Divorce in Oklahoma: FAQs

Get answers to common questions about divorce in Oklahoma.

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Learn about Oklahoma divorce in these answers to frequently asked questions. If you need more information on Oklahoma divorce law, check out our Oklahoma page

Are there residence requirements to get a divorce in Oklahoma?

Typically, you can be divorced in Oklahoma if you have been a resident of Oklahoma for at least six consecutive months before filing a petition for divorce with the district court.

Where is my divorce case going to be heard?

Your case will be heard in the district court of the county where you have resided for at least 30 consecutive days prior to filing your divorce petition.

How do I commence divorce proceedings?

You must file a verified Petition for Divorce in the district court in the county where you and/or your spouse have resided for at least 30 consecutive days.

How do attorneys charge for handling a divorce?

Most attorneys charge a retainer fee if the divorce is contested. Some attorneys may charge a flat fee if you and your spouse agree or are not contesting the divorce. Clients are responsible for paying any out-of-pocket expenses, including court costs, filing fees charged by the court clerks office, transcripts, copies, and so on.

What is a retainer fee?

A retainer fee is an amount you pay up front to cover attorney fees. Most attorneys bill hourly against the retainer fee paid by the client and submit invoices to the client on a regular (monthly) basis itemizing the hours spent on the client's case and the amount withdrawn from the retainer to cover the attorney's fees incurred.

Will the retainer fee cover my entire attorney fee?

In contested matters, it can be difficult for an attorney to estimate how many hours the client's case will require. If the case takes longer than originally anticipated, the retainer may be used up before the case ends. In this situation, the client will be responsible for paying any balances owed for services rendered based on the fee agreement between the client and attorney. Usually, the attorney simply bills any extra hours at his or her usual hourly rate. 

Can I pay a flat fee if my divorce is uncontested?

Often, spouses agree to all of the terms of their divorce and would like an attorney to handle the divorce case for a flat fee. Many attorneys are willing to charge a flat fee on uncontested divorces, with the client paying the filing fee and any other out-of-pocket expenses. However, most attorneys will charge an hourly rate if the matter becomes contested.

Can an attorney represent both me and my spouse in an uncontested divorce?

Most attorneys will represent only one party in a divorce action to avoid possible conflicts of interest. An attorney can draft the decree of divorce according to the agreement that you and your spouse have made, and allow your spouse to review the decree of divorce and approve it, prior to presenting it to the court for approval.

How long does it take to get a divorce in Oklahoma?

In the divorce is uncontested and the couple has minor children, there is a 90-day waiting period after the petition is filed and before the court can grant the divorce. Divorces that do not involve minor children can be finalized in as few as ten days after the petition for divorce is filed.

If your case is contested, the divorce will usually take longer to complete. You will have to go through the discovery process, in which you exchange documents and information with your spouse, and you will have to wait for a space on the court's docket. 

Who pays child support in a divorce case?

Child support is paid by the parent who does not have custody (called the non-custodial parent).

How is child support calculated?

Child support is calculated pursuant to the Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines adopted by the Oklahoma legislature. The amount of child support depends on the number of minor children, the gross monthly income of both parties, and in some cases, the number of nights the minor children spend with the non-custodial parent. The child support guidelines take into consideration the health insurance premiums paid by one parent for the health care coverage of the minor children. For more information, see Child Support in Oklahoma

How is custody handled in a divorce case?

In Oklahoma, there are two types of custody: (1) sole custody of the minor children to one parent with visitation to the non-custodial parent, and (2) joint custody in which the minor child resides primarily with one parent but both parents are jointly responsible for making decisions on behalf of the child. Custody in contested cases is decided by the court, using the "best interests of the child/ren" standard. (For more information on how this standard is applied, see Child Custody in Oklahoma: The Best Interests of the Child.) If joint custody is granted, the parents must agree on a joint custody plan and submit it to the court for approval. 

How are property and debts divided in a divorce?

In contested divorce actions, the court divides property and debt between the spouses in what it deems to be an "equitable" division. Much is left to the discretion of the court. An equitable division does not necessarily mean that everything is split equally.

What is support alimony?

Support alimony is a set amount of money paid by one spouse to the other, usually on a monthly basis. Support alimony may be ordered in a divorce case in addition to child support. Whether Support alimony payments are appropriate in a case depends on whether either spouse needs support and whether the other spouse is able to pay it. Alimony is considered taxable income to the party receiving it.

What assets are subject to division by the court in a divorce case?

The Court makes a distinction between marital assets and separate assets. Marital assets are assets acquired during the marriage. Separate assets are assets that one spouse acquired prior to marriage and maintained as separate property; property inherited by only one spouse during the marriage; and property received as a gift by only one spouse during the marriage. A person can turn a separate asset into a marital asset by commingling the asset with jointly-owned assets. Examples of commingling include adding a new spouse's name to a bank account, car title, or deed to the home as joint tenants with right of survivorship.

What is alimony in lieu of property division?

Alimony in lieu of property division is different from support alimony. It can be difficult to divide certain types of marital property, such as a family-owned business or the former couple's home. The spouse responsible for paying alimony in lieu of property division is typically awarded an asset that isn't going to be divided. That spouse then "buys out" the other spouse's share over time in alimony payments. 

What is a prenuptial or antenuptial agreement?

Prenuptial and antenuptial agreements are agreements entered into between two people who are contemplating marriage. Such agreements are primarily concerned with how the couple will own and divide property in the event of divorce or death.

Should I have a prenuptial or antenuptial agreement before I marry?

A marital agreement should be considered in certain circumstances. Factors to consider include the age of the marrying parties, whether the inheritance laws will result in a property division that the couple wants, whether either or both have children from prior marriages, whether one earns or owns significantly more than the other, how each plans to pass on their property at death, and what each expects from the marriage. 

Can my decree of divorce be modified? 

You can request such a modification by filing a motion with the Court. Post-decree modifications can be made concerning child custody, child support, visitation, and support alimony in certain situations. However, you cannot get a modification of the division of property in the divorce decree. 

Do I need an attorney to handle my divorce?

No one says you can't represent yourself. But the old saying goes "he who represents himself in court has a fool for a client". You should seriously consider hiring an attorney when dealing with family law problems. Whether you need only an agreed-upon or uncontested divorce or the modification of child custody, the judge will presume that you know the law as it pertains to your case and understand the rules of the court. The law is ever changing and its complexity is overwhelming at times even for those whose practice law. Without an attorney's legal experience and knowledge on your side, you may be at a distinct disadvantage.

Of course, this doesn't mean you have to spend thousands of dollars to handle a simple matter. The attorney's fee will depend on how much work you require. If you need an attorney only to review agreed-upon paperwork and present it to the judge, the fee will be significantly less than it would be to hire an attorney to wage a lengthy court battle against your ex. 

Can I hire a paralegal instead? 

You could, but a paralegal won't be able to go to court with you for your hearing. Legally speaking, a paralegal or document preparation service isn't allowed to give legal advice or do anything beyond typing your information into the court papers. On the other hand, an attorney can give you legal advice, decide how best to pursue your interests, appear for you in court, file documents on your behalf, and do many other things a paralegal can't do.

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