Divorce

Preliminary Note: None of this is legal advice it's just a simplified description of what's going on. If you want legal advice you should contact an attorney. My contact information is on the "Contact Us" page you can find at the link above.

Divorce. Lots of people get married. Some of them get divorced. Here's how that works in Oklahoma (and only Oklahoma, my understanding of other's State's laws is weak because I don't practice anywhere but Oklahoma).

First, you decide that you would rather be divorced than continue the marriage. Then you have to file a petition to the appropriate court asking for a divorce (this is where lots of people find a lawyer).

In the petition you ask the judge to grant a divorce, possibly change a name, decide who gets custody of the children of the marriage, and how to divide the stuff and the debts accumulated during the marriage. That all sounds pretty easy, right?

Wrong. Some of this stuff is easy, even automatic, the granting of the divorce itself and the name change of the wife to her former name, for examples. Everything else is also easy if the husband and wife agree to it all. Somebody (usually a lawyer) drafts up a divorce decree and both parties sign it. One party appears before the judge and says, "yes, I want a divorce", answers a few other easy questions and it's all done.

This isn't usual, though. Most people are getting a divorce because they don't agree on everything.

They don't agree on property division. They both want the house, or whatever. They can't agree on how to split the retirement up.

They don't agree on debt division. Each wants the other to pay for everything, since it's their fault.

Most of all though, they don't agree on custody. Often, each wants sole custody of the children and lots don't even want to let their soon-to-be ex- to even see the kids.
Anyway, assuming there is a lack of agreement on the basic issues of the divorce, the party filing the petition (the Petitioner) also files an application for a temporary order (TO). The responding party (the Respondent) is of course hiring their own lawyer to file responses to the petition and the application.

Pretty soon, but not usually soon enough, a hearing is held on the application for temporary orders and the judge enters an order that will govern the relations between husband and wife until the divorce is granted. The judge will decide on the basis of a 10 or 20 minute hearing (usually, but I've had them go from 9am to 2pm without a break before) who gets custody, who pays child support, who lives in the house, who gets what car, and who pays which bills (including attorney's fees), provided that either the Petitioner or Respondent asks about these things, and other things.

Anyway, after that, the Parties start sending each other questions and requests for information, documents, etc. (known as "Discovery") and sometimes some arguments come up over what exactly must be revealed. Some people try to hide stuff and some lawyers or parties are obstreperous (this is a fancy lawyer word for irritatingly uncooperative). All this also gets resolved in court with arguments and hearings.

At some point several months (at the bare minimum) after the temporary orders hearing is the trial. At the trial (otherwise known as the "hearing on the merits") the judge is going to listen to testimony and examine exhibits to decide any issues the parties couldn't agree on (lots of things usually get settled before trial) and issue an oral decree of divorce (a divorce is effective when the judge pronounces it in court, but all the attached issues aren't really settled until it's in writing and signed by the judge). Then one of the lawyers will draft a decree that's supposed to reflect the judge's ruling (who has custody of the kids, who gets the house, etc.). Sometimes the parties don't agree on what the judge said, so they won't approve the decree leading to a Motion to Settle Journal Entry, where the disputed points are further argued.. The judge usually resolves that stuff pretty quickly and the decree is finally signed and filed.

That's more or less the process.‚Äč