You know the statistic: half of Oklahoma marriages end in divorce. With so many families and children affected by such a complex societal, legal, and emotional situation, recognizing the potential pitfalls of the divorce process can equip any family to weather such a change gracefully. Here are five traps to avoid when going through a divorce with minor children.
1. Making drastic changes too soon.
When you go through a divorce and minor children are involved, a Court will be concerned with fair and equitable division of the tangible property of the marriage, but its highest concern will be with the best interests of the child or children. Additionally, one thing Oklahoma statutes call for in the filing of a divorce is an automatic temporary injunction, or ATI. This ATI restricts parties from making changes to the lives and routines of the minor children—changing schools, losing health insurance, cancelling utilities or bills.
Judges do not like when parties are not only initiating a legal change to their family unit, but also creating an upheaval of the status quo for the innocent children involved. Avoid abrupt school changes and transfers in the midst of a divorce. Courts also prefer that the minor children remain in the home whenever possible. Make as few big changes as possible in regard to your children’s day-to-day lives when going through and immediately following a divorce.
2. Being inconsistent.
As children deal with certain inevitable changes that come with divorce, they will search and gravitate toward consistency. Simple details like school line pick-up and bed times can become increasingly important as children’s lives turn upside down. With all the changes and adjustments going on in the household, work even harder to be a consistent daily presence for your children. Show up, do what you say you will do, and make them a priority as life throws you both a curveball.
3. Blame game.
There is a reason you are now an ex, and there is a reason you now have an ex. You will get asked why the divorce is happening; that is unavoidable. Do your kids a favor and forego any opportunity to discuss those reasons with them. Commentary on why life is changing should be neutral, benign, and minus any finger pointing. When you make the other party the bad guy, you create division that your children can feel. They’ll feel pressured to choose a side. When a marriage ends, neither party is 100% blameless, so keep the fault discussion out of the conversation. Period.
4. Not writing stuff down.
As you go through the “life” of a divorce, events will occur, misunderstandings will happen, and dynamics will change. Parties often make the mistake of assuming they will remember the intricacies and details with a fresh memory. You will not. You will forget a date, a time, a reason something changed, what you said, what they said, where you met…something. Give your brain a break and write things down as they occur. The journaling can offer a simple way to decompress as stressful situations arise, and the record you keep may be valuable later on in constructing a timeline of events. Taking such a lofty burden off your mind can bring clarity as life shifts into a new chapter.
Are you hoping to someday make your side hustle your main hustle?
If you have a business concept, business idea, business plan, or a budding new business, then you have probably encountered some of the challenges that come with getting it started and keep it protected. Each stage in the life of a business comes with its own unique set of problems. While you are managing the day-to-day operations, you need to know that the legal side is covered.
Unbundled legal services offer realistic and cost-effective solutions as your business grows. Check out these unbundled legal service options that can help protect you at every stage of the process.
Starting out? Let us help you plan and form your business!
As your concepts matures from a gleam in your entrepreneurial eye to a plan, you may need help assessing what legal measures will best protect your ideas. With unbundled legal services you can work with a licensed attorney to pinpoint the exact legal protections and documentation you start-up needs.
Unbundled business services range from business plan initial assessments to business formation documents and Secretary of State filings. You have enough to do! While you focus on the process that hone your concept into a viable business, your virtual attorney can focus on the intricate details that go into proper business filings, tax implications, and remaining in good standing with the state.
Got momentum? Let’s keep it going!
If you are past the infancy of your business and looking for ways to protect and grow it, unbundled legal services can be a great ally in expanding the reach of your business. Whether you are ready to hire your first employee or expanding to a second location, unbundled agreements and contracts can be tailored for your exact situation and provide efficient and reliable legal protection. A variety of services from document review to contract preparation and quarterly assessments means that the support you need is available and you will never be guessing about the price of legal services.
Who you gonna call? Virtual lawyers!
