Oklahoma Follows an Equitable Distribution Model
Video Transcribed: My name is Jason Lile, and I am a Men’s Rights lawyer in Tulsa. So you might ask yourself, how do we divide our assets if you’re going through a divorce? How does Oklahoma choose to divide assets if the court needs to be involved?
The simple answer is, and I like to use this analogy with my clients, it’s like taking all of your things and putting them in a big pile and starting by splitting that pile in half. And then taking all of your debts and putting them in a pile, which would essentially be a hole, right? Debts are a hole and splitting the hole in half, and you take half the hole, and you take half the pile, okay?
If you’re more accounting-minded, you could also think of it as a balance sheet, where debts are debits and assets credit. Now that’s where the court starts from, but it’s a court of equity. Family law courts in Oklahoma are courts of equity which just simply means fairness.
There are lots of reasons why it might be fairer or make more sense to give one party more assets and the other party more debts or give one party fewer assets or give the other party less debt. One of the concepts that are often misunderstood in Oklahoma is joint industry.
The fact of the matter is under Oklahoma law, everything you as a couple acquired through joint industry while you were married is a marital asset. It does not matter who had the out-of-home job, who made more money, whose names are on the bank accounts, or how the property is titled. The husband’s name could be on a bank account, the wife’s name could be the name under which a car is titled, and it’s all joint assets.
The only time it’s separate property is if it came as a gift from a family member, an inheritance, et cetera, or if you could identify property that you had before you were married. A lot of times, that property got co-mingled if you’ve been married for a while.
What does co-mingled mean? It means mixed in with all your other property, especially if it’s like cash or something. If it’s a vintage car and you had it before you were married, that’s easy to identify. If it was $10,000 in a coffee can and it’s been put in a bank account, you can’t identify it anymore.
So how you divide assets, you must identify the marital property and what’s not. You have to get over everything purchased, and all debts acquired while you were married, even if they didn’t have your permission, for example, to open up a credit card, are joint debts.
You start with a 50/50 number and then have an advocate, a lawyer, as to what’s fair concerning coming off that split debt and property. Someone must advocate for you in this way because it probably isn’t perfectly fair to divide it 50/50, but that’s where the courts will go if somebody doesn’t advocate for something different on your behalf.