Domestic violence impacts the lives of many families and individuals. It is an unfortunate reality that many people face throughout Oklahoma and the country. If you are someone facing domestic violence from a spouse, you may be unsure how this will affect the divorce proceedings. It’s essential to understand how to keep yourself safe, get legal protection, and understand how domestic violence accusations alter divorce litigation.
Oklahoma Definition of Domestic Violence and Abuse
In Oklahoma, domestic violence is any violent act or act of abuse between partners, ex-partners, close family members, or those who share a household. Domestic violence does not always only refer to physical abuse. It can also include emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and isolation. Domestic violence is when a person suffers physical harm or is threatened with imminent physical harm.
Protective Orders in Oklahoma
If you are suffering from domestic violence, it’s important to get legal protection if it’s possible. A protective order is legal protection for victims of domestic violence and other crimes like harassment or stalking. It can order the abuser to stop all behavior and stay away from certain locations, as well as other limitations. If the person violates a protective order, they face criminal charges. A protective order can provide you with necessary safety and protection. It can also be useful in a divorce as proof of domestic violence.
How Domestic Violence Impacts Divorce
In Oklahoma, you can file for a fault-based or no-fault divorce. A no-fault divorce can cite irreconcilable differences between spouses. Oklahoma has several reasons to file for a fault-based divorce. If you are suffering from domestic violence, extreme cruelty or gross neglect of duty are both reasons for a fault-based divorce in the state.
If you file for a fault-based divorce and the court finds your spouse at fault, you could stand to gain more from the divorce. Additionally, a fault-based divorce may not require a waiting period like a no-fault divorce, which requires a 10- to 90-day waiting period.
Domestic violence can also affect other aspects of a divorce:
- Property Division
Oklahoma is an equitable distribution state, not a community property state. In a community property state, marital property is split equally. Under equitable distribution laws, marital assets are split according to what the court considers fair. The court will take into account several factors to determine an equitable split of property. Proving your spouse committed domestic violence may impact a court’s decision. If domestic violence prevented you from going to work and earning income or impacted marital property, you may receive a larger portion of marital assets.
Alimony is awarded based on the needs and income of each party. If you can prove that your spouse’s actions impacted your earning ability or ability to be self-supporting, the court may deem this reason to award you alimony or increase the amount of alimony you receive. You may have sustained a significant injury, become disabled, or have been unable to attend work frequently.
- Child Custody and Visitation
Domestic violence accusations have a significant impact on child custody determinations. Oklahoma courts have a legal presumption that parents who engage in domestic violence, abuse, or harassing behaviors should not be awarded custody or visitation rights. Custody must be made with the child’s interests in mind, which includes their physical, mental, and moral well-being. If a court decides to award visitation, it may be limited and/or supervised. Whether or not the court grants this will depend on the unique circumstances of the case and the child’s interests.
A parent accused of abuse will not have a custody arrangement in their favor. However, if false accusations are made, the parent who made those accusations will also not see a court order in their favor.
Evidence of Domestic Violence
Proving domestic violence accusations is often important in a divorce case because an abusive spouse will likely argue against the accusations. Important evidence may include:
- Photographs or videos of injuries, damaged property, or weapons used
- Medical and doctor’s reports covering injuries sustained
- Eyewitnesses to abuse, including neighbors, law enforcement officers, friends, family, and co-workers
- Expert witnesses for domestic abuse and violence
An attorney can help you gather this evidence safely and structure it for a divorce case.
Q: Can a Divorce Decree Be Modified in Oklahoma?
A: Certain court orders within a divorce decree can be modified, while others can’t. The division of property cannot be modified. Child support and spousal maintenance can be modified if there is a significant financial change. This may include a parent or ex-spouse having an increase or decrease in income or financial resources. It could also include an increased financial need for either party or their child. Child custody and visitation may also be modified if three years have passed since its creation or the last modification or if a significant change has occurred.
Q: What Is the Coercive Control Law in Oklahoma?
A: Coercive control in other states is a law that expands the definition of domestic abuse. Oklahoma has created a bill to add coercive control to the legal definition of abuse and violence. This bill has yet to be signed into law. The bill outlines coercive control as actions that isolate a family member or member of the household from their loved ones. This isolation also deprives them of basic needs and controls their movement while the perpetrator threatens them with violence or sexual violence to comply.
Q: How Long Does It Take to Finalize a Divorce in Oklahoma?
A: Every divorce is unique, and the length of time it takes to settle will rely on many individual factors. An uncontested divorce, or a divorce where both parties agree on all aspects, can be finalized in ten or 90 days. Oklahoma has a mandatory waiting period, which is ten days if the couple does not have children and 90 days if they do. This is the absolute minimum time a divorce can take unless the judge waives the waiting period. A contested divorce that must go to trial is likely to take months to years to finalize.
Q: Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Oklahoma?
A: The court does not place more weight on the argument of the party that files first. However, the filing party does get to present their wishes in a divorce first and has the ability to dismiss the petition for divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the filing party has little impact.
Divorce in Tulsa
If you are trying to end a marriage where there is domestic violence, it is essential to get legal protection from an experienced attorney. Contact Stange Law Firm today.