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Oklahoma Legal Separation
Legal Separation in Oklahoma

An Oklahoma Legal separation allows spouses to remain married but live separately. Without terminating the marriage, the Oklahoma court divides property and may award alimony and determine child custody during a legal separation action. Prior to divorcing, some couples choose a legal separation because it resolves many of the issues that must be addressed in a divorce. Couples may also choose legal separation for religious reasons, to continue medical insurance coverage, for tax purposes, or while the spouses wait the statutory period to obtain a divorce.

When a husband and wife separate, Oklahoma courts divide marital property equitably. Property acquired by either spouse before the marriage, or acquired individually during the marriage (such as a gift or inheritance), is separate property and goes to the owner; property acquired jointly during the marriage is marital property and is divided between the husband and wife, not equally, but in a just and reasonable manner, meaning as the court deems fair. If an item cannot be physically divided, one party may be awarded the item and the other compensated to the value for his or her share of the property.

Alimony can be awarded even without a divorce and either spouse is eligible to receive and petition for it in a legal separation case. Alimony may to be paid in cash or real and personal property and may be paid in full or in installments.

Courts decide custody issues based on the best interests of the child standard and permit children 12 and older to express a preference. Oklahoma requires that a noncustodial parent be permitted frequent and continuous contact with a child with visitation. Because frequent visitation is in the childs best interests, the noncustodial parent cannot be denied visitation even when unable to pay alimony or child support.

No preference may be given to either parent because of gender, and the court can require that parents share joint custody or may award sole custody to one parent.

The law continues to view the couple as married during a legal separation. The only way to end a marriage is to convert the separation to a divorce.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legal binding contract signed by spouses, which is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. This can be a very complex and detailed document depending upon the unique situation of the marriage. Many spouses consult an attorney to provide this or they decide to prepare their own.

Complaint

A legal separation agreement includes both parties' full names, birth dates and any children within the marriage. The petition includes the date of marriage and the date of separation. The grounds must also be stated.

Grounds

In Oklahoma, the grounds for a legal separation are the same as for a divorce. Oklahoma allows the petitioner to file a nofault petition. Couples filing jointly when they have no contested issues frequently use this option. In the alternative, Oklahoma recognizes 10 types of fault: abandonment for at least one year, adultery, impotency, wifes pregnancy by someone other than her husband during the marriage, extreme cruelty, insanity for a period of five years, gross neglect of duty, fraudulent contract, habitual drunkenness, and imprisonment of the other party. The fault options can be found in the Oklahoma Statutes Title 43, Section 101.

Residency

In Oklahoma, the husband and wife can file for a legal separation in the county where either spouse resides. Either one spouse or the other must have lived in the state of Oklahoma for at least six months prior to the filing. Additionally, the petitioner must have lived in the county where he or she intends to file for the preceding 30 days or in the county where the respondent resides. If, however, the married couple lives apart in two different counties, the case may be filed in either county.

Initial Procedure

The separation papers must be served on the respondent. The respondent must be notified with a summons, so he or she knows that the legal action is being taken. Both the petition and summons must be filed with the county clerk.

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