Running your small or medium sized business can be overwhelming, and often times the business runs you. You are CEO, custodian, accountant, chauffeur, and more. And when it’s your name on the door and on the line, all manner of questions end up at your feet. Take the legal concerns off your plate with a monthly subscription package. Each package offers a variety of services available to you for a set monthly subscription amount. A quick question does not have to turn into a huge attorney bill. Get unlimited legal advice and answers to your legal questions. Keep your virtual lawyer in your corner and on speed dial so that you can run your business with peace of mind and get back to what you do best.
Unbundled legal services offer real-life, straightforward solutions for business owners in any phase of building their dream. Check out the variety of business services today!
Three Signs Unbundled Legal Services Might Be Right For Your Divorce
November 7, 2018
By Joanna Boyd
Racking your brain about a simple, inexpensive, satisfying and quality way to get divorced? Dreading a consultation where you will hear the words “retainer,” hourly billing, and litigation? If you are curious about unbundled divorce, read on to see if these descriptions fit your circumstance.
You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse agree that you do not want to spend a fortune fighting over what your children, the property you have accumulated in your marital estate, or both.
The truth is that giant lawyer bills and uncertain timelines keep people in unhealthy marriages way longer than they should stay for fear that it can only result in financial ruin and agonizing months or years of indecision. So when you find yourself needing a divorce, you cannot help those fears from crossing your mind.
Unbundled legal services can help to counter the financial fear. Established to help more Oklahomans access the mechanisms of the legal system, unbundled legal services (also known as “limited scope services”) empower parties to customize their legal experience based on the help they can afford. Straightforward pricing and flat fees mean that you are paying for a pleading, a document, or a decree, rather than the time it takes to craft it.
You and your ex agree on issues of child custody and support or property division.
Here’s a secret: divorce does not kill bank accounts; people arguing about how to finalize the divorce kills bank accounts. Make no mistake, the more arguing, the longer a divorce goes on, and the more it costs EVERYBODY. Add two attorneys playing phone tag, squabbling on your behalf back and forth, and you get a really angry and really expensive game of telephone.
But if you and your ex have weathered the decision to split and come out looking at ways to peacefully effectuate your agreement, unbundled legal services offer an answer. When parties can agree on the most sensitive issues in a divorce—child custody, division of property, decision-making after the decree—the worst of your legal headaches can be avoided. And when big issues are settled, the smaller details can be ironed out as momentum is gained. Often times, agreeable parties are more efficient and experience more affordable divorces.
You two have done the heavy lifting of working out solutions, now it is time to get those on paper. With an unbundled divorce, an attorney can take your wishes and agreements and translate them into the legalese necessary to satisfy that jurisdiction’s requirements.
Time is of the essence.
When couples are facing an inevitable split and they are motivated by time, unbundled legal services can help! While filings and decrees prepared by an attorney performing unbundled legal services still have to follow the required waiting periods set out by law, additional wait time is minimal as you and your spouse are not bogged down by the response and filing delays that are common in a “traditional” divorce case. Your waiting period is just that, a time to wait out the necessary number of days, rather than frantically worry about the next curve ball from the opposing side.
Get ready for the holidays with unbundled legal services!
November 7, 2018
By Joanna Boyd
Ahhh, the holidays, that time of year when your family really shines with their interrogation skills.
“What ever happened to that business idea you had?”
“When can you bring the kids over to celebrate?”
“Have you given any thought to what will happen with the house?”
The holidays and family visits can put a giant spotlight on all the stuff you haven’t done or need to get done. It can be excruciating, but that’s only if you don’t have a plan! Now, you do. This year you can turn to unbundled legal services through MyVirtual.Lawyer. Bring on the pumpkin pie!
What if this year you could beat them to the punch? That’s right; avoid the awkward status report and long explanations. No more shifting nervously in your seat or scrambling. Come to your holiday gathering with all your legal tasks done! Imagine pulling up a chair to the adult table with some much-needed legal work freshly completed. You will be relieved to know you took care of business and can mark a huge task off your to-do list. And unbundled legal services offer realistic steps to accomplish just that!
