Facing divorce is a stressful process that can bring out the worse in people at times. Some people even use the divorce process as a means of seeking revenge or to punish a former spouse, whether it is by making the process as difficult as possible or attempting to take away a former spouse’s assets or access to their children.
Although divorce can be a liberating experience, it can also be full of stress and become very expensive, if you do not know your rights in divorce and fight to protect them. The following is a list of 50 Lessons from our experienced Oklahoma City divorce attorneys, which are intended to help you protect your assents and interested in your Oklahoma divorce.
1. Make Financial Decisions without focusing on Emotions
When facing divorce it is very easy to be motivated by anger, sadness, or revenge. However, this focus will have a very negative effect on your finances and may hurt your case. When you ask your Oklahoma divorce attorney to draft a demand letter or emails to opposing party in your divorce for every wrongdoing, you will end up spending thousands of dollars in unnecessary attorney fees. Being aware of how quickly a divorce case becomes expensive will hopefully help you in picking your battles.
2. Make Large Purchase Before Filing for Divorce
Oklahoma issues automatic temporary injunctions, including financial restraining orders when a divorce action is filed. Unless the parties reach a separate agreement, you will likely be barred from purchasing a new car or other sizable asset once the divorce is filed. Therefore, if you have been planning a large purchase, it is best practice to make the purchase before you or your spouse file the petition for divorce in Oklahoma family court.
3. Know Your Spouse’s Finances
You should be familiar with your spouse’s financial situation prior to filing for divorce or even separation. You can begin the process by tracking your spouse’s new or existing credit cards, loan applications, and the current balance and transactions of all your bank accounts. Many times people will elaborate on their income reporting for credit or loan purposes; however, the number is much more conservative when it comes to the IRS. Loan applications and other financial information can be critical in the discovery process for your divorce case.
4. Know your Case Before Filing for a Divorce
It can be very difficult to not just walk out of your marriage and file divorce when you decide enough is enough with your spouse. However, if it is safe and you can stand it; you need to collect evidence and information relevant to your divorce before leaving the marital home. You should photograph assets, make copies of every account statement you can access, write down important numbers, and document other important information for your divorce. Preparation is key in starting off on a strong foot in your divorce case. Knowledge is power and obtaining all this information will great help your Oklahoma divorce attorney present your case in the best way possible.
5. Everything Is Fair Game for Division
Divorcing parties often make the mistake than an asset in their name is separate property and not divisible as a marital asset. However, divorce experts and Oklahoma family law would caution you that the opposite is often true. Practically everything you own, have obtained since marriage is divisible. On the opposite side of the equation, all debts are likely divisible as well. It is important to consider how assets and debts will be categorized as either marital or separate in planning your finances and how to approach your divorce.
6. Alimony may be a Tax Deduction
Although we have clients that are willing to pay alimony or spousal support, none of our divorce clients are excited about the obligation to pay alimony. However, paying alimony may be financially beneficial during tax season. In many instances, you can write off paying your ex-spouse alimony as a tax deduction. However, alternatively, you must report alimony on your taxes, if you are the recipient of alimony. An important point to remember is that alimony is taxable; however, child support is neither deductible nor taxable.
7. Money Transferred outside of Alimony is likely Not Taxable
Alternatively, if money is transferred in divorce that is not alimony, i.e. distribution in lieu of further property division. The receiving spouse in this circumstance may not be taxable income. However, the transferring spouse will not receive a tax break for transferring money during the divorce.
8. Look Out for Hidden Tax Consequences of Divorce
It is important to look out for hidden tax consequences and obligations during divorce. When you transfer stock that has increased in value during divorce, you will be on hook for the tax for capital gains. When you transfer or receive real estate, stocks, bonds, or other taxable gains, you will be on the hook to pay taxes on these assets, unless your former spouse is responsible for these expenses.
9. Get Property Valued Before You Part Ways
Property is always on the table in a divorce. However, you will have a difficult time obtaining your fair share of the property, if you do not know the value of every asset. Experts are available to assess the value of every type of asset that exists; whether it be a realtor for your marital home/other property, an appraiser for a specific asset, or a financial analysist or forensic accountant to help in determining the value of a business.
