The question of who gets what can be a major sticking point in an Oklahoma divorce. Fortunately, you and your soon-to-be-ex will have opportunities to resolve these issues throughout the dissolution of marriage process. However, if you can't come to an agreement regarding the division of marital property and debts, the court will do it for you—and you may not like what it decides.
Though many people mistakenly believe that divorcing means splitting assets 50-50, the reality is a lot more complicated. Oklahoma follows a legal standard that requires that marital debts and assets be divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. This can be a complex and potentially contentious process, and you need a formidable legal representation to ensure an equitable division.
Divorcing in the Sooner State? Here's what you need to know about property division and how our skilled divorce attorneys can help you protect your rights and future.
Oklahoma Divorce: Separate Versus Marital Property
Oklahoma recognizes two types of property: separate and marital. It's important to understand the difference between the separate and marital property, as how an asset is categorized generally determines whether it's subject to division in divorce. The following is a brief overview:
- Separate property. Assets owned or acquired by either spouse prior to marriage, as well as inheritance, legal settlements, or gifts from third parties either spouse (but not both) receives during the marriage.
- Marital property. Money, property, and other assets acquired during the marriage, including bank accounts, cars, and houses.
In most cases, each spouse retains their separate property, while marital property and debts are divided during the divorce proceedings. However, there are some exceptions. If separate property increased in value during the marriage due to both spouses' efforts, it may be considered marital property and be up for division (e.g., you owned a home before you were married and, during the marriage, you and your spouse completed renovations that raised its value). Additionally, in divorces involving children, the court may decide to divide separate property if it believes it's in their best interests.
The equitable distribution standard means that marital property must be divided fairly, either by reaching a mutually beneficial agreement with your spouse or by court order. In an attempt to divide marital property and debts in a fair and reasonable manner, judges consider a wide range of factors, including:
- Length of the marriage
- Age and health of each spouse
- Each spouse's earning potential
- Each spouse's contributions to the marriage
- Alimony paid from one spouse to another
- Which parent will be the children's primary caregiver
- Tax consequences
- Whether one spouse defrauded the other
- Conduct that increased or decreased the value of the marital property
Understanding the Property Division Process in an Oklahoma Divorce
Once you understand Oklahoma's equitable distribution standard, as well as the difference between—and significance of—separate and marital property, it's helpful to learn what you can expect during the property division process. Here's a brief overview of the steps the District Court takes to divide assets and debts when divorcing spouses are unable to reach an agreement:
- Discovery, in which assets are evaluated to determine if they're marital property and, therefore, subject to division.
- Valuation, which involves assigning a monetary value to the marital property and debts.
- Distribution, where the court issues an order determining which spouse gets what.
Our Adept Oklahoma Divorce Attorneys Can Help You Navigate the Property Division Process
Divorcing and want to make sure you get your fair share of the marital property? Did a legal or procedural error result in an unfavorable division of assets or debts? You've come to the right place for help. At the Law Office of Aaron D. Bundy, PLC, our team of extensively-trained and highly-skilled divorce and family law attorneys fights to protect the rights of clients throughout northeastern Oklahoma, and our long track record of success speaks for itself. Interested in finding out if we can help you? Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a private divorce consultation.