Take your place at the table with your estate freshly planned or your business plan freshly polished, all your assets protected and all your legal nerves settled with MyVirtual.Lawyer! The menu of straightforward, cost-effective legal services empower you to access the legal system in Oklahoma in ways that you would not have thought possible before. The wide variety of unbundled legal services allows you to choose not only the legal tasks you need to tackle, but also customize the legal help you receive along the way.
Quick turnaround and sincere customer service through every step means that unbundled legal services can put your legal worries to rest. You’re never blindsided by expensive retainers, bogged down with high hourly bills, or frustrated by unanswered messages. A real-life attorney walks you through the process from consultation to completion.
With unbundled legal services, a licensed attorney is working with you to accomplish each of those business and personal tasks that you need to get done and need to be done right. Speak to an attorney who knows the law, knows the courthouse, and knows the county so that you can file and finalize with confidence.
Your legal needs do not have to be stressful, expensive, or nerve-racking, and neither do your holidays. With unbundled legal services, the tasks you have been avoiding can finally be finished! Breathe easy knowing you are doing something about that that nagging legal task just needed to get done. And join in on all the holiday conversation with the confidence of getting stuff done.
While unbundled legal services are not a perfect fit for every legal situation, they can be a great ally is getting much-needed legal solutions.
*As with holidays, unbundled legal service calories don’t count.
**The above statement has not be reviewed or authenticated by the Food and Drug Administration.
***MyVirtual.Lawyer cannot get you out of bringing a dish.
Nobody needs an attorney until suddenly they do. And when that time comes, the client is usually in quite a mess. Fortunately, business law is an area where many messes can be prevented by hiring an attorney at the outset. An attorney can help a business prevent problems with clients and contractors in a number of ways.
The first step to creating a successful business is filing the appropriate paperwork with the Secretary of State. There are a number of different types of business you can form, from Sole Proprietorships to Limited Liability Companies to Corporations. Each type of entity has its own requirements, its own benefits, and potential pitfalls. Consulting an attorney (and probably an accountant, to be honest) can help you determine which entity is right for you. Further, an attorney can help you fill out the paperwork.
Some entities require business owners to create Corporate Agreements or Bylaws. These documents state the rights and responsibilities of the owners and partners of the business. Oklahoma (and many other states) have default provisions, which are a good starting point, but these defaults might not be the best for your unique situation. For instance, if one partner is investing money into the business, while the other is investing their time, knowledge, and labor, the default provisions might not be the best for either party.
Many businesses have standard contracts that they use for different situations. These contracts spell out the requirements of both parties, limit the liability of the business, and often state a remedy for breaches of contract. It is always a good idea to have an attorney review the terms of the contract, especially if it is one you use frequently, to make sure you and your business are protected in the event of a dispute. Just because a term is in a contract does not necessarily mean that it will be upheld by a court should the controversy go to litigation. Plus, litigation is costly and most people want to avoid it entirely. Why not have an attorney review some of your most frequently used contracts? It could save you a lot of time, money, and headaches in the long run.
Another good use for an attorney in a business context is to draft an employee handbook. Employee handbooks can spell out specific procedures that employees must follow for certain aspects of their jobs. These handbooks can also spell out the rights and responsibilities of the employee, benefits to the employees, expectations of the employees, etc. It’s similar to a contract in that it lays out the benefits and risks of both parties, so it’s wise to have an attorney review or even draft the handbook to make sure all of the provisions will hold up in court.
These are just some of the simple things that an attorney can do for business owners small and large to help avoid litigation in the first place. This allows the business owner to focus on running and growing the business, instead of constantly worrying about the what ifs.
The division of property in a divorce is often one of the biggest sources of conflict and can cause a divorce to be dragged out for a very long time. This can happen even when one party wants out of a marriage so badly that they leave behind everything but a few personal possessions. Ultimately, the court makes the final determination on the division of marital assets. But each party proposes their own division of the property. Knowing a bit about Oklahoma’s laws on the division of property can help with the creation of a realistic proposal.