10. Hiding Assets Doesn’t Work
You are violating the law if you hide assets in a divorce proceeding. When you hid assets during your divorce and it is discovered you can be sanctioned by the court, including potentially losing money by financial sanctions. In order to protect yourself from being sanctioned by the family law judge and to protect your property during divorce, it is best to declare assets honestly.
11. Marital Division of Property is Complex
Dividing marital assets and marital properties is not only a mathematical transaction. Identifying property, determining its origin, and negotiating the division of property is a complex process that takes years of experience to master the most advantageous way to divide assets for divorce clients. However, this complex process really boils down to three steps: 1) determine the nature of the asset; 2) determine the asset’s value; and 3) divide marital property.
Once property is characterized as marital property or separate property, the next step is determining the value of the property. Both of these steps include many hurdles and likely disputes as it related to substantial assets. Retirement accounts and real property, such as homes and land are complex to value and divide. These issues require experienced divorce attorney counsel and analysis to protect your interests both during and far beyond your divorce.
12. Retirement Accounts, Not as Simple as Account Balance
Determining the value of a retirement account is difficult in most circumstances. Deferred taxes must be paid at some point on many retirement accounts, which can greatly reduce the true value of a retirement account. Liquidating a retirement account early will come with serious tax consequences in most circumstances; therefore, whenever possible avoid early withdrawal and use tools like a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) to avoid these tax consequences.
13. “Division of Property” in Divorce and State Law
Oklahoma divorce law is used to determine the division of property in a divorce property dispute. There are two classifications of property in American divorce court: community property and equitable distribution. In community property states, which Oklahoma is not, spouses own income and assets equally and items are divided equally. Community property states divide property 50/50 in a divorce.
However, Oklahoma is an equitable distribution state, like most states, which is better for retaining your assets. Equitable division involves the “fair division” of assets and accounts established during marriage. Additionally, any increases in the value of property during marriage, may impact the identify of property as marital or separate property, if the spouse seeking an interest can prove marital efforts contributed to the increase in value. Knowing how equitable distribution impacts your divorce can help you prepare for the way through division of assets in divorce.
14. Know Your Greatest Asset
Many people mistakenly believe that their home is their largest asset; however, in many divorce actions one party’s retirement account or pension is the most valuable asset. Although your retirement account may not be a large asset at this time, its future value may have substantial dividends. Using a Qualified Domestic Relation Order, you can divide your portion of your former spouse’s retirement account or pension without being required to follow up decades from now.
15. Retaining Financial Experts is not expensive, it’s an Investment
When financial assets and interests are at stake it is crucial that you work with an experienced family law and divorce attorney in Oklahoma to protect your financial interests and your future. In some cases, it is necessary to retain additional expert advice or financial analysis to ensure that all accounts are identified and closed or transferred properly to protect you from future tax implications or negative credit consequences. Although it will likely be expensive to work with experts to assist in dealing with the financial records and division of your divorce, it is an important investment to make for your future. Mistakes in division of accounts and beneficiaries can have life-long consequences and cost you thousands and thousands of dollars.
16. Considerations in Hiring a PI or Forensic Accountant in Divorce
Many people facing divorce do not want to spend the money to hire a private investigator or forensic accountant in divorce. Forensic accountants can assist you in getting accurate information on all the financial issues in your marriage and divorce, which may save you far more money than the expense.
17. Know Your Debt Obligations
Marital debt is not determined by the name of the party on the debt alone in Oklahoma. Many factors contribute to determining whether or not debts are marital debt or personal debt. When considering paying down debt prior to filing for divorce or during the divorce process, you want to make sure that you are paying down marital debt to the extent possible, not the other party’s personal debt. You want to ensure you are not responsible for debts that the court would order are the other party’s responsibility.
