Edmond Divorce Attorneys

Helping Oklahoma Clients Navigate the Legal Implications of Separation and Divorce

Divorce is never easy. Emotions inevitably run high as two lives are legally and practically extricated from one another. There are almost always questions about who is entitled to what or if one party deserves financial support. The process can be even more turbulent if minor children are involved. While some divorcees claim they will attempt to separate without the involvement of legal representation, sooner or later, disputes erupt, and both parties move to protect themselves.

If you are going through a divorce and have questions about your rights, our Edmond divorce lawyers can help. Our team has over 20 years of combined legal experience and can advise you on numerous areas of Oklahoma’s divorce law, including rules governing child custody, property division, and child support. You should always assume your former partner is seeking legal representation, and you need to be prepared for them to try and take more than what they are owed. We can fiercely represent you and make sure your rights are protected throughout the divorce.

Get the legal representation you need and deserve in your divorce by calling (405) 267-9921 or contacting us online.

How Child Custody Works in Oklahoma

Unlike in some other states, Oklahoma by default gives both parents of a minor child equal entitlement to custody, so long as both parents agree that the husband is the father. In other words, once a divorce starts, both parents have a legal claim for their children to stay with them until a court order specifies otherwise. There is not necessarily any need for a court to intervene unless a parent objects.

For practical and emotional reasons, one or both parents will likely prefer they retain full custody of their children. This can be pursued by filing a Petition of Custody with an Oklahoma Court, which will first check if they have jurisdiction to assign custody. The child in question must have resided in Oklahoma for a minimum of 6 months for the court to have jurisdiction.

Oklahoma tends to combine the sometimes-separated concepts of “physical custody” and “legal custody.” Physical custody refers to whom the child lives with, while legal custody encompasses a parent’s ability to make decisions on behalf of the child.

An Oklahoma court can order several types of custody, including:

  • Sole Legal Custody – only one, selected parent can make decisions about the child’s wellbeing and future, including their education and healthcare
  • Sole Physical Custody – both parents can make decisions involving the child; the child lives primarily with one parent, while the other has visitation rights
  • Joint Legal Custody – both parents can make decisions involving the child’s wellbeing
  • Joint Physical Custody – the child lives with each parent for a significant amount of time of the calendar year

In deciding custody, the court considers what will be best for the physical and mental wellbeing of the child. If the child is at least 14 years-old, their preferences are likely to be taken into substantial consideration.

Oklahoma courts tend to consider the following when weighing custody decisions:

  • The wishes and arguments of each parent
  • The wishes of the child, especially if they are at least 14
  • The apparent quality of the relationship between the child and each parent
  • The relationships the child has with other close family members, like grandparents, siblings, or cousins
  • The child’s relationship to their school and community, and how custody requiring a move might affect that relationship
  • The level of involvement each parent has in a child’s education and healthcare
  • The attitude each parent has toward the other
  • Each parent’s practical ability to spend time with the child and provide for their needs
  • Any criminal history of either parent

A court can also mandate visitation privileges to a parent who does not have a history of abuse but for whatever reason does not receive sole physical custody. These can include defined weekend visits, expanded summer visits, and allowances for certain holidays. These orders cannot be violated by the parent with sole physical custody. As you can see, a lot goes into any custody decision, and court hearings can become protracted, contested affairs.

Our Edmond divorce attorneys can represent you throughout custody hearings and argue why you deserve the level of custody you are seeking.

Can I Change an Oklahoma Custody Order?

If you are unsatisfied with the ruling of the court in your custody case, you will not be able to immediately appeal or contest. The Final Custody Order will not be reconsidered until some major change that impacts the wellbeing of the child occurs. These types of changes can include a parent attempting to move out-of-state with the child, a continued loss of income to the point where they can no longer ably support the child, new criminal activity, or an abusive situation.

If your legal representation agrees the development is significant enough to warrant a reexamination of the Custody Order, you can file a Motion to Modify Custody. At a new hearing, a judge will review the original custody case along with the new information and decide whether or not to amend the Final Custody Order. We can help you determine if new evidence is sufficient in attempting a modification and help argue for a change in court.

