File the Petition
A divorce is initiated by filing a petition with the court clerk of the county where the divorce will be heard. The divorce petition must contain certain elements, including: the date of marriage, a statement concerning the petitioner’s recent residential history and the residential history of all minor children of the relationship, and a request for a divorce based on specific grounds (incompatibility is the most common reason for divorce in Oklahoma). The petition must be “verified” by the petitioner as true and correct. The non-petitioning spouse must be formally served with the petition and a summons unless the non-petitioning spouse agrees to sign a form waiving formal personal service
There is a 90 day waiting period for divorces involving minor children, even in cases that are agreed. Waiver of the 90 day period is very rare.
As demonstrated by this timeline, the divorce process can easily take the majority of a year or longer, even for uncomplicated cases. Often, “temporary orders” are necessary to help separating parties transition while the divorce lawsuit is pending and not yet final.
Exception: Agreed Divorce
A complete agreement reached in writing by both sides can eliminate almost all of the steps and requirements on this timeline, except for the petition, the 90 day waiting period if there are minor children, a parenting class if there are minor children, and the decree. If there are no minor children of the relationship and both sides reach a complete agreement before the divorce is filed, then they can be divorced as quickly as 10 days from the date the petition is filed.
The non-petitioning spouse has 20 days to file an answer responding to the petition for divorce. The non-petitioning spouse can file a “counterclaim,” which requires a separate written response by the petitioner.
Temporary Order Hearing
The temporary order hearing is generally an evidentiary hearing. This means that, unless the parties have a temporary order agreement to present to the judge, the parties and witnesses will be sworn in under oath and questioned by the attorneys and the judge. Temporary order hearings are generally much shorter than final trials, but the evidence presented and the outcome of the temporary order hearing can dramatically impact the overall divorce case and the final outcome. If you do not have a temporary order agreement, you should prepare for the temporary order hearing as if you were preparing for trial.
Exchange Financial Disclosures
Each side is required to gather specific financial information for disclosure to the other side, including federal and state income tax returns for each party for the past two years, two months of the most recent pay stubs from each employer for whom the party worked, statements for the past six months for all bank accounts, documentation regarding available health insurance, documentation regarding child care expenses, and documentation regarding all debts, showing the most recent balance due and payment terms.
Our office has a policy, based in law and trial practice, to encourage our clients to go beyond the minimum financial disclosures to produce all potential evidence to the other side.
Educational Program for Parents
Parents of minor children are required to attend an educational program concerning the impact of divorce on children. Court clerks and attorneys can provide information for programs that are accepted by Oklahoma courts.
Each side may require the other side to formally respond, in writing, to questions and requests for information. Once a spouse is served with written discovery requests, the spouse receiving the requests must respond to the requests within 30 days. In addition to written requests for information, each side may require the other side and witnesses to appear for a deposition at a designated time to be sworn in and questioned about matters related to the divorce. Depositions can be expensive and are used on a case-by-case basis.
Other forms of discovery include home inspections and custody evaluations by a psychologist.
There are many types of pretrial motions which can be filed in the divorce process, including motions related to discovery, attorney fees, or requests for modification of temporary orders.
Most courts require parties to attend mediation at least once in the divorce process to attempt to settle their disputes privately. Mediation is a safe place. The mediation process is covered by the rules concerning settlement negotiation. Nothing that is said by a spouse in mediation may be used against that spouse later in court.
Many courts require a pretrial conference hearing before a divorce case can be set for trial. Immediately prior to a pretrial conference, each side is required to disclose to the other side a list of all witnesses and evidence to be used at trial. The pretrial conference order lists the issues, the witnesses and the evidence for trial. The pretrial conference is for the attorneys to tell the court that there are issues that cannot be resolved by agreement and ask a trial to finalize the divorce.
Trial is for issues that cannot be resolved by agreement. Statistically, most divorce cases are settled privately, meaning the parties reach agreements resolving all issues. However, many high-conflict or complex cases require trial.
What Makes Us Different?
Our focus is on getting you the best results possible. Almost any divorce attorney can describe the divorce timeline and process in their own words. Tulsa County provides a helpful timeline here. The things that set us apart from all other lawyers are things that are not on this timeline and that are not taught in law schools. We investigate and make a plan for the divorce and for our client before we file a divorce petition. We have the ability to assist our clients and witnesses with preparing to testify in ways that few attorneys know or understand. In addition to our aggressive ongoing professional training, we have significant relationships with investigators and experts who can assist our clients and us with discovery, trial preparation and expert testimony. Call us at (918) 208-0129, or contact us online, to learn more.