SKILLED IN CHILD SUPPORT CASES
No one marries with the expectation they will divorce. Nevertheless, countless men and women wake up one day realizing that their marriage is over. Although this is an emotional moment for many, legal help is available.
In Ohio, divorce is a complicated process. Couples must think through many issues and decide what they want, then either reach an agreement or head to court. The Rossford divorce lawyers at Groth & Associates are available to assist with this process.
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UNDERSTANDING OHIO DIVORCE
A divorce legally unwinds a marriage. This is a more complex task than many people realize. Married couples will need to determine the following before they obtain a divorce decree:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Division of marital property and debts
- Spousal support (formerly called “alimony”)
Married couples always retain the power to determine these issues themselves. They can draft a settlement agreement and submit it to the judge for approval. However, reaching an agreement is often easier said than done. After all, if couples could easily agree on everything, they might never have decided to get divorced.
This is where a Rossford divorce lawyer is an asset. We can help squabbling couples listen to each other and find common ground. The Ohio courts also encourage cooperation and send couples to attend mediation where they discuss the dispute with a third-party neutral.
When couples cannot reach an agreement, a judge will decide on any unresolved issue after hearing testimony and reviewing evidence. An Ohio divorce can take as little as a few months to a couple of years.
OTHER PRACTICE AREA CASES
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Parents have certain rights and responsibilities to their children. When a couple splits up, however, they need to assign these rights. Child custody refers to two things:
- The ability to make important decisions for the children, such as what school they attend or whether they receive medical care. Parents can share this custody, or only one parent can have it.
- The ability to have physical possession of the children. Unless a parent has been abusive, he or she should have meaningful physical time with their children. Time is not necessarily split 50/50. Instead, one parent will be named the “residential parent” and the other will have ample visitation.
A parenting plan will identify where the children will be throughout the year and other important provisions, such as how parents will communicate with each other and transport the children to hand-off possession. A parenting plan must be sufficiently detailed to avoid future disputes.
Parents are free to decide custody themselves. In a custody fight, however, the court will use the best interests of the child factors listed in Ohio Revised Code § 3109.04(F)(1), which include:
- Each parent’s wishes
- Each parent’s mental and physical health
- The child’s mental and physical health
- The child’s relationship with parents and siblings
- The child’s wishes
- A history of child abuse or neglect
Judges are empowered to consider all relevant factors, and their determination is very hard to set aside even if you strongly disagree with it. For this reason, you must approach child custody in an informed manner.
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Ohio has created guidelines which judges use to calculate child support. These guidelines are based primarily on each parent’s income, the amount of time they have with the children, and the total number of children to be supported.
The guideline amount is often a starting point. Parents can request that the judge depart from it to account for certain factors, such as the educational or medical needs of the child. When parents have very high incomes, a judge will not be restrained by the guidelines.
An important note: parents cannot waive child support, since it belongs to the child, not the parents. And Ohio expects children to participate in each parent’s income.
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DIVISION OF MARITAL PROPERTY & DEBTS
No aspect of divorce causes more confusion than the division of marital property and debts. To begin with, many people wrongly assume that an asset is only marital if both spouses have their name on the title or if both contributed money to purchase it. That assumption is wrong.
Generally speaking, your property is either marital or separate:
- Separate property is anything you owned before getting married, as well as any gift you received or inheritance you received while married.
- Marital property is basically everything else. It is any asset you obtained while married, regardless of which spouse purchased it or whose name is on the title or deed.
The following can be marital property:
- Real estate, including the family home
- Cash or savings
- Investments, such as stock or bonds
- Retirement accounts, including pensions and 401(k) or IRAs (but not Social Security)
- Business interests
- Personal property like jewelry or art
If you cannot divide the property yourself, a judge will do so “equitably.” This means the judge will make a fair division while looking at many factors, such as how much each spouse contributed to the marriage, including non-economic contributions. Marital property is not always divided 50/50, though it often is.
Formerly called alimony, spousal support is money one spouse pays to the other following divorce. The wealthier spouse typically makes monthly payments to the other, although alimony can also be a lump sum payment.
Ohio law has undergone a sea change with respect to alimony. Formerly, judges reserved alimony for wives and made permanent awards because fewer women worked outside the home. Today, both spouses are expected to work and support themselves, so permanent awards are less frequent.
Still, a judge might award alimony depending on many factors, such as each spouse’s relative earning power following the marriage and the overall marital standard of living. A disabled or very elderly spouse also has a stronger claim to support post-divorce.
A key consideration is that spouses can set their own support award or waive support altogether. It often serves as a bargaining chip when negotiating a divorce settlement.
SPEAK WITH A ROSSFORD DIVORCE LAWYER NOW
There is no convenient time to divorce. Nevertheless, it is never too early to learn about your rights and what to expect should you file a divorce petition. Call our firm today to discuss your rights in a confidential setting.