What are the Steps of a Divorce Case When You Have Minor Children?

Step 1: File for divorce.

To start a divorce in Oklahoma (it’s now called a Dissolution of Marriage), you need the following items (and 2 copies of the documents):

1. Petition
2. Summons with Notice of Automatic Temporary Injunction
3. Civil Cover Sheet
4. Application for Temporary Order
5. Money for the filing fee

The court clerk will file-stamp and keep the original copy of these documents, then s/he will file-stamp the copies that you brought. The copies will be given back to you. Additionally, the Tulsa County Courthouse will provide you with the following documents when you file:

1. Request to Set and Notice of Parenting Plan Conference
2. Families in Transition Instruction Packet

Note: If you are going through a divorce without children, the steps are the same as explained in this article, except that there is no Parenting Plan Conference, and you will need to ask the trial court to set a hearing on your Application for Temporary Order.

Step 2: Give the other party a copy of what you filed.

If the other party agrees to accept service, then you can provide them with the paperwork yourself, but the other party will need to sign something (no sooner than a day after being served) showing that s/he has accepted service of the documents (usually called a “Waiver and Acceptance of Service”). This document will need to be filed at the courthouse. If the other side won’t accept service, you must have the other party served with the filed documents (including a Summons) generally by a process server, sheriff, or by certified mail.

You will begin the process of conducting “discovery.” Discovery is the process through which you obtain documents and information to use at mediation or present at trial. This is a critical part of your case preparation. There are many ways to obtain discovery. For example, you may send discovery requests to the other side. You may send a subpoena to the company that has the statements for a retirement account. You may decide to take a deposition of a party or witness. Also, you may decide to hire a custody evaluator or guardian ad litem to help with legal custody and physical custody of a minor child. Discovery can begin shortly after the divorce case is filed, and the court will set a deadline for discovery to be complete. Generally, discovery must be complete before you can request a pretrial conference.

Step 3: Attend the Parenting Plan Conference.

In Tulsa County, all divorce cases where the divorcing parties have minor children together are required to attend a Parenting Plan Conference (“PPC”). At this court date, there will be multiple (maybe 20) other couples attending court at the same. The PPC Judge will talk to everyone briefly as a group, and then you will watch a short video that provides basic information about a divorce case. Then, you will be given the opportunity to try to work out the terms of a temporary order agreement. You’ll also be given information on how to sign up and attend the Helping Children Cope with Divorce seminar. You may also get a Scheduling Order for your case that will set various deadlines for your case, including setting a date for a status conference.

Step 4: Temporary Order Hearing.

If you can’t work out the terms of a temporary order while at the PPC, the PPC judge will give you a referral to the judge in your case for a temporary order hearing. The topics that can be covered at a temporary order hearing are the topics in your Application for Temporary Order (or the other party’s Application). Generally, the topics are:

1. Who will live in the marital residence until the divorce is complete;
2. Who is going to pay the bills/how will the bills be divided until the divorce is complete;
3. Who is going to have control over the assets/how will the assets temporarily be divided;
4. Who will have temporary legal custody of the minor children;
5. What will the physical custody schedule be for the minor children;
6. Who is paying child support, and how much; and/or
7. Whether there a need for temporary support (temporary alimony).

The trial judge will normally restrict the amount of time for your temporary order hearing—maybe to only an hour—unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Step 5: Mediation

At some point in time, you will almost certainly be required to attend mediation either through a program at the courthouse or through a private mediator to see if you can resolve some or all of the issues in your family law case. Mediation is a process where the mediator, generally an attorney, attempts to help the parties reach a resolution through negotiating. At mediation, there is no requirement to resolve anything, and your settlement discussions cannot be used as evidence at your trial.

Step 6: Status Conference

The purpose of a status conference really depends upon your judge. At a status conference, the trial judge is generally looking to see if your case is ready for trial or if there are other issues that need to be dealt with before you are ready for trial. For example, is discovery completed? Has mediation completed?

Step 7: Pretrial Conference.

This is generally the last time you will go to court before your trial date. At the pretrial conference, you will provide the trial judge with an Agreed Pretrial Conference Order, which will list the issues in your case, the witnesses each side intends to call at trial (including a summary of their testimony), and a list of all the exhibits each side intends to use at trial. You will also exchange a copy of all of your exhibits with the other side. Each judge has his/her own rules on getting the pretrial conference order prepared and when to exchange exhibits, so it’s very important to make sure you know these deadlines and comply with these deadlines.

Step 8: Divorce Trial.

At this time, both parties must be prepared to present all witnesses and exhibits to the trial judge. If the witnesses or exhibits are not presented correctly to the trial judge, the trial judge cannot consider that information in reaching his/her decision. A trial may last anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the issues.

Step 9: Attorney Fee Hearing, if applicable.

After trial, either party may apply for attorney fees and costs to be paid by the other party. There are several statutes and legal standards that dictate whether you can recover attorney fees and costs. Additionally, there are very strict deadlines on when you have to apply for attorney fees or you will be precluded from asking the trial court for attorney fees and costs.


The process of going through a divorce, especially if you have a trial, can be complicated and confusing. If you are going through a divorce, you should consult an attorney who is experienced in family law to provide answers to your questions. [Disclaimer: the information in this article is for only informational purposes. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.]

Pansy Moore-Shrier
624 S. Boston Ave., Ste. 1070
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74119
Voice: 918-592-3001
Fax: 918-794-7149
Email: pansy@mstulsalaw.com