Judges have fairly wide discretion to fashion alimony awards in Oklahoma.
One of the more important legal issues to be settled in divorce is whether alimony – the payment of support from one ex-spouse to the other after divorce – will be granted as part of the final divorce order. In many divorces, alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, can make a major impact of the lifestyles of the parties – both the paying party as well as the recipient, in some cases.
First, two people who are divorcing often can negotiate a settlement agreement in which they agree to the terms of the legal issues in their divorce, including alimony. They are mostly free to create an alimony award of their choosing and it becomes part of the final divorce order.
If they cannot agree on alimony, it will become an issue the judge in the divorce must decide.
Alimony law in the Sooner State
Oklahoma is an interesting state as its law of alimony is concerned in that the statute does not lay out the legal requirements in much detail, as some other states’ laws do. This leaves much of the detail to directed by common law – meaning case law as articulated and decided by judges in court opinions.
The preliminary question for the court is whether one spouse will have financial need and whether the other party will have the means to pay support alimony. Beyond that, the judge has wide discretion to assess the circumstances of the parties and identify relevant factors to the alimony question. Examples of relevant factors include:
- Health and ages of the parties
- Contributions of one party to the other’s career
- Marital standard of living
- Earning capacities of each party
- Contributions of each party to the marital estate
- Financial resources, income and assets of each party
- Educational levels
- Considerations related to minor children such as the need to provide a residence
- And many others
Modification or termination of alimony
Alimony in Oklahoma ends with death or remarriage of the recipient, unless the recipient can show that some alimony would still be fair after remarriage. This request must be made to the court within 90 days of remarriage. If either party voluntarily cohabitates with someone of the opposite sex, either party may request that the court modify or terminate alimony payments based on substantial change of circumstances of either party concerning the ability to pay or a change in the need for alimony.
In addition, either party can return to court to request a modification of alimony if they can show “substantial and continuing” changed circumstances that make the original award unreasonable for either party.
This is an introduction to a complex area of Oklahoma law. An attorney can answer questions about the likelihood of alimony in a particular divorce.
The family lawyers of Stange Law Firm, P.C., with offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City (as of Feb. 2020) represent Oklahomans in alimony and other matters related to divorce and family law. We also represent people in family law issues in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas.