Oklahoma legalized same-sex marriage in 2014 and the U.S. Supreme Court legalized it nationwide the following year, giving countless gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to tie the knot, formalize their relationship, and access the legal and social benefits of marriage. While getting married can be a joyous experience, sadly, wedded bliss doesn't always last. Research shows that up to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce—and gay couples certainly aren't immune to marriage-ending relationship woes.
Ever since the legalization of gay marriage, courts in Oklahoma and throughout the country have been grappling with the issue of same-sex divorce. Though, in theory, same-sex divorce cases should be handled just like heterosexual ones, that isn't always the case in practice. If you and your same-sex spouse are planning to end your marriage, you'll need a knowledgeable, well-trained, and highly experienced divorce attorney to protect your rights and interests.
Oklahoma Same-Sex Divorce Basics
Same-sex couples who are divorcing in Oklahoma face many of the same requirements as divorcing heterosexual couples. Here's what you need to know:
- Residency requirements. To be eligible to file for divorce in Oklahoma, you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months, or have been stationed at a military base in the state for that length of time. If you meet this condition, you can file your divorce papers in a county where either you or your soon-to-be-ex have lived for at least 30 days.
- Grounds for divorce. Oklahoma recognizes 12 grounds for dissolving a marriage, including abandonment for a period of at least 12 months, adultery, impotence, impregnation of one spouse by a third party, extreme cruelty, fraud, incompatibility, habitual drunkenness, gross negligence, imprisonment of a spouse for a felony crime, the issuance of a divorce decree from a different state, and a period of insanity that lasts five years or longer.
- Waiting periods. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the state may impose a waiting period before your divorce can be finalized. For example, divorces that involve minor children are often subject to a three-month waiting period, and you may have to take a special parenting class. The waiting period for couples without children (in uncontested divorces) is generally 10 days.
- Case length. How long it takes to divorce in Oklahoma can vary dramatically depending on the circumstances and each party's willingness to work with the other. Uncontested divorces that don't involve minor children can often be finalized in less than two weeks, while highly-conflict cases can take months or even longer.
Special Considerations in Same-Sex Divorces
While much of the Oklahoma divorce process is the same, regardless of whether you're part of a same-sex or heterosexual couple, there are two key matters that warrant special consideration: property division and child custody. Though these issues can be major points of contention in any divorce, they can be particularly complex in same-sex divorces. Here's why:
- Property division. In Oklahoma, assets purchased or acquired after marriage are equitably divided between spouses in divorce, while property held before the marriage often remains the property of its original owner. However, many same-sex couples lived together as spouses long before they were legally able to marry and, as a result, dividing only the property accrued during their legal marriage would not be truly equitable. Our attorneys can fight to have assets acquired during your “common law” marriage included in your marital property, making it subject to division.
- Child custody. Conflict can arise in a same-sex divorce when one parent tries to deny the other contact with a child because they aren't biologically related. Fortunately, several Oklahoma court cases have acknowledged certain rights for non-biological parents in same-sex relationships and marriages. We can help you fight for the parental rights you deserve.
Discuss Your Same-Sex Divorce Case With a Highly-Skilled Tulsa Divorce Attorney
At the Law Office of Aaron D. Bundy, PLC, our accomplished attorneys complete ongoing professional development to ensure that we're up-to-date on evolving legal issues like same-sex divorce. We've helped divorce clients throughout northeastern Oklahoma reach their goals. Interested in learning how we can help you? Contact us to schedule an appointment for a private consultation.