Although there is a common conception of divorce as consisting of lengthy court battles, a majority of divorces are settled through alternative dispute resolution methods outside of litigation. It’s important to understand when divorce litigation may be the ideal option, along with the advantages and disadvantages of that path. A compassionate and experienced Tulsa divorce attorney can help you determine what option may benefit you.
Understanding a Contested Divorce
When spouses can agree on important elements of the divorce, such as spousal support, division of property, child custody, and child support, this is considered an uncontested divorce. Though the final agreement must be approved by the court, regular court appearances are rarely part of uncontested divorces. Many divorces are handled by creating a separation agreement outside of court. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, or beneficial, for the entire family.
A contested divorce occurs in one of the following situations:
- Spouses disagree that they should be filing for divorce.
- One spouse files the divorce on fault-based grounds.
- Spouses cannot reach an agreement on the terms of a separation agreement.
Most of these contested divorces are managed by the family law court. A contested divorce can be more stressful, and it offers parties significantly less say in the outcome of their separation agreement. The judge has the final say on the divorce order when you enter litigation, and the judge may not have the in-depth information needed to make those decisions. This is why, if your divorce enters litigation, it is essential that you have an attorney with divorce litigation experience to represent your needs.
When Is Litigation the Right Option?
Some contested divorces can be managed through non-litigious methods, but this isn’t always possible. There are several situations where one or both spouses may decide that it is in their interests to take their divorce to court. These may include:
- Spouses try mediation or other alternative methods to resolve their divorce, but they cannot reach an agreement.
- One or both spouses refuse to cooperate, reach any compromises, or even speak to each other.
- One spouse is deliberating dragging out a mediation or collaborative process.
- One spouse has significantly more power over the other spouse due to emotional or economic abuse.
- A spouse is a danger to the other spouse or their children due to domestic violence or a similar situation.
In abusive situations, entering litigation can help a spouse better protect their rights, and they should hire an attorney to better defend those rights in court. Because Oklahoma allows for fault-based divorces, proving abuse and cruelty in court can also change how a divorce plays out. If you are considering filing for a divorce, it’s important to discuss your situation with an attorney. They can help you determine the method of divorce that most protects the rights of you and your loved ones.
Pros and Cons of Litigation
For some, litigation is the right option, as it allows you to:
- Protect your rights more effectively.
- Challenge potentially unfair requests for spousal support or child support.
- Divide property by equitable distribution laws.
- Defend your child when your spouse is requesting unfair visitation or custody rights.
However, there are several downsides to litigation, including:
- Litigation is much more expensive due to court costs, attorney fees, and the length of time the process takes.
- Litigation is longer and could take a year or more, and the timeframe relies on the availability of the court’s schedule.
- Attending multiple court dates can add to the stress of the entire family.
- Divorce litigation is part of the public record, unlike more private alternative methods.
It’s important to know that you can use alternative out-of-court methods for portions of your separation agreement while taking the aspects you can’t agree on to court. This may be a way to limit the stress and cost of litigation while using it when it is necessary.
Q: Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Oklahoma?
A: If you and your spouse are filing together, or filing for an uncontested divorce, it likely does not matter who files for the divorce.
If the divorce is contested, it means that:
- It is on fault-based grounds.
- Spouses do not agree on the separation agreement.
- Spouses do not agree on the divorce.
In these cases, there may be some benefits to filing first. For instance, you have time before you file to look for the right attorney, and you can take more time to gather important information. As the petitioner, you may also be able to advocate to the court first.
Q: Do You Have to Appear in Court for a Divorce in Oklahoma?
A: Divorces that are not handled through litigation do not require significant court appearances. If the divorce is uncontested, a couple must only appear in court to present the separation agreement and have it approved. In these situations, couples work to find a compromise for their separation agreement outside of court. However, if the divorce is contested and litigated, both parties should appear in court to represent their interests. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing the consequences of a default divorce.
Q: What Are the 12 Grounds for Divorce in Oklahoma?
A: Oklahoma allows for fault-based and no-fault divorces. No-fault divorces are filed on the grounds of incompatibility. The other 11 grounds are for a fault-based divorce, and these include:
- Abandonment for one year
- Pregnancy by someone who is not the spouse
- Extreme cruelty
- Continued and excessive drunkenness
- Insanity for five years
- Neglect of duty
- Felony imprisonment
- An invalid divorce decree
Filing under fault-based grounds requires specific proof and standards that you must present to the court, depending on the specific grounds.
Q: What Is a Wife Entitled to in a Divorce Settlement in Oklahoma?
A: Both spouses, regardless of gender, have the same rights to marital property, child custody, child support, and spousal support. Decisions for children are based on the interests of the child, and the final decision is in the court’s hands. When couples work together on a settlement agreement, they can determine how spousal support and property division are handled. The court will only deny the agreement if it is unfair to one spouse.
If the court handles these matters, spousal support is based on the needs of a spouse, and property division is managed according to equitable distribution laws.
Protect Your Rights
Every divorce and family is unique, and each has different legal and emotional requirements. The attorneys at Stange Law Firm understand that and have worked with many different families going through these difficult situations. Contact us today to see how we can help you navigate this process.