Though Oklahoma family laws continue to evolve, some state
lawmakers say not enough is being done to protect children -
including those in state custody - while legal experts worry that
too many changes will make parts of the system even worse.
With legislators still seeking answers about the deaths of
several children in state custody, at least two lawmakers believe
part of the problem is Oklahoma's no-fault divorce.
State Reps. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa, and Jason Murphey, R-
Guthrie, said the no-fault divorce system is a failed policy.
"I respect the views of those who argue that no-fault divorce
creates less havoc than the alternatives, but I question that
orthodoxy," McCullough said. "There is very little in the divorce
process that is even remotely connected to the interest of the
The issue was part of an interim study by state lawmakers that
was conducted this month.
"When you get down to it, our current divorce system is a racket
that enriches attorneys and makes children and communities poorer,"
said Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. "Divorce scars children and
leaves them emotionally disfigured. The current divorce laws are
perverse and they are destroying children and our society. If the
best interests of children were actually taken into consideration,
the divorce rate would be considerably less."
But legal experts counter that too many changes could make the
state's divorce system even more acrimonious for those couples who
don't want to be together.
"The question is how far you want to go," said Oklahoma City
family law attorney Kenneth Tillotson. "The law needs balance and if
you go too far one way, it could make things worse."
Tillotson said the vast majority of divorces in Oklahoma are for
"I think most people would agree that in some instances a divorce
is necessary," he said.
But because family law is state-specific, Tillotson said,
following another state's example is difficult.
"If you eliminate the no-fault, or the incompatibility, then you
would require the people who are seeking the divorce and the others
involved to prove other grounds," he said. "That could make things
Agency rules considered, too
In addition to tweaking divorce laws, lawmakers are considering
changes to agency regulations that affect Oklahoma families.
As state leaders grapple with issues surrounding the death of
several children in the custody of the Department of Human Services,
the Republican leader of the Oklahoma House of Representatives said
he has a plan to reform DHS and better protect Oklahoma children.
House Speaker Kris Steele said his proposal would seek to improve
DHS through examination and reforms to governance structure, agency
structure, personnel policy and resource allocation.
Steele, R-Shawnee, said the plan was developed to improve
delivery of services by DHS, particularly for children in state