18. Decide to Sell or Keep your Marital Home based on Reason Not Emotions
It is important to your mental health and your finances to decide to keep or sell your marital home for the right reasons. You may have a strong emotional tie to your marital home; however, you should consider whether it is good or bad for your continued mental health to live in the home after divorce. You do not want to discover after divorce that you gave up assets that mean more to you, just to keep the marital home, which you do not really want or cannot afford.
19. Improve your Employment Situation prior to Filing for Divorce
You should prepare for the potential of seeking employment, if you are currently supported by your spouse, i.e. updating your resume and/or seeking new job training. You may be awarded sufficient spousal support or alimony to provide for your needs after divorce. However, it is not wise to rely on this outcome. You can continue to seek spousal support or alimony, while seeing employment to support yourself beyond divorce. Improving your job skills or education can protect you from being completely reliant on alimony, which is empowering in and of itself.
20. The Most Expensive Divorce Lawyer Isn’t Necessarily the Best
Your chosen Oklahoma divorce attorney can greatly assist you or hurt you in setting the tone and temperament of your divorce. The retainer and billable hour rate of a divorce attorney is not the most important factor in deciding the attorney to trust with your case. It is important to know the family law attorney you hire understands your concerns and is dedicated to goals in the divorce, not their own goals. It is important to meet with and research a number of family law attorneys before deciding.
21. Mediation in Your Divorce
Divorce can be very expensive, especially if you and your spouse are unable to agree on a number of key points in your divorce, i.e. child custody or division of assets. One way to save yourself money and energy is to mediate your divorce prior to fighting in court. Professional divorce mediators are neutral and do not work for either party; rather they help facilitate agreements by addressing the concerns and hopes of both parties. Using a mediator may allow you to avoid all of your personal life being put before the court or even worse public, by reaching a divorce settlement out of court.
22. Fix Beneficiary Designations in Divorce
When you are married many of your accounts that have a beneficiary designation will be directed to your spouse. It is important that you remove your former spouse as the beneficiary designation on these accounts at the appropriate time. When you fail to remove your ex-spouse as the designated beneficiary on accounts, such as life insurance, they will likely receive these funds or your family will be in highly contested litigation over these funds. In other words, address beneficiary designations as quickly as possible.
23. Court Ordered Attorney Fees Don’t Go Away
When the Court enters an order for you to pay a portion or all of the other parties’ attorney fees, the Court means it. Fortunately, in Oklahoma this typically reserved to a prevailing party after the case is finalized in a separate contested proceeding; however, if you reach an agreement that one party will pay attorney fees or if the Court enters this order, you may be held in contempt, if you fail to pay. Contempt of Court for failing to pay Court ordered attorney fees may result in additional fines or jail.
It is important to include language in any agreement for attorney fees the specific terms of these payments and when they are due. This will give you clarity if you are the responsible party and increase your ability to enforce, if you are the party to receive attorney fees.
24. Compromise Can Help You
It will save your finances and your mental health to compromise on some issues. Far too often, we see potential clients that are dedicated to fighting every issue in their divorce, but do not want to pay substantial retainer fees. When you are tempted to fight every issue in your divorce, remember the benefits to your health and your pocket book by agreeing to compromise on some issues in divorce. Additionally, the decision to compromise on some issues may result in your spouse doing the same and simplifying your divorce.
25. Be Strategic in When you File your Divorce
It is important to know that property division in your divorce may be based on the date of separation. In Oklahoma, family courts typically use your formal date of separation in determining property division and when the value of marital assets will be determined. Some assets will have set dates that your property will increase or decrease in value, you may want to take note of this in deciding when to file for divorce.
26. Child Support Considerations
Child support is intended to assist the primary parent financially in the living expenses of providing for minor dependent children. The Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines are available online for you to estimate your child support obligations. However, the following are major factors in determining the amount of child support the responsible parent must pay: the income of both parents, the number of overnights with each parent per year, healthcare expenses, and the financial needs of the child. Parents are not obligated to prove to the other parent that child support is going directly to paying for the needs of a minor child; however, it is assumed under the law that this support will go specifically to providing for the needs of the minor child(ren). When circumstances in the parenting dynamic or finances change, it may be necessary for a parent to seek to modify the child support order.
