I. How does Oklahoma handle property in divorces?
There are two general ways property division is handled, depending on state law: Community Property and Equitable Distribution.
Oklahoma follows the Equitable Distribution guideline.
Equitable Distribution: A judge decides what is equitable, or fair, rather than simply splitting the property in two. In practice, this may mean that two-thirds of the property goes to the higher earning spouse, with the other spouse getting one-third.
II. What is considered separate property?
Separate property generally includes any assets a spouse owned before marriage. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, including gifts and inheritance received during the marriage.
If you received an inheritance from a deceased parent or other relative while married, this would qualify as your separate property even though you acquired it during the marriage.
It is also vital to remember that separate property can sometimes become marital property under certain conditions. Suppose one spouse contributes in a measurable way to appreciating the value of the other spouse’s separate property, such as remodeling a home the other spouse owned before marrying. In that case, the court will likely consider this marital property due to their contributions.
III. Dividing Marital Property in an Oklahoma Divorce
Oklahoma’s equitable distribution laws can be difficult to navigate in some divorce cases, typically those involving substantial marital assets and children. When divorcing spouses explore alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, they can negotiate the terms of their property division privately and reach a more personalized result. Typically, this is a good way to avoid the court compelling you and your spouse to liquidate certain marital assets and split the proceeds. However, divorcing parents cannot privately negotiate custody and support for their children.
When the court must rule on a divorce involving children, or if divorcing spouses cannot agree to property division privately, the judge overseeing the case will review many different factors to reach the most equitable result possible, including:
- The duration of the marriage.
- The contributions of each spouse to the marriage.
- The amount of separate property each spouse owns.
- The child custody rights and support requirements for both spouses.
- The income, earning potential, and employability of both spouses.
- Evidence of dissipation or intentional wasting of marital assets by either spouse.
- Tax implications for both spouses.
- Potential maintenance needs of either spouse.
This is not an exhaustive list, and every divorce case is unique. If you are unsure of what to expect in your property division proceedings, it’s best to secure legal representation from an experienced Oklahoma divorce attorney as soon as possible.
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