Divorce Lawyers in Dublin, OH
A divorce can be a dreaded event for many married couples, but sometimes it is the best solution to an unhappy or dysfunctional union. Whether the writing has been on the wall, or you are caught off guard, hiring a divorce attorney with experience can make a difficult situation less stressful and give you peace of mind that you have someone on your side representing your best interests.
When it comes time to file for divorce or dissolution, there are steps in the process that legal counsel is qualified to direct you in and complete on your behalf. Once a spouse determines that he or she wants to terminate the marriage, you must determine establishing parental custody rights, visitation and/or parenting time, child support, or spousal support, if appropriate, and a division of your assets and debts. If you and your spouse cannot negotiate and agree upon a resolution of these items, the Court will make this determination for you.
At Arenstein & Andersen Co., LPA, many cases we handle include actions to terminate or dissolve a marriage. Ending the marriage could be painful for you or your children, but it could be the right decision for your children’s or your mental health and wellbeing.
Grounds for Divorce in Ohio
Ohio is the only state to draw a distinction between a “divorce” and a “dissolution of marriage.” You can file for dissolution after both spouses agree on all issues, such as a property division, child custody, and any support obligations. If not, you will need to file for a divorce.
Ohio law requires that a spouse seeking a divorce establish grounds (or a reason) for the divorce. Ohio recognizes both “fault” and “non-fault” grounds for divorce. “Non-fault” grounds include incompatibility, which generally means that both spouses agree that they do not get along and are not compatible as a married couple. If spouses have lived separately for more than one year without cohabitation, a divorce may also be granted on this “non-fault” ground. If one spouse denies incompatibility and the spouses have not lived separately without cohabitation for a period of at least a year, a separate “fault” ground must be alleged. These grounds include:
- Either spouse had a husband or wife living at the time of the marriage
- Extreme cruelty
- Fraudulent contract
- Gross “neglect of duty”
- Habitual drunkenness
- Imprisonment of the non-filing spouse in a state or federal correctional institution at the time the divorce is filed
- The other spouse divorced the filing spouse in another state
If your spouse disagrees with your grounds for divorce, you may need to provide testimony and evidence to the Court. However, most spouses do not litigate the reason for the divorce and typically agree upon one of the non-fault grounds.
Probably the most adversarial method for terminating a marriage, a contested divorce occurs when at least one party disagrees on one or more of the issues that must be resolved before a divorce can be finalized. This could be a disagreement on the value of certain assets to be divided, a division of your property, the amount of or duration of spousal support, custody or parenting time schedules, or child support. In a divorce proceeding, the court must determine these issues if you are unable to reach a resolution. In such a situation, it is important to have experienced counsel to advise you as to your rights, negotiate on your behalf, and advocate for your position in the courtroom when necessary.
While exploring a resolution prior to filing a contested divorce can be beneficial, there are scenarios in which the filing of a contested divorce may be necessary or beneficial to protect your interests and assets. If you have concerns that a spouse may relocate children, deplete marital assets, cease paying customary living expenses, or otherwise make a decision that could detrimentally affect you or your children, it may be prudent to file a divorce and seek orders that will protect you and your children. This does not mean that you cannot later mediate, negotiate, or ultimately settle your case by agreement. Most spouses do ultimately agree upon a resolution; however, a contested divorce may protect your interests and establish temporary orders in the interim.
If you file for a divorce and your spouse does not respond within 28 days, you may be granted an “uncontested divorce,” after 42 days. This is a process where the spouse that is filed against does not object or is unavailable to participate. In this event, a spouse seeking a divorce may present to the court their proposed resolution for review and approval.
However, even if the other party is not responding, you may still need help going through the steps to complete your divorce. The Court typically requires that a spouse present testimony and the appropriate paperwork to finalize even an uncontested divorce, which typically includes presenting the Court with proposed orders to establish parental rights and responsibilities, divide property, and establish support, among other items. The requirements for an uncontested hearing can vary from county to county. Often it is difficult to navigate the paperwork and process without the assistance of a lawyer.
In Ohio, spouses may file for a dissolution of their marriage in lieu of a divorce. A dissolution is an agreement by both parties to end the marriage. This can expedite the timelines to obtain a termination of your marriage. In order to file a dissolution, spouses must agree on all terms, including parental rights and responsibilities, a division of assets and debts, and support obligations, if necessary and appropriate. The spouses will do most of the work “up front” and any required forms and agreements are submitted in the initial filing. Once filed, the Court will set a hearing to finalize the dissolution within 90 days of filing.
In most scenarios, it is beneficial to explore the possibility of a dissolution prior to filing a contested divorce. Even if you are not on the same page as your spouse on all issues, the dissolution process can often involve negotiations and informal exchanges of information such that an agreement can eventually be reached.
Even if you and your spouse have discussed an agreement or terms, it is helpful to review and consult with an attorney to ensure that you are following all requirements set by the court and that your rights are protected. Once a final Decree of Divorce is granted, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to undo or modify certain terms.
If your spouse hires an attorney, that attorney can only represent and advice their client and cannot represent both spouses. This is true even when both parties report that they are in full agreement. Without knowing your legal rights, it is often difficult to evaluate whether an agreement is fair and equitable. Consulting with an attorney can protect your rights and further provide peace of mind.
You should consider a A&A family law attorney who understands Ohio laws and what steps you should take to keep the dissolution balanced for the best outcome.