In Oklahoma, the standard for the division of assets is equitable, not equal. This means that the court decides what the fair division of assets should be. Parties do not necessarily walk away with everything split 50/50, especially if there are minor children involved.
In order to explain what all of this means, we need to define a couple of terms. Marital property—also called joint property—is the property acquired by the parties during the marriage by the work of both spouses.
Separate property, on the other hand, is property acquired by one of the spouses before marriage; property acquired as a gift during the marriage, or property acquired during the marriage as an inheritance.
Property can be any number of things, including land, money, stocks, or objects.
It is also important to note that the court makes the presumption that property and debt acquired during the marriage is marital property. A spouse can overcome this presumption by showing evidence that property is separate.
The court takes a few factors into consideration in determining what an equitable division is. The contribution of each spouse is an important factor. This means that the court looks at the salaries of each spouse. Also, the court considers the contributions of a homemaker as benefiting the marital estate, even though they do not earn a salary outside of the home. The economic needs of the spouses are not a factor. However, the court will look at the expenses of the custodial parent in the care for minor children. Economic fault, which includes wasting or hiding assets, is also considered by the court in determining equitability.
Marital misconduct is not considered in dividing the assets. This includes adultery or extreme cruelty.
Sometimes a court will award a greater share of the assets to one spouse and order that spouse to make a monetary payment to the other spouse in order to achieve equitable division. This is called alimony in lieu of property division.
There are certain instances where separate property winds up becoming marital property. This happens where the spouse owning the separate property acts in a way that indicates an intent to make the property marital. For instance, placing property in joint title, creating a joint bank account, or otherwise commingling separate assets with joint property, creates the presumption that the assets should be treated as marital. However, a spouse can overcome this presumption by presenting evidence to the contrary.
Things get even trickier when one (or both) of the spouses owns a business.
This is just a brief overview of some of the major points about the division of property in Oklahoma. There are a lot more technical issues involved and it is a good idea to consult an attorney if there is a lot of property involved. But hopefully there will be fewer surprises along the way.
Oklahoma recognizes two types of marriages—ceremonial and common law. Each type of marriage has different requirements.
A ceremonial marriage is what we typically think of when two people say they are getting married with the big fancy party and all of that stuff. A ceremonial marriage has four main requirements—voluntary consent, both parties must be competent to consent, a marriage license, and solemnization. Of these, voluntary consent is pretty obvious—both parties must agree to get married. The other three requirements have a couple of details involved and we will look at each in turn.
Both parties must be legally competent to marry. In order to have the capacity to consent to a marriage, Oklahoma statutes require that:
Neither party is married to another;
The parties cannot be related;
Parties must be eighteen or have parental consent;
Parties must be mentally competent; and
Parties cannot marry a third party within six months of a divorce.
A marriage license must be obtained. Licenses may be issued by a judge or clerk of a district court. The license is valid for 30 days. The license is also valid in any county within the state. Oklahoma offers a reduced fee for a marriage license if the couple completes a premarital counseling program.
There are three parts to the solemnization requirement. Only certain persons are authorized to conduct a ceremony. This includes judges, retired judges, and ordained and authorized religious officials. Marriages must be witnessed by two competent adult witnesses. Lastly, the marriage license also contains a blank marriage certificate, which must be filled out, signed by the person officiating the marriage, signed by the witnesses, and returned within five days of the ceremony to the judge or clerk that issued the license.
If there are any mistakes in the licensing or the solemnization requirements, the marriage may result in a common law marriage. In that case, the marriage would still be valid if the requirements for a common law marriage are met.
Oklahoma is one of a handful of states that recognizes a common law marriage. A common law marriage is a valid marriage, which is binding upon the fulfillment of certain requirements. Like a ceremonial marriage, a common law marriage requires a divorce or death to end.
Oklahoma requires four elements to be satisfied to create a common law marriage. These are:
Mutual Agreement—both parties must intend and agree to be spouses in an exclusive and permanent relationship.
Cohabitation as spouses—there is no minimum time requirement for this element.
