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OCU Law names Ybarra 2019 Outstanding Young Alumna

Monica Ybarra Web

Monica Y. Ybarra is a litigation attorney whose practice focuses on representing individuals and companies in wide range of commercial litigation matters. She also practices in the area of family law, including litigation, custody issues and valuation issues.

Monica Y. Ybarra, Family Law attorney and Oklahoma City University School of Law Class of 2014 alumna, will be honored as Outstanding Young Alumna at the OCU Law Awards Dinner.

“These awards were created in the late 1990s to honor individuals, alumni and non-alumni, in the legal community who have exemplified themselves as champions of the legal profession, established themselves as a community advocate, and supported the endeavors of OCU Law,” said Ally Rodriguez, Director of Alumni Relations at OCU Law. “To be a recipient of an award demonstrates their commitment to excellence in their career and we hope this shines a light on their good works.”

The 2019 OCU Law Awards Dinner will be hosted at 6 PM on April 6 at OCU School of Law.

“Working with Monica, both as a Phillips Murrah team member and now in our mutual roles for our alma mater OCU School of Law, is a real gift,” said Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and OCU Law Dean. “Monica wonderfully embodies the exceptional brain and heart you want in a colleague, a leader and a friend.”

This year’s awards are especially important as they signify the first major event of the OCU Law Alumni Association after being re-established in the fall of 2018 under the direction of Dean Jim Roth, she said.

“As a classmate of Monica’s and a member of the OCU Law Class of 2014, it is an honor to be able to work with her as the Chair of the OCU Law Alumni Association,” Rodriguez said. “Monica brings an excitement to her work and motivates those around her.

“As the 2019 recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumna Award, Monica has exemplified significant achievements in the practice of law since graduation, and is a wonderful representation of the hard work and servant leadership mentality that OCU Law instills.”

Ybarra joined the university’s Alumni Association in September 2018 to oversee development and progress of the organization and was elected Chair by the Board of Directors soon after.

“Dean Roth’s vision to reestablish the OCU Law Alumni Association was one of his top priorities upon assuming his role as the new Dean,” Ybarra said. “He brought together a group of interested alums to serve on the Board of Directors and they elected me as Chair at our inaugural meeting.

“So, I’ve hit the ground running in that role since day one.”

This first year has been focused on getting the word out about the Alumni Association, building partnerships with community businesses for the rewards program, setting goals and bringing the Association’s vision into focus, she said.

“OCU Law has produced some very dynamic leaders and so many of our alums are doing great things all over the world, so it is incredibly humbling to receive this award,” Ybarra said. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be recognized in this way.

“I hope that my role and involvement with OCU Law will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the law school. I enjoy helping with local and national recruiting, and certainly enjoy contributing to the law school experience of OCU Law students in any way that I can.”

To learn more about OCU Law and the Alumni Association, click here.

Firm selects Employee of the Month for December 2018

Donna Anderson

Donna Anderson

Donna Anderson, Paralegal, is Phillips Murrah’s Employee of the Month for December 2018.

“I am extremely grateful and humbled,” Donna said. “I feel truly blessed to work for such a great company that I consider a part of my family.”

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“Congratulations to Donna Anderson, a skilled paralegal, working with our legal team to provide top-notch client service to our often anxious family law clients,” Director Nikki Edwards said. “Clients, support staff and all of the attorneys Donna works with describe her similarly as ‘the calm in the storm’.

“We are so happy that Donna deservingly received the December Employee of the Month recognition. Donna’s insight and dedication are evident in all she does.”

The Firm recently began making a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, and Donna chose Positive Tomorrows.

“We are so grateful that Donna and Phillips Murrah P.C. have chosen to support Positive Tomorrows in this way,” said Susan Agel, Positive Tomorrows President and Principal. “As Oklahoma’s only elementary school and social service agency specifically serving children and families experiencing homelessness, we rely on a generous community to keep our doors open.

“Gifts like this mean that we can continue to provide life-changing services to some of our communities most vulnerable little ones.”

Positive Tomorrows recently broke ground on a new facility in Oklahoma City, and Phillips Murrah has been a supporter of their mission for years.

“I believe children are our future, and the fact that Positive Tomorrows is trying to ensure their success makes this a worthy cause,” Donna said. “Many children would not have the simple pleasures of life such as a meal or a place where they feel safe if it were not for Positive Tomorrows.”

To learn more about Positive Tomorrows, click here.


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage four years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

Director Nikki Edwards quoted by Journal Record on divorce settlements

Nicholle Jones Edwards

Nicholle Jones Edwards’ practice focuses on family law, labor law and general civil litigation. Her family law practice includes litigation, complex custody issues and valuation issues.

A change in tax deductions regarding alimony has lead to an influx of clients looking to expedite their divorces.

