive the 90 day waiting period for good cause and if there is no objection from either party.
Within the 90 day waiting period, the court may require that the parties attend and complete an educational program concerning the impact of separate parenting and co-parenting on children; the implications for visitation and conflict management; development of children; separate financial responsibility for children and such other instruction as deemed necessary. However, the court will not make this requirement in the case of certain grounds, such as extreme cruelty, abandonment, insanity, imprisonment and the like.
Parties to an action for divorce may not remarry anyone in Oklahoma, other than the former spouse, within six months from the date of decree of divorce granted in Oklahoma, unless the former spouse is deceased. If a party remarries another person in a different state within the six month period, they may not cohabit in Oklahoma.
If an appeal to the divorce decree is filed, it is illegal for either party to marry any other person and cohabit with him/her in Oklahoma within 30 days of the date final judgment is rendered on the appeal.
These remarriage violations are considered bigamy and cohabitation violations are deemed adultery.
When a divorce is granted, if she requests it and her name had been changed as a result of the marriage, the decree shall restore a wife’s former or maiden name; or if he requests it and his name had been changed as a result of the marriage, the decree shall restore a husband’s former name.
Legal Grounds for Divorce
- 1. Abandonment for one year;
4. When the wife, at the time of the marriage, was pregnant by someone other than her husband;
- 5. Extreme cruelty;
6. Fraudulent contract;
8. Habitual drunkenness;
9. Gross neglect of duty;
10. Imprisonment of the other party in a state or federal penal institution under sentence for the commission of a felony at the time the Petition is filed;
11. The procurement of a final divorce decree outside of the state by a husband or wife which does not release the other party from the obligations of the marriage in Oklahoma; and
12. Insanity for a period of five years, and the insane person has been an inmate of a state institution for the insane in Oklahoma or some other state, or of a private sanitarium, and the prognosis for recovery is poor.
- Between ancestors and descendants of any degree, of a stepfather with a stepdaughter, stepmother with stepson, between uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews (unless the relationship is only by marriage), between brothers and sisters (half and whole blood), and first cousins;
- Either party is under the age of 18 years and has not received consent from a parent or guardian;
- Either party is under the age of sixteen years and has not received authorization from a court, due to pregnancy or the birth of an illegitimate child;
- Either party is incapable of contracting the marriage due to age or understanding.
A marriage where one of the parties had not been divorce for six months is grounds for annulment.
The court shall divide real or personal property which has been acquired by the parties jointly during their marriage, regardless of how title is held, between the parties as may appear just and reasonable, either by a division of the property in kind, or by setting it apart to one of the parties and requiring the other party to be paid a just and proper sum for a fair and just division.
The court may set apart a portion of the separate estate of a spouse to the other spouse for the support of the children of the marriage when that spouse has custody.
Alimony and Support
A husband must support himself and his wife out of the community property or out of his separate property or by his labor. The wife must support the husband when he has not deserted her out of the community property or out of her separate property when he has no community or separate property and he is unable from infirmity to support.
A husband abandoned by his wife is not liable for her support until she offers to return, unless she was justified by his misconduct, in abandoning him; nor is he liable for her support when she is living separate from him, by agreement, unless the support is stipulated in the agreement.
Child Custody and Support
In awarding the custody of a minor unmarried child, the court shall consider what appears to be in the best interests of the physical, mental and moral welfare of the child. The court may grant the care, custody and control of a child to either parent or to both parents jointly. There shall be neither a legal preference nor a presumption for or against joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or sole custody.
The court shall not prefer a parent as a custodian of a child because of the gender of that parent. If the court determines it would serve the best interest of the child, he/she may express a preference for which parent he/she wishes to have custody or limits of or period of visitation rights of either parent. If the child is of sufficient age, general 12 years or older, the court shall consider the child’s expression of preference.
If either or both parents have requested joint custody, the parents shall file their plans for the exercise of joint care, custody, and control of their child with the court. The parents may submit a plan jointly or separately. Any plan submitted shall include details for the following provisions:
- Physical living arrangements for the child;
- Child support obligations;
- Medical and dental care for the child;
- School placement; and
- Visitation rights.