The parties must hold themselves out publicly as spouses.
Both parties must be legally competent to marry, according to the competency requirements listed above.
States that do not recognize common law marriages created in their own state will recognize a common law marriage created in Oklahoma or another state where common law marriages are allowed by law.
Typically, common law marriages come into play either when the parties are seeking to end the relationship or when one of the parties dies and the estate goes to probate. In these instances, the burden of proof is on the party asserting that there is a common law marriage and that party must establish each element listed above by clear and convincing evidence.
Limited Scope Representation is a wonderful offering for clients because it gives them a convenient and affordable way to get the legal assistance they need from licensed attorneys. Briefly, Limited Scope Representation involves an attorney assisting a client by preparing the necessary paperwork (for example, a will, a divorce petition, an adoption or guardianship petition, or business formation documents) or by providing a brief legal consultation. From there, the client takes over and represents himself or herself in court as a pro se litigant, like for a divorce, or holds onto the documents until they are needed, like for a will.
However, not every matter is suited to Limited Scope Representation.
An example of a matter that is not suited to Limited Scope Representation is a criminal matter. This is because criminal matters are highly complex and require an expert understanding of the law and trial procedure. There are so many small technical parts to a criminal matter that it is advisable for a client to retain traditional, full-scope legal counsel to represent them.
On the other hand, a simple divorce (meaning that the parties mostly agree on the division of property and a child custody arrangement) can easily be handled by a pro se litigant with paperwork prepared by a licensed attorney. Uncontested adoptions and guardianships are also easily handled by pro se litigants.
Some matters don’t involve going to court at all—such as preparing a will or trust, powers of attorney, business formation documents, demand letters. Matters such as these are extremely ripe for using Limited Scope Representation.
Similarly, not every client is suited for Limited Scope Representation.
At MyVirtual.Lawyer, our business model is set up to operate entirely online. Our attorneys have a thirty-minute phone consultation with clients to find out more about the matter and evaluate its appropriateness for Limited Scope Representation. After that, the rest of the matter is handled online through the client portal. This certainly makes it more convenient for the client because the client can fill out the intake form when it is convenient for them, even if that’s at midnight or on the weekends. However, it requires the client to be computer savvy and to have reliable access to the internet.
With Limited Scope Representation, the attorney simply prepares the legal documents. The attorneys are not going to go to court with the clients to file documents or attend hearings on the matter in front of the judge. Once the documents are completed, the client must be able and willing to file them with the court, if needed (for example, divorces, adoptions, and guardianships must be filed at the court; demand letters are mailed to the recipient, and wills are kept until the death of the individual). The attorneys at MyVirtual.Lawyer provide written instructions about how a matter is typically handled in the state, but individual counties might have certain requirements of their own. A client must be able to ask questions at the district court where they are filing to make sure that they have in fact completed all of the necessary steps and that there aren’t any special directions for that county.
If you have a matter suited for Limited Scope Representation, are computer savvy, have a reliable internet connection, can follow directions, and are able to file paperwork at the courthouse (if needed), then Limited Scope Representation just might be right for you. If you have any questions about whether your matter is suited to Limited Scope Representation, please do not hesitate to set up a consultation to ask.
Almost everyone enters into a marriage with the belief that it will last and two people will live together until one or both of them dies. However, that is not always the reality. Oklahoma recognizes three methods for a married couple to no longer live together in marital harmony. Two of these methods terminate the marriage, while the third does not.
Divorce is a legal termination of a marriage. In Oklahoma, there are twelve recognized grounds for divorce.
The vast majority of divorces cite incompatibility for the reason for dissolving a marriage. By citing incompatibility, one partner can get a divorce over the objection of the other partner. This is called a unilateral divorce. Incompatibility exists where there is no possibility of reconciliation.
Other grounds for divorce recognized in Oklahoma are: abandonment for one year; adultery; impotency; wife pregnant by another at time of marriage; extreme cruelty; fraudulent contract; habitual drunkenness; gross neglect of duty; imprisonment for felony; divorce in another state without personal jurisdiction over one spouse; and institutionalization for insanity for five years.
