Q&A: Understanding divorce from start to finish

divorce graphic

By Molly E. Tipton

Q: My spouse and I want to get a divorce, does it matter who files first?

There is no hypothetical race to the court house in order to be the first spouse to file in a divorce proceeding. The filing party is referred to as the “Petitioner” and the responding party is referred to as the “Respondent.”

Molly Tipton portrait

Molly E. Tipton’s legal practice is focused on domestic and family law, including divorce, legal separation, prenuptial agreements, support alimony, child custody, visitation, child support issues, guardianships, and paternity, for clients ranging from high-net worth individuals to simple uncontested divorces.

In a divorce proceeding, both parties start the case on equal footing, and there is no advantage to being the filing party or the responding party. However, if you have concerns that your spouse is beginning to accumulate new debts, which would be marital, or is beginning to open new bank accounts and moving money, or changing the beneficiaries to life insurance policies, then filing for divorce will put in place the Automatic Temporary Injunction (the “ATI”).

The ATI prevents a spouse from damaging tangible property, withdrawing funds from retirement or joint checking or savings accounts, or modifying or canceling any insurance policies, among other things. The ATI is reciprocal such that both spouses are enjoined from violating it.

Q: What kinds of issues can I expect to discuss with an attorney in a divorce proceeding?

There are five main issues in a divorce proceeding that are almost always present: child custody, child visitation, child support, support alimony, and property division.

  • Custody can be awarded to the parents as either joint or sole custodians, or a hybrid, where the parties are awarded joint custody with one parent being the final decision maker. Custody does not necessarily mean that a child is in one parent’s care, custody is the decision-making authority of each parent. Joint custodial parents must work together to make decisions regarding important life decisions for the minor children, such as religion, schooling, and health and medical decisions, to name a few. A sole custodial parent may make these decisions unilaterally.
  • Child visitation is the schedule that will dictate when the parents will exercise their custodial time with the minor children.
  • Child support is ordered in every case involving minor children. Base child support is based upon the parties’ gross monthly income, the number of overnight visits awarded to each parent and can be calculated using the Oklahoma Child Support calculator.
  • Support alimony is not as simple as child support because there is no calculator, however, support alimony is based upon one party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay and each parties’ respective monthly income and monthly budget is a consideration for payment of support.
  • As for property division, almost all assets and debts accumulated during the marriage are marital, unless there is a valid, enforceable prenuptial agreement in place. All assets and debts deemed to be marital are subject to equitable division.

Q: What are all of the steps in a divorce?

First, a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed, and often times it is accompanied by an Application for Temporary Orders. Once the Respondent has been served via certified mail or via process server, the Respondent has 20 days to file a response.

A hearing on the Petitioner’s Application for Temporary Orders may be set at the time of filing, however, counsel for the parties may work together to come up with an Agreed Temporary Order and then the parties may strike a hearing on temporary orders.

Once the temporary orders are in place, each side will conduct discovery, which includes Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Admission, and occasionally depositions of the parties or parties’ experts. Discovery allows for each side to have a clear idea of where each party stands regarding all issues mentioned above.

Once discovery is completed, the parties may either works toward a settlement or attend mediation, where the parties may end up with a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, an Agreement Incident to Dissolution of Marriage, and a Joint Custody Plan.

If mediation is unsuccessful, then the parties may proceed to trial for a resolution on the all of the issues or any of the issues not resolved at mediation.

For more information about how the information in this article may impact your business, please call 405.606.4735 or email Molly E. Tipton.

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Director’s personal style featured on local fashion blog

Nikki Edwards for Maz Modern

Director Nikki Edwards is featured as the inaugural author of Maz Modern’s Tuesday Takeover column.

A standard is set for work attire in the legal field, but Director Nikki Edwards’ fashion sense caught the eye of local blog Maz Modern.

“A colleague of mine reached out and asked if I’d be interested in writing for her new website, and I accepted,” Nikki said. “I’m thankful I had a support team behind me.”

Nikki was tasked with writing Maz Modern’s inaugural Tuesday Takeover column, and Phillips Murrah’s Family Law team used their resources to band together and shoot portraits of her around the Firm’s office with just an iPhone.

