Lawton attorney reacts to Oklahoma divorce bill

Updated: Mar. 1, 2017 at 4:58 PM CST
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LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- A local family practice attorney believes a bill, now headed to the full House, that would take away irreconcilable differences as a fault for divorce, would do more harm than good.

House Bill 1277 would also make the couple wait at least six months before the divorce is granted and require them to seek marriage counseling. It was passed out of a committee Tuesday with a vote of 7 to 5. Couples can only be divorced on grounds of incompatibility if they were married less than 10 years, did not have minor children and if neither are opposed to the divorce. However, the bill also forces the so-called guilty party in a divorce to pay up to 75 percent of everything they own to their spouse.

Grant Sheperd, a family law attorney, says he's never worked a divorce that wasn't filed under the grounds of irreconcilable differences. He feels there's another reason lawmakers are trying to pass this bill.

"I just think it's more of a ploy to try to go out and say that they're doing something to help than actually thinking this bill is going to pass," said Sheperd.

He says he's all for lowering the divorce rate, but believes there's a better way to solve the problem.

"Maybe we require more classes up front before you get married," said Sheperd. "They're already making you do classes if there is minor children involved, or they make you do classes to understand the divorce on kids and I think that's a good thing."

He says this would also require more research and higher fees on their end.  The first two questions he asks a couple is are there children and is there property because that is what people fight over.

"Now, if incompatibility is taken away, we're also going to have to fight over what grounds are you getting divorced on and there might be more PI's involved to go spy on the other party to find something that they can use as a ground to get divorced," said Sheperd.

Since the bill would also force the person found to be at fault to give up a large percentage of what they own, he believes this will only tear the couples further apart.

"What motivation does the party have to stay with the one who cheated or one who abandoned them if they know they're going to get 75 percent of the marital estate, so I don't think that's an advantage at all," said Sheperd. "I think they're just going to want to push forward and try to get divorced as quickly as possible."

Sheperd hopes his voice is heard by state lawmakers.

"To me, as this bill is written, I think it's going to hurt as many people as it's going to help," said Sheperd. "I'd urge them to reconsider and think of alternatives to this bill."

Sheperd also says if this bill becomes law, it could potentially put victims of domestic violence in danger if they want a divorce from an abusive partner.

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