If you are divorcing a spouse who is terminally ill, this diagnosis will not prevent you from obtaining a divorce in Oklahoma. You will go through the same divorce process as other divorcing couples. However, your spouse's terminal illness may affect how the court resolves certain marital issues, such as child custody and alimony.
When you file for divorce in Oklahoma, you must list your grounds, or reasons, on the divorce petition. Oklahoma recognizes 12 grounds for divorce, ranging from adultery to mental cruelty. Oklahoma does not allow spouses to choose illness as grounds for divorce. However, the no-fault grounds of incompatibility is commonly used in the state. You do not have to claim your spouse is at fault for the divorce, only that you and your spouse have grown apart and there is no chance of reconciliation.
Once the divorce process has begun, the court will resolve all marital issues. When it comes to property division, Oklahoma is an equitable distribution state. This means the court will divide marital property in a manner that is fair and just, though not necessarily equal, after evaluating several factors, such as your contributions to the marriage and your need for financial security and stability, both in the present and in the future. Since it is likely your spouse's terminal illness will affect his ability to work or provide for himself, the court may take this into account when dividing property. However, you and your spouse have the option of reaching your own property settlement agreement.
Like all states, Oklahoma determines custody based on what is in a child's best interests. As part of the divorce, the court will award both legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions about your child's welfare, such as religion, health and schooling. Absent unusual circumstances, such as abuse, courts often award parents joint legal custody. When it comes to physical custody -- where the child lives -- the court may award either joint or sole custody. Your spouse's illness is likely to come into play at this stage.This is because the court evaluates several factors when making this determination, including the parents' mental and physical health, as well as their ability to provide a stable home environment, meet the child's needs, and spend time with the child.
In Oklahoma, divorcing spouses have the option of requesting alimony. In order for alimony to be awarded, one spouse must have a need for support and the other spouse must have an ability to pay. Once this is established, the court will decide the amount and duration of the award based on a number of factors, including the length of the marriage; your age, health and earning capacity; and the division of property. Since your spouse's terminal illness will affect many of these factors, the court may order you to pay alimony, especially if you are in a financially superior position.