You’re probably familiar with the idea of no-fault divorce. If a couple decides that they simply don’t want to be married any more, they can demonstrate that desire to a judge and get divorced. Even though no-fault divorces are now available in all 50 states, this wasn’t always the case, and Oklahoma is one of few states where divorces can still be based on a fault condition.
What is a fault condition? Before the 1970s and ‘80s, a couple could not just divorce at will. Instead, one spouse had to demonstrate proof that the other committed some fault that violated the marriage or made it unworkable. There are a number of fault conditions that allow for divorce in Oklahoma, and they can have a profound effect on the divorce judgement, the division of assets, and any custody issues the couple is going through.
The list of fault conditions in Oklahoma is not long, but it does cover a number of different scenarios. In order to qualify for a fault-based divorce, one of the spouses must meet at least one of these conditions:
- Abandonment for one year.
- When the wife at the time of her marriage, was pregnant by another than her husband.
- Extreme cruelty.
- Fraudulent contract.
- Habitual drunkenness.
- Gross neglect of duty.
- Imprisonment of the other party in a state or federal penal institution under sentence thereto for the commission of a felony at the time the petition is filed.
- Insanity for a period of five (5) years.
In addition, the spouse filing for the divorce must be able to prove the fault of the other party in court. This means that some fault conditions are significantly more difficult to achieve; for instance, proving adultery, extreme cruelty, or habitual drunkenness to a legal standard can be difficult for people not well-versed in the law.
On the other hand, other fault conditions are relatively easy to meet assuming you are careful and keep good records. For instance, abandonment can be shown in any case where a spouse leaves and doesn’t show specific plans about when they will return. Impotency requires medical evidence, but once that evidence is obtained it is readily admitted in court. And imprisonment is very easy to show, since the state will already have records of whether or not the spouse is in prison.
Another thing to keep in mind about at-fault divorce is that, since it is a civil action in a court of law, there are defenses against it that the other spouse can use. For instance, if the spouse can prove recrimination – essentially a defense that both spouses committed a fault – then the divorce might not be granted. Similarly, if you forgive your spouse for their actions and resume the relationship before attempting to get a divorce, the other spouse can use a condonation defence, which protects them from fault for actions you forgave.
In effect, pursuing an at-fault divorce can be complicated, time-consuming, and stressful. In contrast, a no-fault divorce is a relatively simple process. Both parties consent to the divorce on the basis of marital incompatibility, divide their assets (or have the court divide them), and go on their separate ways. Why, then, would anyone pursue an at-fault divorce?
There are two major reasons that someone might still seek an at-fault divorce from their partner. First, if the other party is found to be at fault, you can gain a significantly larger share of the marital assets and you are much more likely to get full or controlling custody of any children. Second, an at-fault divorce doesn’t require consent from both parties, so it makes it possible to get out of an abusive or unhappy marriage.
If you aren’t sure about your best course of action, contact us today at the Bryan Stratton Law Office. Our lawyers have the skills and experience you need to navigate the difficult waters of Oklahoma divorce proceedings, and they’ll get you the outcome you want. Call today 405-601-4411 for a free consultation, or follow us on Facebook and Google+ for the latest updates.