Nikki Edwards, Phillips Murrah Director and Family Law Attorney, was quoted in a Journal Record article addressing the circumstances agreeing with Ron Little, McAfee & Taft Family Law Attorney.

Phillips Murrah Family Practice Law Director Nikki Edwards said she’s seeing the same issues from her clients as Little. She has clients who are trying to get the agreement finalized in a few weeks, while others are willing to push it into 2019.

“It was a surprising change because it’s been well-settled for many years,” she said. “The impact will be to restructure the settlement negotiations.”

She said from a practitioner’s standpoint, the change gets back to why alimony was created, which is predicated on one’s ability to pay versus one’s need.

“(The new law) will take out the thoughts of paying more because of the tax benefit,” she said. “It takes out the incentives for both sides.”

Read the full article by The Journal Record here.

Highly litigated common law marriage still recognized in Oklahoma

I heard a song the other day by Pistol Annies called “Got My Name Changed Back.” The lyrics include the line, “it takes a judge to get married, takes a judge to get divorced.”

Oklahoma family law attorney Robert K. Campbell discusses common law marriage.

Robert K. Campbell’s legal practice is focused in the area of family law, specifically concentrated in matters of divorce, legal separation and custody issues. Click photo to visit his attorney profile.

Well, if you live in Oklahoma, only half of these lyrics is correct. Oklahoma is one of only eleven states that currently recognize common law marriages.

Unlike a traditional marriage, entering into a common law marriage does not require a judge or minister, a marriage license or a marriage certificate. A common law marriage is formed when the minds of the parties meet in consent at the same time. The only requirements are that two people, who are capable of entering into a marriage, agree to become spouses and thereafter maintain the marital relationship.

People often tell me that they have been living with their significant other for so many years, and they ask if that makes them common law married. Typically, if you are simply living together, you probably are not common law married.

Elements of a common law marriage include:

  • An actual and mutual agreement to be spouses
  • A permanent relationship
  • An exclusive relationship
  • Cohabitation as spouses
  • Holding themselves out to the public as married

The concept of being common law married seems simple enough, yet it is a highly litigated area in divorce and probate matters. You never know what piece of evidence will convince a court that a couple is either common law married or not.

To establish the existence or non-existence of a common law marriage, the evidence can include, but is not limited to, tax returns, holiday and anniversary cards, deeds, insurance forms, rings, family holiday pictures, social media posts, name tags and estate planning documents.

Tax returns, in particular, are very helpful pieces of evidence, because whether the parties file as a married couple or as single persons, they are attesting to their marital status to the government under penalty of perjury.

Finally, it is important to know how to dissolve a common law marriage. While Oklahoma recognizes common law marriage, there is no such thing as a common law divorce. If you are common law married, then as the Pistol Annies’ song correctly states, “it takes a judge to get divorced.”


This article is also published as a Q&A in the Oklahoman, published on 11/21/18 by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5615630/common-law-marriage-highly-litigated-in-divorce-probate-matters

 

Director presents for OU Women and Gender Studies class

Nicholle Jones Edwards

Nicholle Jones Edwards’ practice focuses on family law, labor law and general civil litigation. Her family law practice includes litigation, complex custody issues and valuation issues.

Nicholle Jones Edwards, Director and member of the Family Law Practice Group, presented to the Women and Gender Studies class at the University of Oklahoma on Oct. 23.

The class is comprised of mostly seniors and students looking to attend law school. Her presentation focused on custody and the impact of gender on custody disputes.

Edwards advised that Oklahoma law has enacted statutory measures to prevent gender bias in these matters, lending the example that in divorce cases, mothers’ rights are no greater than fathers’ rights under the law.

However, the issue in same-sex divorces as with any other divorce will focus on the best interest of the child, she said.

Edwards previously served on the Advisory Board for the Women and Gender Studies program and continues to lend support.

To learn more about OU’s Women and Gender Studies class, click here.

Family law attorney leads conference for Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute

Attorney Monica Y. Ybarra (middle) at Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute's first annual conference.

Attorney Monica Y. Ybarra (middle) with attendees of Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute’s 1st Annual Champions for Children Conference.

Monica Y. Ybarra, Phillips Murrah Family Law Attorney, helped orchestrate the 1st Annual Champions for Children conference for the Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute on Oct. 27.

A guardian ad litem is often an integral part of a family law case involving custody, visitation, and other child-related issues. However, it is often an added expense that the parties, especially low-income families, cannot afford, Ybarra said.

“I became involved when Sharon Byers, Executive Director for the Institute, asked me to assist her in coming up with ideas for CLEs,” Ybarra said. “One thing led to another, and the vision for a GAL-specific conference came into focus.

“This has never been done in Oklahoma, and we weren’t sure how it would be received; however, it was a huge success.”

The Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute was formed to provide this essential service to low-income families. It is a non-profit organization, and one of the ways the Institute raises money is to put on CLEs, or Continuing Legal Education seminars.

“This was one of our most successful CLEs based on the number of attendees,” Byers said. “We are grateful for Monica for that and the Firm for supporting this social event.

“Without people like Monica and Phillips Murrah, we wouldn’t be able to sustain and provide services for the children of Oklahoma and families that can’t afford it.”

More than 40 attorneys and law students interested in becoming GALs attended the first annual conference.

“I gave a presentation, along with Reagan Barham, another Oklahoma City attorney, called ‘Know your Judge: Judicial Expectations and Preferences’ in which we educated attendees about what judges want to see in a GAL’s representation,” Ybarra said.

Nicholle Jones Edwards, Director and Member of the Firm’s Family Law Practice Group, also presented, showing a cross examination of a GAL in a mock trial setting.

“Monica was instrumental in getting it done,” Byers said. “She is a workhorse and went above and beyond to organize the whole thing. Both Nikki and Monica did an excellent job and had valuable information to contribute, and we are very appreciative.”

For more information on the Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute, click here.

Sheets, Ybarra earn Journal Record’s Leadership in Law awards

law day robert n sheets monica y ybarra leadership in law

Robert N. Sheets and Monica Y. Ybarra hold their Leadership in Law awards from the Journal Record.

Director Robert N. Sheets and Attorney Monica Y. Ybarra were presented with the Journal Record’s Leadership in Law award on May 1 at the Oklahoma County Bar Association’s annual Law Day Luncheon.

Oklahoma County District Judge Trevor Pemberton and Attorneys Judy Hamilton Morse (Oklahoma City) and M. David Riggs (Tulsa) were also recipients of this year’s Leadership in Law Award.

“I am truly honored to receive this recognition,” Ybarra said. “The list of honorees is really impressive, and I am humbled to be recognized along with these amazing attorneys that I look up to.”

Ybarra joined the Firm in 2014 and represents clients in the Firm’s Family Law Practice Group.

“As a young associate, it can be difficult to juggle work and family obligations and find time for community work, but community work and civic engagement is a vital part of connecting to the city and the people who live here and opens my eyes to the issues facing our community,” she said. “Finding ways to serve and engage not only enriches my life and experiences, but I hope it blesses others.

“Additionally, I have greatly benefited from the community service of others throughout my life and my education, so finding ways to serve feels like I’m giving back what has so generously been given to me. The OCBA provides so many opportunities to serve, both in the legal profession and the greater OKC community. I am grateful to be a part of such a service-oriented organization and I look forward to finding more opportunities to be useful and to serve.”

Sheets, one of the Firm’s founders, represents both privately-held and public companies in the Firm’s Commercial Litigation Practice Group. This is the second time the Journal Record has recognized him with the Leadership in Law award.

“I was moved when I received the Leadership in Law award from the Journal Record in 2008, and I am honored even more so to be recognized with this award for a second time 10 years later,” Sheets said. “It’s a real testament to the work I’m permitted to do in the legal field and within the community, and I appreciate those who see me fit to hold such an honor.

“My position has afforded me the opportunity to become active in the community, specifically with the Oklahoma County Bar Association and the Voices for Children committee. Thank you to the OCBA for allowing me to give back in a meaningful way, and thank you again to the Journal Record for the acknowledgment.”

Phillips Murrah Director Nicholle Jones Edwards was honored with the award in 2017.

Directors volunteer at annual Westminster fundraiser

Marc and Nikki Edwards and Laurin and Nicholas Hickman attend a Westminster School event.

Nikki and Marc Edwards, Directors at Phillips Murrah, gave their time to help make WestxWestminster, an annual fundraising auction hosted by Westminster School, a success.

Arriving early to the April 1 event at the Bricktown Events Center, Nikki and Marc volunteered at the check-in table and worked a games table throughout the night.

“While I support many Oklahoma City and Oklahoma state causes, I’m always happy to lend my time and resources to this great cause and this top-notch school,” Nikki said.

The Edwards have an 8-year-old son who attends Westminster School in Oklahoma City.

At Phillips Murrah, Nikki heads up the Family law Practice Group where she provides objective, compassionate and experienced guidance in domestic matters that lead to separation or divorce and other family law-related matters. Marc, who leads the Firm’s Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group, represents business and public entities in a broad range of litigation, administrative proceedings and strategic legal matters, with an emphasis on public utility, public pension, governmental and administrative laws.

While not practicing law, the Edwards’ spend their free time volunteering, attending field trips, and supporting the school.

To learn ways to support Westminster, click here.