It is the policy of Oklahoma to assure that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interests of their children and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children after the parents have separated or divorced, provided that the parents agree to cooperate and that domestic violence, stalking or harassing behaviors are not present in the parental relationship.
Standard Visitation Guidelines:
Oklahoma district courts may use a standard visitation schedule and advisory guidelines as deemed necessary. The schedule includes a minimum graduated visitation schedule for children under five years of age and a minimum graduated visitation schedule for children between five and seventeen years of age. The schedule addresses the following:
- Midweek and weekend time-sharing;
- Differing geographical residences of the custodial and non-custodial parent requesting visitation;
- Holidays, including Friday and Monday holidays;
- Summer vacation break;
- Midterm school breaks;
- Notice requirements and authorized reasons for cancellations of visitation;
- Transportation and transportation costs, including pick up and return of the child;
- Religious, school, and extracurricular activities;
- Grandparent and relative contact;
- The birthday of the child;
- Sibling visitation schedules;
- Special circumstances, including, but not limited to, emergencies; and
- Any other standards deemed necessary by the Administrative Director of the Courts.
In every proceeding where there is a dispute regarding the custody of a minor child, there is a presumption by the court that when domestic violence, stalking, or harassment has occurred, sole custody, joint legal or physical custody, or any shared parenting plan with the perpetrator of domestic violence, harassing or stalking behavior is detrimental and not in the best interest of the child, and it is in the best interest of the child to reside with the parent who is not a perpetrator of domestic violence, harassing or stalking behavior.
Oklahoma’s Legislature finds and declares that child support is a basic legal right of the state's parents and children, that mothers and fathers have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their children and that child support payments can have a substantial impact on child poverty and state welfare expenditures.
Oklahoma used the Income Shares Model to determine child support. The uuassumes that all families incur certain child-rearing expenses and includes an average amount to cover these expenses for various levels of the parents' combined adjusted gross income and number of children, comprised of housing, food, transportation, basic public educational expenses, clothing, and entertainment.
The gross income of the parents shall be modified for the following expenses:
- Any social security benefit paid to the child on the account of the parent will be added to the gross income;
- Alimony actually being paid will be deducted from the gross income;
- Support for other children for whom the parent is legally responsible and is actually supporting will be deducted from the gross income; and
- Reasonable expenses of the parties attributable to debt service for preexisting, jointly acquired debt of the parents will be deducted from the gross income.
Modification to the base amount may be made for medical and child care costs and any other additional appropriate expenses, such as when the non-custodial parent is granted at least 120 overnights of parenting time per year with the children in the case under consideration.
No deviation in the amount of the child support obligation shall be made which seriously impairs the ability of the receiving parent to maintain minimally adequate housing, food, and clothing for the children being supported by the order or to provide other basic necessities, as determined by the court. Any deviation that is made by the district court may only be in the best interests of the child and the court must determine the following:
- The amount of child support determined by the guidelines is unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances;
- The parties are represented by counsel and have agreed to a different disposition; or
- One party is represented by counsel and the deviation benefits the unrepresented party.
The court may order either or both parents to provide for the support of a child for an indefinite period and may determine the rights and duties of the parents if the court finds the following:
- The child requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a mental or physical disability and will not be capable of self-support (whether or not the child is institutionalized); and
- The disability exists, or the cause of the disability is known to exist, on or before the 18th birthday of the child.
If the parents of a minor unmarried child are separated without being divorced, the judge of the district court, upon application of either parent, may issue any civil process necessary to inquire into the custody of the child. The court may award custody of the child to either party or both, in accordance with the best interests of the child, for such time and pursuant to such regulations as the case may require.
A husband and wife cannot, by any contract with each other, alter their legal relations, except as to property, and except that they may agree in writing to an immediate separation, and may make provision for the support of either of them and of their children during that separation.
Links to State Resoources
- Child Support Guidelines
Resources and tools to determine child support obligations.
- Divorce Brochure
Oklahoma Bar Association Publication regarding divorce information in Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma District Courts
List of District Courts – County Courthouses with addresses and contact information.
- Oklahoma Revised Statutes, Title 43, Marriage and Family
Text of Oklahoma statutes regarding marriage, divorce, child support, custody, etc.