Is Divorce the Answer for You?
Here are some questions and answers that you may find helpful if a divorce is contemplated:
Q: What are the grounds for divorce in Oklahoma?
A: Although there are 12 grounds for divorce in Oklahoma, only a few are commonly used. They are:
Gross neglect of duty to support
Extreme physical or mental cruelty
Abandonment for a period of one year
Q: What power does the divorce court have after the case is started?
A: The divorce court, upon application and hearing, will issue a temporary order concerning possession of property, custody and visitation of children, support and payment of any expenses connected with the case under which the parties will operate until the conclusion of the case. The court will, at the time of trial or settlement, equitably and fairly divide the marital property and debts; address child custody/visitation and child support, and grant the divorce; it may, if appropriate, award support alimony and attorney fees and costs, but not always.
Q: What happens after my petition has been filed?
A: At the time your petition is filed, a summons is issued by the Court Clerk notifying your spouse that the divorce has been filed. At the same time, your attorney can make application for a temporary order to be issued which would direct your spouse to take specific actions or restrain the spouse from doing certain things. You will be required to appear in court to testify as to your need for each of the temporary requests you are making. Unless your spouse has signed a waiver, or is missing and service by publication is proper, your divorce papers will be turned over to a Deputy of the Sheriff's Office or a special officer appointed by the court to serve the papers. Often, the attorney does not know when the papers have been served but will use his or her best efforts to find out and notify you. After the papers have been served, the spouse has 20 days in which to file an answer, normally through a lawyer, in court.
Q: When is the temporary order granted?
A: The court cannot grant a temporary order for custody, child support, possession of property, alimony, or exclusion from your home until your spouse has been served with notice of a hearing at least five days prior to a hearing on your request.
You may obtain an emergency order of custody and other matters without notice to your spouse if irreparable harm will occur to you and/or your children without such an order by filing an application. However, a hearing must be set within 10 days of this emergency order and notice of that hearing must be given to your spouse.
Q: How long does a divorce take?
A: If both parties are in agreement to the divorce and there are no children, a divorce may be granted 10 days after the filing of the petition. It is necessary for your spouse to execute a waiver which will include a waiver of process.
In a divorce where there are minor children involved, there is a 90-day waiting period from the date of service of the summons, the first date of publication or an entry of appearance by the defendant, whichever occurs first.
The 90-day waiting period may be waived under certain circumstances. If your spouse hires an attorney and contests the action, the case could take longer than 90 days.
Q: If my case is settled, do both my spouse and I have to go to court?
A: No. Only one of the parties must go to court and give brief sworn testimony. Normally, an advance copy of the divorce decree will have been provided to your spouse and a signature obtained approving the decree.
Q: What if my spouse violates the terms of the temporary order or divorce decree?
A: Three remedies are available to you should your spouse violate any of the provisions of the temporary order or divorce decree. First, your spouse may be cited for contempt of court and if found guilty, be placed in jail or fined, or both. Second, if the violation consists of a failure to pay money, such as for support, you may garnish paychecks and bank accounts, and execute on personal property. You may also obtain an Order of Income Assignment which directs your spouse’s employer to send the child support directly to you. Third, if the violation consists of a failure to pay child support for one (1) year or the amount owed exceeds five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) or your spouse has moved to another state, criminal charges may be filed with the District Attorney’s office. You can expect to testify that child support is not being paid.
If the violation consists of breaking the law, such as breaking and entering or assault and battery, the police should immediately be notified and criminal charges filed by you. Many emergency situations, pending the divorce, can be handled merely by calling the police. In addition, a spouse may file a Victim’s Protection Order if he or she and/or the children have been a victim of domestic abuse, stalking or harassment by the other spouse by filing a Petition for Protective Order in the County in which the victim(s) reside, the County where the Defendant resides, or the County in which the abuse occurred.
Q: If my case goes to trial, is it before a jury?
A: No. In Oklahoma, all divorce cases are tried before a judge only. However, an action for contempt filed in a divorce proceeding may be tried to a jury.
Q: When is my divorce final?
A: It is final the day you go to court and the divorce is granted. You are a single person once the judge pronounces you divorced. However, Oklahoma law prohibits remarriage or cohabitation with a third party for six months following the decree. Should you and your spouse decide to reconcile during this period, a joint application can be filed in the court and the decree will be set aside, so long as neither party has remarried a third party during the interim.
Q: For the benefit of the children can the court make orders regarding the parents' moral conduct?
A: Following are some guidelines concerning children of separated parents, called the "Ten Commandments of Proper Conduct for Separated Parents."
As you know, your children are usually the losers when their parents separate. They are deprived of the full time, proper guidance that two parents can give -- guidance and direction essential to their moral and spiritual growth.
Although there is probably some bitterness between you and your spouse, it should not be inflicted upon your children. In every child's mind, there must and should be an image of TWO good parents. Your future conduct with your children will be helpful if you will follow these suggestions:
Do not poison your child's mind against either their mother or father by discussing their shortcomings.
Do not expose your children to any member of the opposite sex with whom you may be emotionally involved.
Do not argue with the other parent during visitation exchanges.
Do not visit your children if you have been drinking.
Do not visit your children at unreasonable hours.
Do not fail to notify your spouse as soon as possible if you are unable to keep your visitation. It's unfair to your children to keep them waiting -- and worse to disappoint them by not coming at all.
Make your visitation as pleasant as possible for your children by NOT questioning them regarding the activities of your spouse and by NOT making extravagant promises which you know you cannot or will not keep.
The parent with whom the children live must prepare them both physically and mentally for the visitation. The children should be available at the time mutually agreed upon.
If one parent has plans for the children that conflict with the visitation and these plans are in the best interests of the children, be adults and work out the problems together.
Always work for the spiritual well-being, health, happiness and safety of your children.
Q: What visitation does the court generally award to the alternate custodial parent?
A: Contact the Divorce Judge in the County you will be filing to get a current copy of a standard visitation schedule because counties have different schedules.
While there is no fixed visitation schedule required by law, an example of a fairly common visitation schedule is as follows:
I. Regular Visitation
The non-custodial parent shall have visitation every other weekend from Friday after school or day care until Monday morning when non-custodial parent returns child(ren) to school or day care. All weekends that include a Federal or State Monday holiday shall be part of the regular weekend.
II. Holiday Visitation
|First week of Christmas Break
|Balance of Christmas Week
All Mother's day weekends shall be spent with the mother.
All Father's day weekends shall be spent with the father.
THE HOLIDAY SCHEDULE SUPERSEDES ALL REGULARLY SCHEDULED VISITATION. The Holiday Schedule shall be governed by the school the child attends or would attend if not of school age.
III. Summer Visitation
The non-custodial parent shall have summer visitation for two weeks in June and must notify the custodial parent of the dates by April 30.
The non-custodial parent shall have summer visitation for two weeks in July and must notify the custodial parent of the dates by May 30.The non-custodial parent shall have summer visitation the first full week of August.All toys and clothes belong to the child(ren) and should travel freely between households and shall be returned with the child(ren) in a clean and orderly manner.
It is important to be aware that this visitation schedule is for the purpose of providing assured minimum amounts of visitation between non-custodial parent and child(ren). Visitation should exceed the number of occasions set out herein. In addition, liberal telephone communications between non-custodial parent and child(ren) are encouraged and should occur.
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