Property in Oklahoma is divided under equitable distribution laws. Property division can be an unexpectedly stressful part of a divorce, especially if a couple has a high-asset divorce or complicated assets.
Under equitable distribution, marital property is not necessarily split equally between spouses. Instead, the court reviews several factors about the marriage, such as marital misconduct and the income of each spouse, to determine what a fair split of property is.
What Is Marital Property?
Marital property is the only property that is divisible during a divorce. Oklahoma defines marital property, or shared property, as all assets and debts acquired by either spouse from the day of their marriage. Even property that is under one spouse’s name is still considered shared property if it was acquired during the marriage. The only exceptions to this include:
- Inheritance given to one spouse
- Gifts given to one spouse
The court assumes that any assets gained during a marriage are marital property unless one spouse proves otherwise. Assets gained after separation but prior to a finalized divorce may be considered marital property if marital assets were used to acquire them.
What Is Separate Property?
Separate property refers to any assets obtained prior to the date of marriage and exceptions to marital property. It also includes assets gained solely with separate property. Although separate property is not up for property division, the number of separate assets each spouse has is an essential consideration during equitable distribution.
Separate Property Can Become Marital Property
Spouses can accidentally commingle separate assets, making them marital assets, by not understanding the consequences of these actions. If it’s impossible to trace the assets back to separate sources, they will be treated as marital property.
Spouses can also choose to change separate property into marital property by retitling the asset under both spouses’ names.
Separation Agreements During a Divorce
A divorce doesn’t have to be handled through the court. If spouses can draft a separation agreement for all or most of the aspects of a divorce, they can choose how to divide assets. Equitable distribution only applies if the court has to divide the assets for a couple. Oklahoma courts prefer that couples work on a separation agreement prior to entering litigation.
If you and your spouse can negotiate or mediate your divorce, you can choose how assets are split and determine other terms such as alimony. A separation agreement is a less expensive and shorter option than going through litigation. Once you create a separation agreement, you submit it to the judge for approval. Judges generally approve these agreements unless the separation of property is unfair to one party.
How Prenuptial Agreements Impact Property Division
A valid prenuptial agreement will also prevent division through equitable distribution. When couples create a prenuptial agreement, they can lay out the terms of a potential divorce and what assets will be considered separate and marital. Even if you and your spouse must go through litigation for divorce, a prenuptial agreement takes precedence over equitable distribution laws.
Equitable Distribution in Court
A divorce that goes through litigation without a prenuptial agreement will be governed by the court. There are no exact laws for Oklahoma judges to judge what makes property division equitable. Instead, there are several loose guidelines that judges can use. These factors may include:
- The value of the property, and each spouse’s rights to that property
- Each spouse’s ability to work, their income, and future earning capacity
- Whether there are children involved
- Determinations as to which spouse will have primary custody
- The contributions of each spouse to acquiring property
- If one spouse is awarded alimony and the amount of alimony
- Each spouse’s debts
- The disabilities of either spouse
- Marital misconduct of either spouse that decreased marital property value
- Financial or employment sacrifices that a spouse made to care for children or the marital home
The importance and judgment of each of these factors varies based on the judge overseeing your case. This can be stressful and uncertain for many individuals. An experienced divorce attorney can help you represent your interests in court. They can also explain what an equitable distribution is and why it is so.
Q: What Is the Division of Marital Property in Oklahoma?
A: In Oklahoma, marital property is divided according to equitable distribution laws. Assets are split between spouses based on several factors in the marriage. This split may be equal or not. If spouses don’t want their assets to be split via equitable distribution, they can negotiate a separation agreement through mediation rather than litigation. A valid marital agreement can also override the court’s equitable distribution laws.
Q: How Do You Split a House in a Divorce in Oklahoma?
A: A family house is subject to equitable distribution, just like any other asset. Spouses may agree on who can keep the home through a separation agreement, and other marital assets may be used to make this arrangement fair. There are other ways that spouses can agree to distribute a home. If spouses can’t agree, it will be up to the court’s discretion. Often, the court will order the house to be sold and spouses to split the profits.
Q: Is Oklahoma a 50-50 State in Divorce?
A: Oklahoma is not a 50-50 community property state. It is an equitable distribution state. In some cases, assets could be split 50-50, but that is not guaranteed. In an equitable distribution state, assets are split by the court based on what is fair. The court bases its decision on factors such as the conduct of each spouse during the marriage and each spouse’s contributions to marital property.
Q: What Are the 12 Grounds for Divorce in Oklahoma?
A: In Oklahoma, you can file for a fault or a no-fault divorce. For a no-fault divorce, you only have to cite incompatibility, also called irreconcilable differences. The 11 grounds for a fault-based divorce include:
- Abandonment for 1 year
- Pregnancy from someone other than the spouse
- Extreme cruelty
- Neglect of duty
- Felony imprisonment
- A divorce decree that isn’t valid in Oklahoma
Advocating for Equitable Division in Oklahoma City
You may need a mediator for separation agreement negotiations. You might also need an advocate for your interests during the division of property in litigation. Our attorneys can help. Contact Stange Law Firm today.