Molly E. Tipton, Phillips Murrah Family Law Attorney, shared the article on social media telling readers to surround themselves with those that motivate and inspire them saying she’s “proud to call this intellectual powerhouse and stylish woman” her mentor.

“As a busy working mom/litigation director at Phillips Murrah, I have less time to shop than ever; hence my wardrobe reflects a cacophony of items, which create my style,” Nikki writes.

Visit Maz Modern to learn more about Nikki and find her tips for shopping local.

Attorneys continue winning streak at annual OCBA Chili Cook-off

Phillips Murrah attorneys team up for OCBA’s annual chili cookoff

Another year, another recipe vying for a coveted trophy at the Oklahoma County Bar Association’s annual Chili Cook-off.

Phillips Murrah attorneys competed against local law firms in OCBA’s Young Lawyers Division on Feb. 28 at the Leadership Square Atrium in downtown Oklahoma City.

Representing Phillips Murrah were attorneys Cody J. CooperC. Eric DavisMark E. Hornbeek, Kara K. Laster, Martin J. Lopez III, Phoebe B. Mitchell, Ashley M. Schovanec, and Molly E. Tipton.

“I always love participating in the chili cook-off, not just because I am a very competitive person (and not a sore loser at all),” Tipton said. “I always find myself making new acquaintances that I look forward to seeing again in the court house or out and about!”

Attorney Phoebe Mitchell poses with her prize-winning chili and “Hottest Chili” trophy

The Firm’s team continued their winning streak, scoring the “Hottest Chili” prize with Mitchell’s recipe.

“The secret ingredient to my chili was definitely the spicy Mexican chocolate,” she said. “We had so much fun participating in the OCBA YLD chili cook-off. It is always great to come together and compete to raise money for a worthy cause like the Regional Food Bank.”

Phillips Murrah has had at least one team compete in the Chili Cook-Off each year since it first started more than ten years ago.

In 2019, the OCBA YLD named Phillips Murrah “Friend of the YLD” for the Firm’s consistent support of their charitable efforts.

To learn more about the YLD, visit OCBA’s website here.

See more: Phillips Murrah’s Commitment to the Community

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Who should define the terms of an oil and gas lease?

Whose job is it to determine which expenses can be deducted from royalty payments under the terms of an oil and gas lease? Is it the lessee or the operator? People argue both positions and all parties desire clarity in who bears this burden.

Molly Tipton

Molly Tipton is an attorney in the Energy & Natural Resources Practice Group. She represents both privately-owned and public companies in a wide variety of oil and gas matters, with a strong emphasis on oil and gas title examination.

Unfortunately, there are many interpretations of the differing forms of deductions language in leases, and the courts have not had the opportunity to make a decision. Many operators have recently requested input from the lessee on royalty valuation, but some lessees may balk at this idea because current practice typically provides that the operator cuts the checks.

Pursuant to 52 O.S. § 570.8(A), a working interest owner in a gas well shall furnish to the operator the name, address, royalty interest, taxpayer identification number, and payment status of royalty interest owners for whom they hold a lease. While this language does not place the burden on the working interest owner to tell the operator how royalty proceeds should be valued under the terms of the lease, it is understandable that an operator wishes for input from the lessee, as they are a party to the lease.

However, when an operator asks a lessee to determine how royalty proceeds should be valued under the terms of the lease, the lessee may fear liability to the royalty interest owner in the event that the operator is paying the royalty contrary to how the lessor interprets the terms of the lease.

The lessee should take comfort in the language in 52 O.S. § 570.9(D), which states that any working interest owner that pays or causes to be paid royalty proceeds for gas production in accordance with the Production Revenue Standards Act valued according to the terms of such working interest owner’s lease shall be relieved of all liability to the royalty interest owners for any further payment of proceeds from such production.

The valuation of royalties will affect both the royalty owner and the lessee, and without any guidance from the courts, there is no definitive answer as to who should define the exact terms of the lease. One can understand why neither the operator, nor the lessee, wants the burden of defining the lease terms, as they affect royalty deductions. Only time will tell whose job it is after all.


By Phillips Murrah Attorney Molly E. Tipton

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on May 30, 2019.