PM Attorney graduates Leadership OKC LOYAL Program

Monica Y. Ybarra

Every year, approximately two hundred of Oklahoma City’s rising stars vie for a chance to be a member of Leadership Oklahoma City’s Linking OKC’s Young Adult Leaders (LOYAL) Program.

Phillips Murrah Attorney Monica Y. Ybarra was selected to participate in this prestigious program as a member of LOYAL Class XII. The Firm is pleased to announce Ybarra graduated from the program last week and is officially part of the Leadership Oklahoma City family.

The LOYAL Program focuses on enhancing personal leadership skills and cultivating community leadership skills. During the seven-month program, participants have unique opportunities to learn leadership skills from Oklahoma’s most influential and accomplished business people, public servants, and non-profit managers.

“Participating in LOYAL has been one of my most rewarding Oklahoma experiences,” Ybarra said. “The program offered me a chance to increase my leadership intelligence and connect to the community in so many ways.

“This program is about so much more than networking—it’s about helping motivated individuals become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Participants gain insight into topics such as board skills, human resources, public speaking, non-profit finances, ethics, and much more. Additionally, Leadership Action Projects afford participants an opportunity to apply their skills and talents to tackle substantive issues in our community.

“At Phillips Murrah P.C. we take pride in being a strategic partner for our clients and for our community,” she said. “I am very fortunate to work for an organization that not only supports my efforts to become a better attorney but also a better Oklahoman.”

Ybarra is a litigation attorney who practices family law. She represents clients in all areas of domestic and family law matters including, divorce actions, custody matters, guardianships, prenuptial agreements, and paternity actions.

Other Phillips Murrah graduates of Leadership Oklahoma City programs include Jim Roth, Signature Program Class XXII, and G. Calvin Sharpe, Signature Program Class XXIII.

Online Evidence: Digital discovery during divorce

This Gavel to Gavel legal column was originally published in The Journal Record on Jan 28, 2015.
By Nicholle Jones Edwards. View her attorney profile here.


Nicholle Jones Edwards

Nicholle Jones Edwards

“Fantastic advances in the field of electronic communication constitute a greater danger to the privacy of the individual,” Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren prophetically stated in 1963.

Today, people use email, text messaging and social networking sites more than ever. Digital activities of a couple going through a divorce can become valuable evidence when determining issues such as parental fitness, financial support or the division of assets and debt. A history of social media use can be a virtual character witness – for good or ill.

It should also be no surprise that public posts on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can be examined by attorneys involved in the discovery process. However, texts and so-called private messages on social networking platforms can also be obtained by attorneys and become evidence in a divorce.

Deleting posts, messages and/or texts can also invite trouble. Procedurally, a divorce begins with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, which includes an Automatic Temporary Injunction.

The injunction includes the following language that specifically prohibits either party from deleting social media information, text messages or emails during the divorce process: “Intentionally or knowingly damaging or destroying the tangible property of the parties, or of either of them, specifically including but not limited to, any electronically stored materials, electronic communications, social network data, financial records, and any document that represents or embodies anything of value.”

For those inclined to delete embarrassing messages or image transmissions, the best policy is to talk to their attorney about it so preparations can be made to address the matter.

Some general guidelines for communicating digitally during a divorce: If you want to communicate in a way that is truly private, talk in person. One-on-one verbal communication in a private location is the only real private way to interact.

Be aware that many digital devices and social media sites use geographical data. When you post or tweet, be aware that you may also be publishing your location. To avoid this, turn off the geolocation option on your sites and mobile devices.

When you email, text or post messages to social networks, assume that all of those messages will be seen by the judge. Especially refrain from sending or posting anything that is motivated by frustration or anger.

Phillips Murrah announces new Directors for 2015

2015 Phillips Murrah new directors

From L: Nicholle Jones Edwards, Jennifer L. Miller, Jason M. Kreth and Candace Williams Lisle

Tom Wolfe, managing director at Oklahoma City law firm, Phillips Murrah, announced that attorneys Nicholle Jones Edwards, Jennifer L. Miller, Jason M. Kreth and Candace Williams Lisle have been elected by the firm’s shareholders as new directors. Their appointments were made effective January 1, 2015, bringing the total number of directors in the firm to 32.

Edwards’ law practice focuses on family law, general civil litigation and appellate matters. Her family law practice includes litigation, complex custody issues and valuation issues.

Miller practices in the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group representing both employers and employees in a variety of discrimination and employment disputes. Her practice also involves the representation of national and international corporations in intellectual property disputes.

Kreth is a commercial litigator who represents financial institutions, handling matters such as foreclosures, bankruptcy and lender liability litigation. He also represents clients in a range of real property disputes.

Lisle is a litigation attorney with an emphasis in the representation of financial institutions in mortgage and commercial loan litigation and lender liability.