Although rare and with limitations, annulments are permitted in Ohio. If granted, the annulment terminates the marriage and legally says it never happened. An annulment may be granted if you establish that it was void or voidable. A marriage may be considered void if your spouse was already married before marrying you. A marriage may be voidable if you were forced to consent to the marriage, if you were below the legal age at the time of the marriage, or if you were induced into the marriage by way of fraud, among other grounds.
There are significant differences between annulments and other legal separations in Ohio. For example, if an annulment is granted, spousal support cannot be granted. Having an attorney familiar with the intricacies of your case will benefit you.
Ohio law generally defines the “marital property” to be divided in a divorce as assets that were acquired during the marriage. This could include real estate, personal property, and retirement plans. Similar to marital assets, debt accrued during the marriage is also divided. Assets held at the time of the marriage are generally presumed to be “marital” unless proven otherwise.
In a divorce or dissolution process, spouses may also desire to claim that certain property constitutes their “separate” property such that it should not be included in the marital “pot” of items to be divided. “Separate property” includes assets acquired by either spouse before the marriage or even during the marriage depending on how it was acquired. It includes assets like property received through an inheritance to one spouse, certain types of lawsuit awards, gifts to one spouse, assets or items addressed in a prenuptial agreement, and even the passive appreciation or income derived from a separate asset. If you and your spouse do not agree as to the separate nature of a particular asset, it is the burden of the spouse making the claim to prove to the court that it is separate property. You may also want to establish that a particular debt incurred by your spouse is separate and should be their sole responsibility. Even if you can establish a separate property claim, the court may still have discretion to distribute separate property to either party if appropriate and equitable to do so.
When dividing assets after a divorce, the court generally divides all assets equally or equitably between the parties. Sometimes this means equally; however, that is not always the case. If the court finds that one spouse inappropriately depleted or hid marital assets, it may be able to award a higher share of the assets.
Also known as ‘alimony,’ spousal support is an allowance ordered by the court to be paid from one spouse to the other. A court can grant temporary support during the pendency of a case as well as ongoing support after a divorce is granted. Unlike child support, there is not a specific calculation set forth by Ohio laws to calculate the property amount of support. Instead, Ohio law has set forth thirteen (13) factors to be examined in order to determine the appropriate amount and duration of support, such as income, earning ability, how long the marriage lasted, and relative assets each spouse. Spousal support can be adjusted if the circumstances of either party change and the terms of the divorce permit modification. If support is granted, a final order must establish whether it can be modified in the future and/or what events will permit a modification or termination of support. Depending on the language employed, a spouse may not be permitted to modify their spousal support obligation in the future. This may have devastating results if a spouse’s employment or living situation changes, voluntarily or involuntarily.
Having an Ohio family law attorney to argue the amount of support you owe or should receive after a divorce could help reduce stress during and following your divorce matter.
Child Support and Visitation Rights
Deciding the custody and parenting time schedules for a child is possibly one of the most controversial aspects of divorce. The court will determine parental rights based on any minor children’s best interests.
While married, both spouses are typically considered to have equal rights to their children under the law. Once you and your spouse separate, it will have to be decided whether one spouse will have custody and have primary decision-making rights or whether both spouses will be granted shared parenting and joint decision-making rights.
In most cases, it is possible for parents to share rights and responsibilities for their children pursuant to a Shared Parenting Plan. In this scenario, both parents are considered the “legal custodian” of the child. In this case, the shared parenting plan will set forth how the parents are going to make decisions together, their parenting time schedules, child support and related financial obligations, as well as additional provisions. Shared Parenting does not necessarily mean that the parents will have a schedule where they have equal 50/50 time with their children. Shared parenting also does not mean that child support will not be ordered. The significance of the shared parenting plan is that parents cooperate to co-parent their children regardless of the schedule. If desired, one or both parents can submit a shared parenting plan, which the court may approve, alter, or deny.
The court must consider the both the parents’ and the children’s mental, psychological, and emotional well-being. It will also consider how the children interact with parents, peers, siblings, and others.
If the parents are unable to effectively co-parent, shared parenting may not be appropriate. In the event that shared parenting is inappropriate, the court may grant sole custody to one parent.
An attorney can advocate for you to get the best situation for you and your children after a divorce.
How Long Will a Divorce Take?
Generally, Ohio courts strive to resolve divorces involving minor children within two years of filing and divorces that do not involve children within one year of filing. However, cases may take longer than this depending on the circumstances.
Contested divorces usually have a lot of back and forth between the parties involved, especially if one spouse is trying to wear down the other one’s patience. Factors like your current lifestyle, children, spousal support, or future developments can disrupt the process. There will be hearings to attend, and one spouse may file motions or refuse to cooperate with certain processes to drag the process out.
Because each case is unique, it is hard to predict how long it will take and an exact outcome. However, having an attorney familiar with family law will help keep the process from taking too long, hold a spouse accountable if he/she is improperly delaying the process, and save you money in the long run.
Contact Arenstein & Andersen, Co., LPA for Help With Your Divorce
While the prospect of a divorce is daunting and spending more money on an attorney may seem redundant, you may end up paying more without one on your side. The Dublin, Ohio, divorce attorneys at Arenstein & Andersen, Co., LPA, can help you navigate this complex process and ensure you can reach a fair and equitable deal with your spouse.
The impact of a divorce case might affect you for the rest of your life, so setting the groundwork during the divorce with the help of an attorney can ease the process for you.