27. What does Child Support Cover
Child support is intended to cover at least the following basic needs of minor children, i.e. food, clothing, education, and housing. However, in Oklahoma, as in many states, child support can be considered for other needs of minor children and expenses that come along with those needs: medical care, childcare, transportation expenses, and extracurricular activities. Additionally, some parents will waive child support in lieu of the obligor to pay child support financing specific high dollar items of child expenses.
28. Financial Benefit of More Overnight Visitation
The non-custodial parent under Oklahoma law can receive a shared parenting credit, if he or she has more than 120 overnight visits per year. When you qualify for the shared parenting credit, your child support obligation will be reduced by a pre-determined percentage. However, you must be careful with the shared parenting credit, because if you qualify and fail to exercise over 120 overnight visits per year the other parent can seek court relief to increase child support.
As many parents expend a substantial amount of money directly in supporting their children, it is in your best interest to reduce your child support, which is a direct payment to the primary custodial parent. Therefore, if your custody discussions are around the 100 days per year mark, it is in your interest to step it up to above 120 nights per year. You will have more time with your children and save money in child support.
29. Child Dependents and Conditions for Claiming
You can set conditions upon a parent being able to claim a child as a dependent for tax purposes. Many of our clients will set being up to date on their child support obligation as a condition for claiming the child as a dependent for tax purposes. This may be a useful tool in protecting your right to claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes, while protecting receiving financial benefits.
30. Focus on your Joint Parenting Arrangement
Claiming a child as a dependent is a great tax benefit, which you should not give up in divorce lightly. You should put protections in place, if possible, to protect your interested in claiming a child as a tax dependent. One option is to make the other party’s ability to claim the child as a tax dependent conditioned upon being current on child support or another condition in divorce. There are many conditions or agreements that can be reached in order to protect your child tax dependent interest and you should discuss these with your chosen Oklahoma divorce attorney.
31. Plan Your Finances Beyond After Divorce
Clients often neglect to consider how their financial planning can change after a divorce. You likely have a different perspective on finances and investments than your spouse, which is part of why it is so important to identify you plan for financial success after divorce. Many of our clients chose to work with a financial planner, at least on a temporary basis, if they have never been responsible for planning finances during marriage.
32. Secure Health Insurance
You should take steps to research and identify health insurance resources, if your former spouse provided insurance for you prior to divorce. COBRA coverage is a substantial expense and should be avoided over long periods of time, if possible. When you get divorced from a service member or your former spouse was eligible for Tricare, through the military, you need to be aware that there are very limited circumstances that you can keep using Tricare. Whether you find new employment that provides health insurance or not, it is important to be proactive in researching health insurance options, if necessary after divorce.
33. Document, Document, Document
Most assets are divisible in divorce; however, that is not true for every asset. Some assets are separate property and can maintain that characteristic. Documentation concerning assets can help preserve the separate property characteristic of an asset. Many documents have a strange way of disappearing during divorce, which is why it is so important to make copies of every important document prior to leaving the marital home or filing for divorce. You should setup a new cloud, dropbox, or Google drive account to store this information as well as a paper copy.
34. High Income Earners should have a Different Strategy than Low Income Earners in Facing Divorce
Divorce financial analysts may recommend not taking all the items you originally requested in your divorce as higher income may result in disqualifying you from beneficial tax deductions. Personal exemptions for high income earners become unavailable at certain milestones, if you you’re your taxes as single. It is wise to speak to a financial analysist to determine the best course of action for your financial situation and options to mitigate your tax consequences in divorce.
35. Know Your Family Finances before Filing for Divorce or Leaving the Marital Home
In most marriages, one party handles all the finances. However, this creates a power divide when it comes to identifying the assets in your divorce or negotiating a settlement in your divorce. There are many experts and resources to assist you in identifying your assets prior to filing divorce, it will greatly benefit you in divorce and empower you, if you know your family finances.
