Oklahoma HB 1548 is before the Government Modernization Committee of the Oklahoma Legislature on Thursday, February 20, 2014.  This bill will eliminate the grounds of incompatibility for a divorce whenever there are minor children, the marriage has lasted longer than 10 years, or just if one side objects.  It will also award attorneys fees to the prevailing party (the party that proves fault) and award only a fourth of the marital assets to the party at fault.

For those of you who don’t know, incompatibility is basically a no fault reason for divorce.  It means no party is at fault for the failure of the marriage, but their marriage cannot persist.  It is the most common grounds under which the people of Oklahoma are divorced.  It allows for such things as collaborative divorces, which are divorces where the parties agree they’re getting divorced, agree on child custody and visitation, and agree on property and debt division.  Collaborative divorces reduce the expense of a divorce and ultimately are better for the children and parties involved, as they are not required to proceed with a long, drawn-out, expensive, emotionally tumultuous divorce proceeding.

If this bill passes, parties will now have to prove that one party to a divorce at fault.  Some of the fault grounds are adultery, habitual drunkenness, and incarceration of one of the spouses.  So, say you have a married couple, with children, who are aware that they can’t be together and that their being together is actually worse for their minor children’s well-being, but neither person has done anything wrong, at least according to the fault grounds available in Oklahoma, to cause the end of this relationship.  So, they want to be adults about it and end the marriage civilly.  Well, if this bill passes, they can’t.  One party is either going to have to lie, to perjure him or herself, in order to obtain a divorce and then, have to pay all the attorneys fees in order to commit this fraud on the court and then, only get a quarter of the assets that the party and the party’s spouse have worked so hard to obtain.  Or, the parties will have to subsist in a miserable marriage, to the detriment of themselves and their children.  A collaborative divorce would be lost to all but a small fraction of the population.  While good people who have worked hard on a marriage, have worked to raised wonderful children will have to either commit fraud on the court in order to spare their children the long, painful experience of a lengthy divorce, people who enter into a marriage and have only been married a year without children can go and get a simple, non-contentious divorce.

You can read about the bill here: http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=HB+1548

Update on Oklahoma HB 1548, February 20, 2014:  Well, it appears that House Bill 1548, a bill to remove the grounds of incompatibility for divorce from a large portion of the Oklahoma citizens, has made it out of the Oklahoma Modernization Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives by a 5 to 3 vote.  So, now the issue will now have to be argued in the Oklahoma Senate.  This is an extremely harmful bill to the citizens of Oklahoma and it appears that the only argument for the bill is based on the author’s moral position on divorce.  Representative McCullough, the bill’s author, believes it is wrong to divorce and wants to prevent the citizens of Oklahoma from being able to divorce simply because his own personal opinions of divorce.  The Oklahoma legislators are not there to legislate their own opinions, but to work for the citizens of Oklahoma and this bill will cause excessive expense and pain to the citizens of Oklahoma.  Not only will people be prevented from collaborating to come to a peaceful dissolutions of their marriages, if they so choose to, it will cause an increased strain on the Oklahoma court systems as the many, many cases of agreed dissolutions will now have to go to final trial and cannot be agreed upon.  This would be like having to take every criminal case to trial.  The expense and time of such an endeavor would leave the State bankrupt and would result in any action taking many, many years.  If you want to see the bill shut down, please contact your Oklahoma Senators to express your opinions.

laura.wardrip.tulsa.family.law.attorneyLaura Nichelle Wardrip is a family law attorney with the Jeff Krigel Law Firm, PLLC. She received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa College of Law and her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from the University of Tulsa. Through her academic career, she has focused her education on issues related to the family, such issues as domestic violence, mental disorders, and helping bring people together by finding a common ground. As an attorney licensed in Oklahoma and a member of the Tulsa County Bar Association, Ms. Wardrip’s primary area of practice is that of family law, which includes such actions as divorce, paternity, child support, guardianships, and adoptions. Her broad experience in the area of family law includes having practiced in Tulsa County, Wagoner County, Muskogee County, Washington County, Pawnee County, Osage County, Okmulgee County, and Creek County. Ms. Wardrip is diligent in professionally handling cases in an informative and personal manner. She is dedicated to the client’s needs and is an advocate for the client’s goals. It is important to work with the client to find the best results for each client. A strong commitment to the community has been a driving force for Ms. Wardrip as she is a frequent volunteer with organizations working to help the homeless in the Tulsa area including Tulsa’s Day Center for the Homeless and Iron Gate.