How Property Division Works in Oklahoma

You are likely concerned whether you will retain the property you believe you deserve following a separation. Oklahoma has specific rules about how property is divided in a divorce.

First, you must make the distinction between “separate property” and “marital property.” In Oklahoma, only marital property will be divided in a divorce; separate property is exclusively yours and will not be touched.

Separate property includes any assets you had before you got married as well as any gifts, settlements, or inheritances that you – and only you – receive during the marriage. Anything else is considered marital property. If you bought new furniture for your home after you were married, for instance, that is all considered marital property. If you had an antique chair you owned prior to the marriage and brought it into your home, that is counted as separate property.

Oklahoma is one of many “equitable distribution” states that mandates marital property must be divided “fairly.” The definition of “fair,” or what constitutes fairness, is often a source of conflict between divorcing parties that consequently forces a court to decide. Keep in mind that a 50/50 split is not necessarily what will be considered fair.

How Will an Oklahoma Court Split Property in a Divorce?

It is worth pointing out that you do not necessarily have to resort to a court proceeding to split your property in a divorce. If you and your divorcing partner jointly agree that a property split you decide together is sufficiently fair, the matter can end there.

Disputes are unfortunately common, and emotions tend to run high in a divorce. Once a court becomes involved, they will likely inventory the marital property and assign monetary value to each asset. From there, a judge will consider the contributions each party made to the marriage. If one party earned significantly more than the other, they might get a greater share of the property, as they “earned” more of the marital property. In some cases, however, a sympathetic judge might give the partner who earns less income a greater amount of property, as they will likely need that value to adjust to a life with less income. A spouse taking sole custody of a child is likely to get more property, and any partner found to meet a Fault Condition in a divorce is likely to receive less.

Much of property division can come down to the interpretation of the marriage by a judge, not by any mathematical formula. That is why you need our experienced Edmond divorce lawyers to represent you in any court proceedings to make sure the judge understands why you are entitled to your equitable share.

How Child Support Works in Oklahoma

Generally, if you are not awarded sole custody, you will be required to pay some level of child support until the minor child finishes high school or turns 19, whichever comes first. In Oklahoma, the schedule and means by which you calculate your obligation is somewhat complex but is tied to your gross income. In most circumstances, the more you make in income, the more you will owe in child support.

Though the state has a schedule by which it determines minimum base rates, Oklahoma courts have a great deal of discretion in determining the final child support amount. A judge can overrule a mutually agreed upon child support amount that deviates from the state’s schedule if they believe it not to be in the best interest of the child.

An Oklahoma court typically considers the following in deciding support:

  • The child’s practical needs
  • The extent of parents’ ability to pay
  • The child’s standard of living prior to the divorce

These considerations are especially true in instances where the parents are wealthy. When a parent’s income exceeds the maximum bracket in the state’s schedule, the court must decide what (if any) additional amount should be paid. A court can effectively overrule the schedule at their discretion regardless of income, however, in pursuit of the best interests of the child.

How to Modify a Child Support Decision

Like in custody modification, you cannot simply appeal a child support decision because you disagree with the judge’s ruling. A significant change in circumstances needs to have occurred to justify a request for modification. A dramatic change in income is generally necessary in a successful request: Either the party with custody experiences a large increase in income, reducing their need for the current level of child support, or the obligor experiences a huge loss of income, limiting their ability to pay at the current rate. This can occur in vice versa, as well.

After reviewing the changes, a judge can choose to increase or decrease future child support payments. We can represent you in child support negotiations and work to get you the most advantageous result.

We Can Help You with All of Your Divorce Needs

Divorce is a multi-pronged process with a lot of moving parts that generate conflict. Our legal team at Gossen and Schaller, PLLC have a full understanding of Oklahoma’s court system and can leverage our experience to assist you in any element of the process, whether it be custody, child support, or property division.

Request a consultation by calling (405) 267-9921 or contacting us online.

“I really can’t recommend her enough nor will I ever forget the lasting impact she has had on our lives.”

- Joan A. Clark

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Why Choose Gossen & Schaller, PLLC?
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Legal processes can be hard to navigate, but our team makes an effort to minimize the confusion. Get in touch with our team today to discuss your case and explore your options.

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