36. Be Strategic in Choosing your Date to File Divorce
The division of property and interests in investments is based on the date of marital separation. In Oklahoma, the date you or your spouse file for divorce is used as the formal date of separation for a later determination on how property will be divided. Although it may be tempting to file for divorce as soon as possible, there are financial interests in waiting to file divorce in many circumstances. You should wait to toll the formal date of separation until it is beneficial to you if possible, such as a known date of an increase or likely increase in the value of stock or an investment that will see an increased value, such as a dividend or stock that is about to split.
37. Wait to File for Divorce after doing your Homework
Wise divorce attorneys will advise you to do your homework and prepare prior to filing for divorce. It is important to have all the financial information you can obtain concerning your household’s and your spouse’s accounts and assets prior to filing divorce. Unfortunately, it is very easy to liquidate most accounts with limited records, which makes it very important to identify all assets and accounts you can prior to filing for divorce.
38. Choose your Battles in Divorce
You likely not reach the exact outcome that you want in your divorce case. However, when you are contemplating divorce it is important to identify the battles you care the most about and prepare to let other issues go in divorce. You should avoid attorney fees and fighting over issues that you do not care about deeply. Take time to think and communicate with your divorce attorney to ensure that you and your legal team are on the same with your goals and concerns in your divorce case.
39. Prepare Your Finances for After Divorce
Many clients facing divorce fail or have a difficult time planning their finances for after divorce without any assistance. Your perspective on spending or saving money will likely differ from your spouse and you need to make decisions on your monthly budget and investments after divorce based on your beliefs. You may want to meet with a financial adviser or planner, if you do not know where to start the process of planning your long-term finances.
40. Save Your Paper Trail
Many assets are divisible in divorce; however, exceptions exist when you can document the separate nature of property. This is where saving a paper trail supporting separate property characterization is so important. Oftentimes, the documentation necessary to protect separate property tends to disappear when you need it, which is why it is so important to save documentation to help you protect the separate property nature in divorce.
41. Be Mindful of the Filing Fee for Divorce
There is a filing fee associated with filing any case in Oklahoma District Courts, including divorce actions. Divorces with minor children cost more than divorces without minor children. You should clarify with the Oklahoma divorce attorney you hire, if they will pay the filing fee of your divorce or whether you will be responsible for this cost.
42. Be Mindful of the Time Requirements for Divorce
Some states are more difficult than others to seek a divorce. Fortunately, Oklahoma is not one of the most difficult states to obtain a divorce. However, if you and your spouse agree on divorce, you may want to consider leaving your state and moving to Oklahoma to finalize your divorce. In Oklahoma, if you have established jurisdiction for the Court, you can obtain a divorce in 10 days without children and only 90 days if you have minor children.
Additionally, the 90-day waiting period can be waived in some circumstances. In a divorce with minor child(ren) the 90-day waiting period begins on the date of service of summons, the date of publication if authorized, or an entry of appearance by the respondent or his or her counsel.
43. Enforce the Orders within Your Divorce
Make sure you follow through and that your former spouse follows through on the terms of your divorce. Often times vehicles and real property, such as homes, need to be refinanced or the title must be transferred. When you or your spouse fail to follow through on these steps, it may have negative consequences on your finances and your credit. Protecting your credit takes more than signing and filing a divorce decree. Know these pain points and be sure to protect your financial interested by checking that your former spouse follows through on the agreement of your divorce.
44. Save Money to Take Care of Yourself during Divorce
It is wise to be conservative in your spending during the divorce process. Divorce can be an expensive process, especially if you and your spouse are fighting over issues in your divorce. Your personal needs and the needs of your children are important to set aside resources for during divorce as well, i.e. gym membership, therapy or counseling for you and your children, and other treatment or selfcare, such as massages, pedicures, or weekend get always with your children or your friends.
45. Never Underestimate Your Living Expenses in Divorce
Prior to facing divorce, you may have been able to simply rely on your spouse concerning finances and/or expenses for your marital home. However, it is very important to know your spouse’s income and the expenses in your marriage when facing divorce. It may assist you in identifying your family’s cost of living each month by completing the financial aid to the court document on our client resource page or ask about financial planning issues during your consult.
