Divorce and fighting have grown to become synonyms. Why would a couple divorce if they had not been fighting? There are many reasons why couples choose to separate, and even for couples who did fight, many choose not to fight about their divorces. The uncontested divorce process can make it easier for amicable spouses to separate without legal fanfare.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Oklahoma uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Oklahoma Defined
Like many states, Oklahoma recognizes the value of allowing spouses to seek an uncontested divorce. While Oklahoma law does not provide a specific mechanism for uncontested divorce, Oklahoma courts will grant an uncontested divorce through the use of legal consent orders. Such divorces are known as divorces by consent (also known as agreed divorces).
Under a divorce by consent, the spouses involved must mutually agree to the terms of the divorce to be granted an uncontested divorce. This agreement normally occurs through the creation of a legally binding separation agreement. If the spouses can agree to the terms of the divorce, the divorce litigation process will become much simpler compared to contested divorces, saving the spouses substantial time and money.
Requirements for Seeking Oklahoma Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Oklahoma, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Oklahoma divorce attorney or family lawyer.
Spouses must first meet Oklahoma’s residency requirement for seeking a divorce. Under Oklahoma law, no Oklahoma court can hear a divorce case unless at least one spouse was living as an actual resident in Oklahoma for at least six months prior to filing.1
Next, the grounds for seeking a divorce must be satisfied. In Oklahoma, there are eleven different fault grounds for seeking a divorce. However, most at-fault divorces become contested. Few spouses want to admit to potentially embarrassing circumstances such as adultery or cruelty. Most uncontested divorces will instead be filed under Oklahoma’s not-fault ground for divorce.
In Oklahoma, parties may seek a no-fault divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. Many marriages simply do not work for various reasons, and Oklahoma law allows a couple to divorce if the marriage becomes incompatible.2 It is only required that there be such a conflict of personalities as to destroy the legitimate ends of matrimony and possibility of a reconciliation.3
The final requirement for seeking an uncontested divorce is an agreement between the spouses. Such agreement is normally accomplished by the creation of a legally-binding separation agreement.
On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal separation agreement. A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any separation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
Oklahoma courts generally encourage the creation of settlement agreements between spouses and will enforce agreements that meet the basic requirements of a legal contract. For a couple to obtain a true no-fault divorce, the separation agreement should address all of the following issues that may arise during the litigation.
- Distribution of property owned by the couple and disposition of the marital residence;
- Division of the marital debts;
- Spousal support (also known as alimony); and
- If applicable, child custody, visitation, and child custody.
A word of caution regarding child support: The agreed amount of child support must still conform to the child support guidelines as described in 43 Okl. St. § 118 et seq.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Oklahoma
Once you have decided to file for an uncontested divorce in Oklahoma, the general flow of the process is follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly;
- Next, you and your spouse should sit down and discuss the ideal terms of your divorce. This discussion should result in plans to create a legally binding separation agreement.
- Once you and your spouse have agreed on the terms of the divorce, you should decide which spouse will file the divorce petition. In Oklahoma, one spouse files the divorce petition (the petitioner), and the other spouse files a responsive pleading (the respondent).
- The petitioner must prepare a divorce petition and file it in the Oklahoma District Court in which either you or your spouse meets the state’s residency requirement. The petitioner then needs to serve divorce paperwork on the respondent in accordance with the state’s rules for service of process.
- Once service has been made, the respondent must file a response. After the filing of the response, the court will set a date for hearing.
- If the couple’s marriage did not bear children, a final judgment of divorce can occur immediately as soon as the court approves the separation agreement.
- If, however, there are minor children involved in the divorce process, several additional steps must occur. First, where a minor child is involved, the court cannot issue a final order before at least 90 days after filing. The 90 day period is for the spouses to have time to attempt to reconcile their relationship. The court may waive that period if the spouses voluntarily participate in marital or family counseling and the court still finds that reconciliation is unlikely. Additionally, Oklahoma law requires that where there is a minor child involved, the spouses must attend an educational program concerning the impact of a divorce on children.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- 43 Okl. St. § 102.
- 43 Okl. St. § 101.
- Kirkland v. Kirkland, 1971 OK 98, 488 P.2d 1222 (Okla. 1971).