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No More No Fault? Oklahoma Bill Could Make Divorce Harder

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on February 14, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A bill in the Oklahoma legislature seeks to make it more difficult for some married Oklahomans to get divorced. House Bill 1277, introduced by Representative Travis Dunlap, would get rid of incompatibility as a reason for divorce in many circumstances.

If passed, no fault divorces could be a thing of the past in Sooner State, with quick separations turned into week-long trials.

No Clean Break

The proposed legislation, titled the "Fairness in Fault Act," was introduced last week and would eliminate incompatibility as a justification for divorce if there are living minor children from the marriage, the parties have been married for ten years or more, or if either party objects in writing.

Without the option of incapability, divorcing Oklahomans who fall into those categories could have to rely on one of the 11 other reasons for divorce that the state recognizes, such as abandonment, impotency, adultery, or habitual drunkenness.

The law would also remove a requirement that couples separating due to incompatibility attend educational workshops on the impact of divorce on children, since couples with children would no longer be able to have a no fault divorce.

The bill also introduces mandatory awards of costs and fees where the court finds that one party "caused" the divorce. Currently, such awards are discretionary.

What's Next, No More Common Law Marriage? (Yes.)

Dunlap told the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise the act is a "pause button, as a society, where we can consider if we really want to continue living with adverse effects on this divorce policy and what it means, especially for children."

If HB 1277 passes, Oklahoma would be the only state that does not offer some form of no fault divorce.

"I can't imagine if 1277 passes and these no-fault divorces become fault divorces. What should be a two-day trial in Tulsa becomes a four-day trial," Matt Ingham, an Oklahoma divorce lawyer, told KOHK Fox 25.

We'd guess the odds of HB 1277 passing are low. Dunlap seems to recognize that as well, saying he is "open to dialogue on the issue."

HB 1277 isn't Dunlap's only bill being introduced into the legislature either. One would require porn-blocking software on all internet devices, while another would eliminate common law marriage.

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