- Property Division
- Spousal Support
- Child Support
- Child Custody
- Domestic Violence
- Post Decree Matters
- Juvenile Court/Paternity Issues
- Basic Estate Planning
A divorce terminates the marriage contract between a husband and a wife. In a divorce, one party files a Complaint with the Court requesting to terminate the marriage. The Court will then attempt to facilitate a resolution between the parties as to property division, parenting issues and support. In the event that a resolution cannot be reached, a Trial will be held and the Court will make a determination of the unresolved issues.
As with a divorce, a dissolution also terminates the parties’ marriage. However, in a dissolution, the parties reach an agreement regarding all aspects of property division, parenting issues, and support prior to filing a joint Petition to terminate their marriage with the Court.
Regardless of whether a marriage is terminated by divorce or dissolution, the parties must divide all of their assets and liabilities. Depending on the assets and liabilities involved, this process can be simple or highly complex.
The first step in property division is to determine whether property is separate or marital. Separate property is property that is determined to belong solely to one party pursuant to the guidelines set forth in the Ohio Revised Code. For example, separate property is property that was acquired by one party prior to the date of the marriage. Marital property is property that is owned by one or both of the parties that was acquired during the marriage. Marital property also includes income and appreciation on separate property that is due to the efforts of one or both of the parties during the marriage.
The next step in property division is to value the assets, including real estate, retirement accounts and/or pension plans and businesses. In order to value these assets, it is often necessary to retain outside experts in those particular areas.
The final step in property division is to divide the assets and liabilities. Although Ohio law presumes an equal division of marital property, the Court does have the authority to divide marital property equitably as opposed to equally. In those cases, the Court will determine what is equitable on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration all of the factors contained in the Ohio Revised Code.
Spousal support or, as it is commonly called, alimony, is awarded on a case-by-case basis when it is determined to be appropriate and reasonable. A determination as to whether an award of spousal support is appropriate and reasonable, as well as the determination of the amount and duration of spousal support, is based upon 14 factors which are set forth in the Ohio Revised Code. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following: the earning abilities of each party, the duration of the marriage, the assets and liabilities of the parties, and any other factor that the Court deems relevant.
All parents have an obligation to financially support their minor children. Child Support is computed pursuant to the Child Support Computation Worksheet which is set forth in the Ohio Revised Code. The amount calculated pursuant to that worksheet is presumed to be the correct amount. However, under certain circumstances, it is appropriate to “deviate” from the calculated amount. For example, if a parent makes “significant in-kind contributions” such as payment for private schooling, that may warrant a deviation from the calculated child support amount. The amount of the deviation is determined on a case-by-case basis.
|Child Custody (Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities):
In any case involving minor children, an allocation of parental rights and responsibilities (ie. a determination of custody and parenting time) must be made. Often, this is the most difficult issue in any legal matter.
An allocation of parental rights and responsibilities is based upon the child’s “best interest”. Regardless of whether one party is awarded sole custody of the child(ren) or whether the parties enter into a Shared Parenting Plan in which both parties are awarded custody of the child(ren), it is imperative that a parenting time schedule (ie. visitation schedule) be crafted which meets the specific needs of each individual family.
Domestic Violence occurs when a family or household member (1) knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical harm to another family or household member; (2) recklessly causes serious physical harm to another family or household member or (3) knowingly causes, by threat of force, a family or household member to believe that they will cause imminent physical harm to the family or household member.
A Petition for a Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order can be filed simultaneously with a divorce complaint or as a separate matter. If the petition is granted, a domestic violence civil protection order (CPO) is issued. A CPO may also award temporary child and/or spousal support, a temporary allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, and temporary possession of the marital residence.
|Post Decree Matters:
Post Decree litigation occurs after a divorce or a dissolution has been granted. Parties can find themselves back in Court for a variety of reasons.
It is sometimes necessary to return to Court to enforce a prior Court Order. In the event that a party has failed to comply with an Order, the other party can file a Motion to Show Cause/Motion for Contempt with the Court requesting that the non-complying party be ordered to appear and explain why they are not complying with the Order.
It may also be necessary to return to Court to modify a prior Court Order, such as the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities and the award of child support. In order to obtain a modification of parental rights and responsibilities, it must be determined that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the prior Order and the modification must be in the child’s best interest. A modification of child support also requires a change in circumstances, which is considered to be a 10% change in the amount of the child support award.
|Juvenile Court/Paternity Issues:
In some Northeast Ohio counties, any issue involving children of unmarried parents must be filed in Juvenile Court, as opposed to Domestic Relations Court. These issues include paternity, child support, and allocating parental rights and responsibilities.
|Basic Estate Planning:
Estate planning is the process of making arrangements to ensure that your specific wishes are carried out in the event that something happens to you. The basic estate planning documents are as follows:
(1) A “Will” or a “Last Will and Testament” allows you to transfer property held in your name to the person of your choice upon your death. This document also allows you to select a guardian for your minor children.
(2)A “Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare” allows you to designate a person of your choosing to make decisions regarding your health care treatment in the event that you are unable to do so.
(3) A “Living Will” allows you to provide medical professionals with your specific instructions regarding your medical care in the event that you are permanently impaired.
(4) A “Durable Power of Attorney for Property” allows you to designate a person of your choosing to act on your behalf to handle financial matters should you be unable to do so.