Grounds for Divorce in Oklahoma

Learn about the grounds for divorce in Oklahoma.

By , Retired Judge

Two Categories of Grounds for Divorce: Fault-Based and No-Fault

Viable reasons for divorce are called "grounds." It wasn't that long ago when the only legitimate basis for seeking a divorce was an accusation that one spouse had done something wrong, like committing adultery or being guilty of extreme cruelty, which caused the marriage to fail. These types of grounds are known as "fault-based."

Over time, however, states loosened their divorce requirements, adding grounds that didn't mandate wrongdoing. These new laws usually required that spouses merely remain separated for a period of time to qualify (typically a year to 18 months). The law gradually evolved even more, permitting "no-fault" divorce when one or both spouses represented that there were "irreconcilable differences" in the marriage, which basically means the marriage is broken and that's not likely to change.

Oklahoma's Grounds for Divorce

Oklahoma's no-fault ground for divorce is about as generic as you can get: incompatibility—meaning you and your spouse can't get along. However, you must have facts to back that up. Note also that, under the statute, if the couple are the parents of a child under the age of 18, they have to attend an educational program concerning the impact of divorce on children.

As to fault-based divorce in Oklahoma, the law sets out 11 separate grounds upon which to base a request to end the marriage. These grounds are:

  • abandonment for one year
  • adultery
  • impotency
  • the wife was pregnant by someone other than her husband at the time of the marriage
  • extreme cruelty
  • fraudulent contract
  • habitual drunkenness
  • gross neglect of duty
  • a spouse is imprisoned at the time the divorce petition (complaint) is filed, and that incarceration is the result of being sentenced for committing a felony, and
  • one of the spouses obtained an out-of-state divorce that isn't valid in Oklahoma.

There are a few things to make note of when reviewing the above list. For one, to use the ground of abandonment, the law normally requires that the spouse who left the marriage did so against the other spouse's wishes. In other words, it wasn't the result of a mutual agreement.

Regarding extreme cruelty, this encompasses both physical and mental cruelty.

Fraudulent contract often refers to a spouse being duped into agreeing to the marriage. You might see this when one of the spouses was previously married (or worse, still married), but lied about this to the other spouse.

Gross neglect of duty ordinarily means that a spouse didn't provide the other spouse with appropriate support—financial or otherwise—during the marriage, despite having the ability to do so.

One spouse may also file for divorce on the ground that the other spouse was institutionalized for insanity for a period of five years prior to the filing of the divorce petition. In order for the ground of insanity to be valid, the condition must be one with a poor prognosis for recovery. Also, the court won't grant the divorce unless three physicians have examined the afflicted spouse, and at least two of those physicians agree that the prognosis for recovery is poor.

Which Is Better to Use—Fault-Based or No-Fault?

In the current divorce law environment, there's often no advantage to using fault-based grounds. With few exceptions, courts don't reward one spouse for the other's misconduct. And basing a divorce on fault almost invariably prolongs the divorce. This usually results in added anxiety for all concerned (including children), not to mention skyrocketing legal fees.

Using no-fault grounds is ordinarily less stressful, as you'll avoid a pitched battle as to who did what to whom. And you won't have to air the ugliest moments of your marriage in front of anyone who might be in the courtroom at the time. (Typically, there's nothing barring strangers from watching a divorce trial.) Also, you can normally prove your case without having to bring in witnesses, which you might not be able to do with certain fault-based grounds, especially adultery.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in Oklahoma

In order to file for divorce in Oklahoma, the law says that either spouse must be an actual, good-faith resident of the state for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the divorce petition. Anyone who has been posted to a military facility in Oklahoma for the applicable six-month period is considered to be a resident.

A spouse who's planning to use the insanity ground for divorce must be a resident of Oklahoma for the five-year period preceding the filing of the divorce petition, but this prolonged waiting period only applies if the afflicted spouse is institutionalized out of state.

Divorce is a complex process, so consult with a knowledgeable and reputable divorce lawyer if you have specific questions about your case.

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