In many ways people prepare for marriage from early childhood. Roles, expectations, even comprimises and sacrifices associated with marriage are learned by watching adults. Divorce is another matter.
A typical understanding of divorce, for the unitiated, would expect that each spouse takes half of everything and moves on. Fifty-fifty division of assets, however, is not the norm. Four out of five states in the United States divide property according to a principle called equitable distribution.
Oklahoma is one of the 40 equitable distribution states. A Tulsa, Oklahoma divorce attorney explained the difference between 50/50 distribution of assets and equitable distribition. Equitable means fair, but not necessarily equal, he explained.
Some divorcing couples work out between themselves how they will distribute assets. Except where there might be evidence of coersion, courts wil usually go along with an agreed settlement with regard to real and personal property.
The way courts allocate parenting obligations is typically less flexible. Statutes often stipulate financial obligations. Where one parent agrees to depart from statutory guidelines, some courts require the party accepting less than they would be owed by law to be represented by an attorney.
Yet courts are generally sympathetic with parties who ask the court to issue a divorce decree without asking the court to settle their differences. When parties do not agree on how to divide assets, courts turn to the equitable distribution doctine.
Equitable distribution in Oklahoma allows courts wide discretion to determine what is equitable, limited by statory requirements such as child support, by any prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements the spouses entered, and by the future needs of either spouse. A spouse who was a homemaker or stay-at-home parent for many years might be awarded spousal support, but the other party could satisfy the alimony obligation by taking a smaller share of the marital assets.
Many courts require that divorcing couples attempt to mediate differences about distribution of assets during a divorce. If mediation fails, the court settles the matter. In such cases, the services of a divorce attorney or family lawyer are particularly essential in navigating the process of dividing assets during divorce.