In a divorce action, eight kinds of relief are available:
Dissolution of marriage
Custody and visitation order for minor children of the marriage
Child support and medical care order for minor children of the marriage
Restoration of maiden or former name
Attorneys’ fees and costs
Restraining order or other appropriate injunctive relief
A second way to terminate a marriage is an annulment. This is a judicial declaration of the invalidity of a marriage due to a defect existing at the beginning of the marriage. This type of termination can only be sought if the marriage was void or voidable. Void marriages never legally existed. This includes cases of bigamy (you can’t be married to two people at the same time) or incest (you can’t marry close blood relatives in Oklahoma). Because both of these are illegal, the marriage was never truly valid in the eyes of the state. Voidable marriages are valid until annulled. Examples of voidable marriage include underage marriage; mental incapacity; remarriage within six months; or fraud, misrepresentation, duress, error, lack of consent.
Six types of relief are available for an annulled marriage:
Declaration of invalidity of the marriage
Custody and visitation order of minor children
Child support and medical care order for minor children
Attorneys’ fees and costs
Temporary alimony (only available during the pendency of an action to annul a voidable marriage; not available for a void marriage)
The last way to no longer live in marital harmony is a Separate Maintenance action. This is also known as alimony without divorce. This does not terminate the marriage. The grounds for a separate maintenance action are the same as divorce.
There are six types of relief available for a separate maintenance action:
Custody and visitation order for minor children of the marriage
Child support and medical care for minor children of the marriage
Attorneys’ fees and costs
Restraining order or other appropriate injunctive relief.
If one spouse brings an action for separate maintenance, the other spouse can countersue for divorce.
Limited Scope Representation has been happening in Oklahoma for a long time. In 2008, it was authorized through Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2(c), which states that “a lawyer may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.” However, it is now formally recognized by the Oklahoma Bar Association. This occurred with the adoption of District Court Rule 33, which states that “a lawyer providing limited scope representation under Rule 1.2(c) of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct may draft pleadings or other documents for a pro se litigant to file with or present to a district court without the lawyer entering an appearance in the matter.”
In plain English? This means that clients can pay lawyers to prepare documents for the client to take to court and file themselves. The client does not have to pay the attorney for the time the attorney would spend at court filing the documents, waiting, and/or speaking in front of the judge.
This is a fantastic development for clients because they’re no longer paying for services that they can competently perform themselves. Further, Limited Scope Representation is typically done on a flat fee basis, so the client knows at the outset what the matter will cost. Limited Scope Representation makes the client experience a lot more convenient because much can be done through a client portal, as opposed to needing to meet face-to-face with an attorney during business hours. With a client portal, clients no longer have to take off work to attend a meeting. If they only have time to fill out the necessary paperwork at 10:00 at night, they can upload the completed paperwork into the client portal at their convenience, and the attorney can review it when they are next in the office.
However, not every type of matter is appropriate for Limited Scope Representation and not every client is a good fit for it either. For instance, criminal defense is not a good fit for Limited Scope Representation because of the complex nature of criminal proceedings. Similarly, a client who is unable or unwilling to follow directions for where, when, and how to file a divorce petition is not a good fit for Limited Scope Representation.
Here are some ways that Limited Scope Representation can occur:
The attorney prepares or reviews paperwork, but the client attends the hearing him/herself. (An example of this would be a divorce petition or adoption petition)
The attorney can coach the client on the law, procedures, and strategy, and the client represents him/herself throughout the whole case. (An example of this would be advising a client on how to proceed in a divorce case)
The attorney prepares documents for the client, and the client gets the document notarized and/or mailed him/herself. (An example of this would be a will, business filings, or basic demand letters)
Attorneys should give the client as much information as possible about what to do with the completed paperwork and what to expect next. That way the client isn’t left with a completed divorce petition, but no idea where to take it.
If cases become too complicated for a client to continue on a Limited Scope basis, a client is allowed to retain an attorney for full-scale representation.