In this podcast, family lawyer Moura Robertson discusses spousal support in Oklahoma, including the many different criteria for how it is awarded and how the court determines how much is paid.
Hosted By: Dan Couvrette, CEO, Divorce Magazine
Guest Speaker: Moura Robertson, Family Lawyer
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Read the Transcript of this Podcast Below.
Dan Couvrette: My name is Dan Couvrette. I’m the publisher of Divorce Magazine, and I want to welcome you to this Divorce Magazine podcast. My guest is Tulsa, Oklahoma Family Lawyer Moura Robertson, and today we’re going to be talking about support alimony in Oklahoma, which is commonly known as alimony or spousal support. Moura is very well suited to discuss this subject because she has over 25 years of negotiation, litigation, and trial experience exclusively in the areas of divorce, alimony, property division, child custody, and everything else relating to family law in Oklahoma. Moura is regarded as one of the top Family Law Attorneys in Oklahoma, and I’m very pleased to have her on this podcast today. Let’s get started with the basics.
Moura, who is entitled to receive spousal support in Oklahoma – and what are the criteria for awarding it?
Moura Robertson: Modern law does away with both fault and gender as a basis for spousal support, or “support alimony” as it’s called in Oklahoma. It is not gender-specific: alimony can be awarded to either spouse, depending on the couple’s unique circumstances. Support alimony is designed to help a financially dependent spouse through a period of post-divorce transition to financial self-sufficiency.
A classic example of a support alimony case is one where the husband and wife played different roles during their marriage: one being the financial earner, the other being the homemaker and primary caregiver for the children. The primary criterion is financial need on the part of one of the spouses.
Can you give our listeners some examples of financial need? Does the need have to be related to the marriage in some way?
The need must arise out of or be aggravated by the marriage itself or some event connected to the marriage, such as postponement of education.
For example, financial need can be related to the marriage if one spouse dropped-out of college to support the other spouse in their career or business. In that instance, the financially dependent spouse may need financial support to complete their degree and secure gainful employment. Similarly, if one spouse quit their job to start a family and let their professional license lapse, then that spouse might need financial support to re-establish their licensure and re-enter the workforce.
Moura, aside from one spouse’s need to finish a degree, or perhaps to train for a career that will allow them to become self-supporting, what else might the court consider when awarding support alimony?
In addition to education, other factors the court may consider include the length of the marriage, the couple’s lifestyle and each spouse’s health, age, and earning capacity. The fundamental issue is whether there is a rational basis for an award of support alimony given the specific circumstances of the case.
How does the court determine how much the support alimony will be in Oklahoma?
Once the court decides that a spouse is entitled to receive support alimony, the questions then become how much money will the other spouse be required to pay and for how long? Financial need alone does not establish a case for support alimony; the other spouse must also have the financial ability to pay spousal support.
Unlike child support, there is no set formula for computation of support alimony in Oklahoma. Each case is decided on the specific facts and circumstances involved. The court will examine evidence of the husband’s and wife’s respective net monthly incomes compared to their average monthly living expenses to ascertain how much money is reasonably needed and how much the payor spouse can reasonably afford. Then, the court will determine how long the receiving spouse reasonably needs to establish financial self-sufficiency.
The law permits the court to award alimony out of the real or personal property of the other spouse or award money judgment, which is now neither taxable to the receiving spouse nor deductible by the payor spouse.
Does support alimony stop only when the person paying dies, or are there other reasons that alimony payments might end?
Under certain circumstances, support alimony, if not already accrued, terminates upon the payor’s death or the recipient’s remarriage; however, the recipient spouse can bring a court action within 90 days of their remarriage to prove that continued payment of some amount of support is still needed and not inequitable.
The court can also reduce or terminate a support alimony award when the receiving spouse cohabits with a romantic partner.
Moura, I have one more question about support alimony in Oklahoma: can the amount of spousal support be changed once it has been set by the court?
A change in circumstances relating to the need for or the ability to pay support alimony also can be grounds for modifying the award if the change is substantial and continuing such that the terms of the award become unreasonable to either spouse. For example, if the payor loses their job or becomes permanently disabled, or if the recipient’s employment income increases substantially after receiving a promotion or finding a new job.
Dan: I want to thank my guest Moura Robertson for being on this Divorce Magazine podcast about support alimony in Oklahoma.
Thank you, Dan.
Dan: Moura is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which is the most prestigious organization for family lawyers in the nation. She’s a top 25 Women Lawyer in Oklahoma, an Oklahoma Super Lawyer, and she was recently honored by Best Lawyers as the Lawyer of the Year for 2020. To learn more about support alimony in Oklahoma, and how Tulsa family lawyer Moura Robertson can help with all your divorce-related issues, I encourage you to visit her website at www.DSDA.com.