In some marriages one spouse provides the bulk of the family income. For example, a husband may quit his job to care for the children while his wife continues as the sole bread winner. When these couples divorce, Oklahoma state law provides the possibility for alimony payments to help a financially disadvantaged spouse transition into the single life.
The Purpose of the Payments
Although alimony, also called "spousal support," may be traditionally thought of as payments made by the former husband to his former wife after a divorce, it can be awarded to either spouse. Oklahoma state law provides several grounds for divorce, including incompatibility, and judges may order spousal support regardless of the reason the couple desires to end their marriage. Judges have broad discretion in awarding alimony payments when a significant difference exists between the financial health and welfare of the two spouses.
Factors for Awarding Alimony
Oklahoma law provides no specific method for calculating the amount of alimony one spouse owes to another. Unless the divorcing spouses agree to a specific amount on their own, the judge may look at such factors as each person's relative age, health, education, work history and earning capacity. The judge also considers the lifestyle the couple led while married and the length of their marriage. Ultimately, the judge will award alimony whenever one spouse shows a need for support and the other spouse has the ability to pay it.
Making Alimony Payments
If a judge orders alimony payments as part of the divorce decree, Oklahoma law requires her to include a specific total amount of alimony awarded. Once that amount has been paid, spousal support ceases. Oklahoma no longer allows judges to order permanent support payments, although the parties may agree to this between themselves. The ex-spouse required to pay alimony may pay the entire amount in a lump sum, or in monthly installments.
Modifying or Stopping Payments
Oklahoma law provides several ways alimony payments can be stopped or modified before the total amount awarded has been paid. For example, if either party dies, the obligation to pay alimony ends. Likewise, if the former spouse receiving alimony remarries, any obligation to continue paying alimony ceases. Although not automatic, if someone receiving alimony starts living with someone else of the opposite sex, Oklahoma law allows the former spouse paying alimony to petition the court for an order stopping alimony payments. Additionally, former spouses may petition for modification of a spousal support order if their financial circumstances have changed substantially since the judge issued the original order.