The divorce process in Oklahoma can be incredibly challenging, especially when a divorcing couple owns substantial or complex assets. One of the most important aspects of any divorce case in Oklahoma is property division. Oklahoma upholds an equitable distribution law, which, as the name implies, strives to ensure the most equitable, though not necessarily equal, marital property distribution in a divorce.
If you are preparing to divorce in Oklahoma, it’s essential to understand the state’s definition of marital property and understand how to differentiate between marital property and separate property in divorce proceedings.
What Is Marital Property?
Oklahoma defines marital property as all property and assets gained by either spouse during marriage. Some commonly cited examples of marital property likely to be subject to division under Oklahoma’s equitable distribution law include:
- Income earned by both spouses during their marriage.
- Real property, such as a home, purchased by the couple while married.
- Valuable assets purchased during the marriage, including securities, jewelry, artwork, and other expensive items.
- Property owned by either spouse that appreciated due to the contributions of efforts of the other spouse during the marriage.
- Vehicles purchased by the spouses during their marriage.
One of the most important early phases of the divorce process in Oklahoma is financial disclosure. Both spouses must provide complete and accurate financial disclosure statements with necessary supporting documentation to ensure a fair property division determination under Oklahoma’s equitable distribution law.
It’s a common misconception that divorce means losing half of all your assets to your spouse. This may be true in states like California that uphold community property laws, but in Oklahoma, the equitable distribution law requires the court to consider various factors before reaching the most equitable possible resolution.
What Is Separate Property?
Oklahoma’s equitable distribution law allows each divorcing spouse to retain ownership of their separate property in a divorce. 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.
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.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Even if you and your spouse are generally agreeable concerning your divorce, it is still essential to have legal counsel as you navigate the process and Oklahoma’s equitable distribution laws. Property division can be complex and stressful, especially when you do not have a reliable legal representative looking out for your best interests and guiding you toward a positive result in your divorce case.
Your attorney can help you explore alternative dispute resolution that can potentially help you save significant amounts of time and money in handling your divorce. They can also ensure a fair and accurate result by ensuring both you and your spouse provide complete financial disclosures and arrange fair valuation or appraisals of marital property. If you are preparing for divorce in Oklahoma, reach out to a trustworthy Oklahoma divorce lawyer as soon as possible so you can start the divorce process with greater confidence.