21 Aug More on Family Law
Family Law encompasses a number of separate and distinct areas of practice. The most common types are divorce, paternity, guardianship (adult and minor), and adoptions, and also modifications to those types of cases/orders. Wagner and Lynch have practiced in these areas for over a decade each. The methods and manners in which we handle the cases are unique to each attorney, but what is common is that we take the time to get to know you and understand your issues and we are proactive in helping you achieve your goals. Many attorneys will talk to you, see what you want, and take what you give them to try to do it – we like to help you find new ways to communicate, set healthy boundaries, and manage your situation. It is a personal touch that is unique to our office and is a benefit to our clients.
The Oklahoma divorce code is found in Title 43. Oklahoma is generally a “no-fault” state meaning that although you can file a divorce for specific reasons (adultery, impotency, abandonment, pregnancy outside of the marital couple, extreme cruelty, etc.) you can also file for simple incompatibility. Divorce cases are initiated with a Petition which lays out the reason for the divorce, the general nature of the marital estate, and matters related to children if applicable to address jurisdiction. Along with the Petition, an Automatic Temporary Injunction is entered which prevents either party from disposing of assets or canceling things without agreement or permission. If the case involves children, each parent is required to attend a co-parenting class. Although it has been historically believed that the mother would have primary custody of the child(ren) it is actually the policy of the state that parents should have equal access to the minor child(ren) absent good cause to do otherwise.
Paternity cases address issues related to children born out of wedlock. These cases are usually filed in the county where the minor child(ren) resides though they may be filed elsewhere under certain circumstances, including tribal court (link to us). These types of cases generally follow divorce law and the UCCJEA as outlined in the divorce portion. Some of these cases require DNA testing, but not all. Additionally, some of these may be related to disestablishing another person.
Disestablishing paternity – if someone is an acknowledged, presumed, or adjudicated Father of the minor child(ren) there are VERY specific ways that you can change that. It is important to act quickly to do so that they all have timelines regarding when they can occur that are strictly followed.
Modification – almost all types of orders, other than those that address property issues may be reviewed by the Court and changed. The burdens for those changes differ. For child support issues those can be modified just due to a change in income. You can secure your co-parent’s income information annually under the state code. Other modifications can be based on the best interest of the child(ren) or changes in your circumstances or the circumstances of your co-parent.
Alimony is permitted in Oklahoma divorce cases if the requesting party can demonstrate a need and the other party has the ability to provide the support. It is usually for a specific period of time and for a specific amount. Alimony can be terminated for voluntary cohabitation, marriage, and other reasons.
In Loco Parentis
In Loco Parentis – Oklahoma has recently recognized some parental rights for non-parents that have been given parental responsibility. These cases are very fact specific.
Guardianships are governed by Title 30. There are adult and minor guardianships. The Oklahoma Bar Association has a publication to help answer some questions on adult guardianships here and for minors here. The Indian Child Welfare Act also applies to minor guardianships and makes things MUCH more complicated and involved.
Adoptions can be joyous or devastating. These requirements for a contested adoption vary in their degree of difficulty based, in part, on if the child(ren) is eligible for membership in an Indian Tribe. If the biological parents are consenting there are very specific things the adoptive placement can and cannot do to help them. It is important to be very aware of those limitations. If the biological parents do not consent there are considerations in regard to the relationship of the adopting party to the minor child(ren), and if they have acted (or not acted) in a way that would make the child(ren) eligible for adoption without the consent of that parent. If you are a parent that someone is trying to adopt from and you do not consent there are some very specific ways you can improve your case. It is important to have sound legal advice at all stages of adoption (including pre-birth). Additionally, although Oklahoma recognizes the ability of same-sex couples to adopt, that is not necessarily true for tribes.