46. Ensure Your Safety and Your Children’s Safety
Most divorces do not involve domestic violence; however, those that do can be deadly. You should seek assistance from the court or your Oklahoma City divorce attorney, if violence is an issue in your divorce. Victim Protective Orders are available for victims of domestic violence and can protect you from any unwanted direct contact by your spouse during the divorce process. In most Oklahoma family courts, the judges will combine the VPO and divorce proceeding, to minimize the number of court appearances and allow one judge to review and decide all the issues in your case. You should speak to your chosen family law attorney about a Victim Protective Order and whether it is right for you in your divorce.
47. Do Not Start a New Relationship during Divorce
Oklahoma law does not prohibit dating while going through divorce, in fact it is quite common. However, that does not mean it is necessarily a good idea. When the new love interest is the cause of seeking divorce, the relationship will make your divorce more contentious and may make reaching a settlement in your divorce more difficult. Alternatively, if you and your spouse both decide to begin dating and you do not have minor children, it may assist in moving the divorce process along more quickly.
You should absolutely not introduce your children to your romantic interests during divorce. Your children are going through more than enough with their parents divorcing and your introducing a new interest will only make things more difficult and stressful for your children. You should definitely discuss this issue with your Oklahoma City divorce attorney.
48. The Cost of Divorce is More than Financial
Most divorcing spouses will have continued contact with each other for years to come, especially if you have children. You do not want to be taken advantage of in your divorce; however, insisting that you receive every penny or every piece of property that you want will cost you substantially in attorney fees and will not be worth the impact on your mental health, your job and your relationship with your children. Divorcing parents will have to co-parent, in some instances better than they ever did during marriage. These reasons and many more make it important to work with an Oklahoma City divorce attorney that will help you pick you battles and be judicious in fighting your divorce case.
49. Consider Pre-Divorce Counseling
Divorce is hard, emotionally, mentally, and financially. Divorce has a different impact on every person facing divorce; however, it is difficult sometimes to know the extent of its impact until you are in a state of depression or pain. By participating in pre-separation counseling, you may be better prepared to deal with the emotions you are certainly facing. Divorce often causes new growth; however, it is often helpful to have a guide walk beside you during the process. These and many other reasons support the benefit of pre-divorce counseling.
You may be able to identify strategies to deal with the emotions of divorce and know how to respond to your triggers when they arise. Additionally, it is important to remember that not all counseling records are privileged. You are almost guaranteed that your counseling records will be privileged, if you meet with a medical doctor, i.e. a psychiatrist. However, counseling records from a therapist may not be protected by the physician-patient privilege.
50. Dress Professionally for Court
Appearing in professional attire for court can only help your divorce case. The opposing party may take you more seriously and the divorce court judge will certainly take you more seriously. Additionally, dressing for success to your divorce court hearings will increase your confidence. It is important to dress in conservative clothing and not appear too flashy. Try your best to keep your accessories simple and do not overdo it.
By working with a knowledgeable Oklahoma divorce lawyer, you will obtain accurate legal advice and assistance during your divorce process. Retaining an experienced Oklahoma divorce attorney will help you protect your property and interests while going through a stressful time.
You will spend a substantial amount of time speaking with and working with the Oklahoma City divorce attorney that you hire. It is very important that you Know, Like, and Trust the family law firm that you chose to work with on your divorce. Your future, your finances, and your peace of mind rest in part on the Oklahoma City divorce attorney you hire. So, read reviews, testimonials, audit Oklahoma City divorce lawyer websites and hire the Oklahoma City divorce attorneys you feel is best for you and your situation. It is in your interest financially and strategically to work with one Oklahoma divorce attorney through your entire case, so choose wisely.
Contact – Cannon & Associates: Fierce Advocates for Families facing Divorce
Facing divorce is difficult; however, you will be far better prepared than most spouses facing divorce if you follow some of the above 50 lessons in Oklahoma divorce. Cannon & Associates has the years of experience and is ready to answer your questions and help you through your Oklahoma divorce. Contact Cannon & Associates by completing the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 405-657-2323 for a free confidential case evaluation.