When a couple gets divorced, the courts have to sort out everything from the marriage. One of the important tasks a court must perform is property division, specifically Oklahoma property division.
A divorcing spouse should retain, or at least get guidance from, a licensed Family Law attorney. Seemingly simple divorce cases can be more involved than they appear. Lawyers also have the proper training and experience to tell the judge what a divorcing spouse wants and/or needs from the property division.
Property Division Divorce Laws in Oklahoma
The purpose of Oklahoma property division laws is to make sure that marital property is allocated to each spouse in a just and reasonable manner. Oklahoma marital property is divided under the considerations of 43 Okl. St. §134 but the trial court judge receives great discretion when converting Oklahoma marital property into separate Oklahoma divorce property.
Oklahoma is an equitable distribution state. This means that with regard to Oklahoma divorce assets, anything the spouses had pre-marriage usually will not be included in Oklahoma divorce assets or Oklahoma divorce property. The only property that comes into the court's distribution is that which is legally classified as property of the marriage subject to 43 Okl. St. §134.
What is considered Marital and Non-Marital Property?
- Marital property is generally defined as all property acquired during the marriage, regardless of who obtained or holds title to it.
- Non-marital property is property that is not part of the marriage. This typically includes property each spouse held before the marriage as well as property classified as separate under a valid agreement between the parties.
Ultimately the court will decide which of the parties' property is marital or non-marital.
Dividing Assets and Debt
After the court decides which property is available for distribution, the next step is property valuation. The final step is the allocation of marital property.
Judges decide how a marriage's assets should be divided based on Oklahoma case law. Here is a list of the most common property items and the most common allocation scheme used.
- Cash: Divided equitably among the
- Example 1: A joint savings account has $5,000. The court would most likely determine a proper allocation to each spouse.
- Example 2: A joint savings account has $5,000. One spouse contributed $4,000 and the other contributed $1,000. The amount may be divided aequally or may be more balanced if the $1,000 contributor has fewer assets than the $4,000 contributor.
- Retirement Plans: Divided based on the
duration of the marriage at the time the benefits accrued, looking at the
present value of the plan and/or survivor benefits.
- Example 1: A spouse got benefits in a retirement plan after working for 20 years and was married for 5 of those years. The ex-spouse would be entitled to a portion of the retirement plan that was acquired during the marriage.
- Example 2: A spouse has an unvested retirement plan. No division takes place until the plan is payable to the spouse who has it.
- Vehicles: Divided based on the values at
the date determined by the court. May be
sold or given to a spouse outright.
- Example 1: A car is owned by a spouse The car may be sold with the proceeds to be given to a poorer spouse or divided among the spouses in some way.
- Example 2: A car has a shared title. The car may be sold with the proceeds going to each spouse equally or the car may be given to a poorer spouse outright.
- Insurance: Determined based upon each
spouse's health, availability of alternate insurance and premium payments from
- Example 1: One spouse has covered the other under employer provided health insurance. The other spouse is in poor health and could not afford alternate health care coverage. The court may order the first spouse to continue covering that spouse for a set time and/or award money to the ailing spouse to get new coverage.
- Example 2: One spouse has a life insurance policy where the ex-spouse is to get survivor benefits. If marital income was used to make payments on the insurance, the spouse may be entitled to a portion of the benefits.
Settling Disputes in a Divorce Case with Property and Asset Division
43 Okl. St. §134(A) states that payments made for a property division award are final and can not later be modified by the court. However, under 43 Okl. St. §111 you can go back to court and get a property division order enforced as an indirect contempt of court if a spouse is being uncooperative.
The trial court's determinations will not be changed by a higher court unless there was an abuse of discretion.
Help From an Oklahoma Property Divorce Lawyer
It can not be stressed enough that retaining an Oklahoma property divorce lawyer is key to getting the fairest and most equitable result in the property division phase of a divorce. The lawyer can provide professional guidance, keep you informed of likely outcomes and help you present the best arguments and presentation to the trial judge handling the divorce.