DIVORCE: 30 TIPS IN 30 DAYS
#1: Divorce doesn’t have to break the bank. If divorcing spouses agree on all issues, a divorce can be completed in as little as a week (90 days with kids), at minimal cost to both.
#2: Make sure that your marital relationship is over before filing for divorce. While you can generally end the proceeding before it is finalized, there is a point of no return. Sometimes marital counseling is a good alternative to filing to dissolve the marriage.
#3: Educate yourself about the divorce process. The rules and procedures are very specific, and sometimes unexpected to someone without a legal background. There are great materials available online, or you can consult with an experienced family lawyer.
#4: Develop a team of professionals to help you through the divorce process. In addition to an experienced family lawyer, consider adding an accountant or tax professional and a counselor for you and possibly your children.
#5: Develop a personal support system. Surround yourself with trusted family members and close friends to help you through the difficulties of ending your marriage.
#6: You must have lived in the state of Oklahoma at least six months prior to filing for divorce. In addition, you must have lived in your county of residence at least thirty days.
#7: Divorces are designed to not only dissolve the marriage but also to divide assets and debts, determine child custody and visitation, set child support, and consider an appropriate sum for alimony (if applicable).
#8: The filing fee for divorces in Oklahoma in $252.14 (or $242.14 if you file without an attorney). You may incur additional court costs throughout the process.
#9: If your divorce action involves child custody issues, always remember to put your children first. Be mature enough to do what is best for your kids. One consideration for who is a better custodial parent is how well you get along with your soon to be ex-spouse and whether you put the children’s needs before your own.
#10: Gather all of your financial documents, including tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, and investment account records. Provide these documents to your lawyer. State law requires that you give your soon to be ex-spouse a copy too. The idea is that all such records should be disclosed fairly soon after the filing of divorce action.
#11: Consider alternatives to a fully litigated divorce that ends in a trial. Mediation by an independent third party can resolve all of your issues at much less cost. Collaborative divorce is also a good option for some people.
#12: If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are able to communicate civilly, then do it! Any issues that can be agreed to by the parties save you time and money. The court generally approves settlement terms both parties desire.
#14: Be prepared to be patient. A wise man once said “the divorce process is a marathon, not a sprint”. A contested divorce can take much longer than a party anticipates. Even an agreed divorce with minor children requires a ninety-day waiting period from the filing date before it can be finalized.
#15: Don’t play hide-the-ball with assets and information. Not only is hiding assets from your soon to be ex-spouse unethical, it is also contrary to Oklahoma law, which mandates automatic disclosure of financial information.
#16: Divorcing spouses are permitted to use the services of only one attorney. However, one of the spouses must acknowledge that the lawyer’s duty of loyalty can only extend to the other spouse. Proceed carefully when making the decision to use only one lawyer in a divorce action.
#17: Be careful relying on the advice of friends and family. While they may be well meaning, most divorces have unique facts, and the experience of a close friend may not be comparable to your case. Rely upon the professionals you have hired to assist you.
#18: All “marital property” must be divided in a divorce. As a general rule, marital property includes any property acquired by either party, or both parties jointly, after the date of marriage.
#19: Property in a divorce action is required to be divided “equitably”. Equity does not mean equal! Equity is a term of art in the law that means just. Don’t assume you will receive half of everything.
#20: When the parties can’t agree, the judge must decide who will have custody of minor children. The court is required to determine the “best interests” of the children. Some factors a court may consider are which party is the primary caretaker of the children and which party is more likely to facilitate contact between the children and the other parent.
#21: What about the dog? As a general rule, animals are considered property subject to equitable division. Equity may call for the family dog staying with the custodial parent and the children, while dad’s faithful hunting dog may be his.
#22: Oklahoma law mandates that a court assure a divorcing parent’s frequent and continuing contact with minor children. To that end, courts typically utilize a “standard visitation schedule”. Standard visitation means that the noncustodial parent will enjoy parenting time with minor children alternating weekends and alternating holidays with an extended period during the summer.
#23: Child support is a monthly payment paid by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. The amount of child support is determined by a mathematical calculation, including the income of the parties and the number of minor children. Failure to pay child support can result in the suspension of any license issued by the State of Oklahoma, including a license to drive.
#24: Child support payments are not considered income to the recipient and are therefore not taxable. In addition, child support is not tax deductible by the paying parent.
#25: Alimony is a spousal support obligation paid from one party to another. Alimony is not ordered in every divorce case. It is based strictly upon the need of the recipient and other party’s ability to pay.
#26: When child custody is contested, a judge determines which parent will have custody of minor children. However, children 12 years of age and older may be permitted to state a preference regarding which parent they would like to live with.
#27: Consider speaking directly to your soon to be ex-spouse when conflict arises. Reaching agreement will typically result in significant savings of attorney fees and other related costs. For example, parties may agree to change a visitation exchange time or a date on which child support is due.
#28: Avoid being a gamesman. Intentionally antagonizing your soon to be ex-spouse by refusing to be accommodating will only drive up attorney fees.
#29: Remember, all documents filed in a divorce proceeding are public record. If you consider certain information confidential, you may have to seek an order of the court sealing those records from public viewing.
#30: Above all, remember that all decrees may be modified in the future, provided there is some kind of change.