1315 N. Shartel, Oklahoma City OK

Top Ten Myths About Divorce and Family Law in Oklahoma

1. If you live with someone for six months you have a common law marriage.

– Absolutely not true. Oklahoma does recognize common law marriages and the courts look for length of time of cohabitation as a factor in determining whether or not you were legally married. However, the most important factor in the determination of a marriage is to ask yourself “are we married?” Possibly the single most important factor is whether or not you and your spouse presented yourselves to the world as husband and wife.

2. If we get divorced, my wife or husband will acquire sole custody of the children.

– False. While it is possible that your wife or husband may get sole custody, it is also possible that you might. Oklahoma has turned away from the Tender Years Doctrine (which favored the mother gaining custody of the children) and is now more progressive when determining who should be the primary custodian of the children. They now are more concerned with who is the more able parent.

3. I’ll lose the house if I leave it.

– Not true. If you fear for your safety or the safety of your children, leave! Just because you don’t remain in the house does not mean you are somehow forgoing your interest in it.

4. If my spouse files for divorce first then he/she has an advantage.

– Not true. Courts do not care which party’s attorney was quicker or in better shape and dashed to the courthouse first.

5. Divorce is just too expensive.

– Uncontested divorces in our office start as low as $1,500.

6. I won’t get any time with my kids if I get divorced.

– Absolutely, not true. There have been statutory changes in recent years in Oklahoma, which state that courts shall look to substantially equal time for both parents at a temporary order hearing in a divorce action.

7. If I get a divorce I will lose everything.

– You might, but there are many factors to be considered. Many individuals think that because they have a significant number of assets they will somehow lose all their personal effects through divorce. What we often fail to consider is that there are liabilities attached to those assets. While your spouse may be entitled to an equitable distribution of your marital assets, she/he is also obligated to an equitable assumption of marital liabilities (debts). Therefore, when one looks to determine how many of their assets they are parting with they need to consider the addition or subtraction of the associated debts. For example, when each party desires to keep the marital home, the first consideration should be if either is able to maintain the monthly mortgage payment.

8. My spouse will take the children and move out of state.

– While the courts may allow a custodial parent to relocate with the children, more often the courts prefer that both parties remain within the state of Oklahoma during the pendency of the action (during the divorce). While these determinations are case-specific and may vary depending on your circumstances, most courts will require that the parties and the children remain close to one another at least until there is a final determination in the matter of custody.

9. Alimony.

– This is always a concern. It is simply untrue that just because you were married for a specific length of time that your significant other will receive alimony. Alimony can be for men or women. Alimony is really support for a person in a relationship that existed for a lengthy period of time. The court asks the questions, “What did that person forego (give up)?” and “Was one person able to continue their education and their professional endeavors, while the other stayed home relinquished those endeavors to raise children?” Under certain circumstances there may be an entitlement to some sort of support to “level the playing field”.

10. Is Oklahoma is a community property state and what does that mean?

– Oklahoma looks at the date of marriage as the defining point in the separation of personal property and “coverture property” (marital property). Oklahoma specifies that after the date of marriage all assets and liabilities acquired become property of the marriage. What many people fail to recognize is that certain assets acquired prior to that date may have increased in value entitling the other party to have an equitable interest in that added value even though it was separate property at the commencement of the marriage. That property may have developed or was co-mingled with non-separate property in such a way that it could lose its separate nature. One must be very careful when attempting to identify separate/marital property. There are other exceptions. Among those is inheritance. If one party inherits assets during the marriage, it is not necessarily co-owned by the other spouse.

-Lawrence Goodwin (405) 605-7771