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Ohio Family Law

Disclaimer: The content below is not all original content from The Farrish Law Firm, L.P.A. The content was obtained from several credible sources including OhioLegalServices.org, Community Legal Aid, and collaborativelaw.com.

Dissolution

A dissolution of marriage terminates the marital relationship by agreement of the parties. A dissolution action is initiated by the filing of a petition for dissolution with a separation agreement attached.  In order to obtain a dissolution of marriage, the husband and wife must agree on both the termination of the marriage and all of the terms and conditions of the separation agreement.  All negotiations are done and all agreements are reached prior to any documents being filed with the court.

A separation agreement must provide for a division of all property; spousal support (alimony) where allowed; and all matters related to minor children of the marriage, including custody, visitation and support. It must be signed by both spouses and is a binding and valid contract. The husband and wife must be living separate and apart at the time of the signing of the separation agreement.  If the Court grants the dissolution of marriage, the terms of the separation agreement become an enforceable court order.

Divorce

A divorce action is a contested proceeding that is initiated by the filing of a complaint alleging reasons or grounds for termination of the marriage. The other spouse can file a counterclaim alleging his/her own grounds for divorce.  The spouse filing the complaint will be the “Plaintiff” and the other spouse will be the “Defendant.”  Any issues that cannot be resolved by agreement will be left for the court to decide.  The issues that will be considered by the Court in a divorce action can be numerous and will vary from case to case. Usually the Court will address the following issues:

  1. Division of marital assets (real and personal property including bank accounts, pensions and retirement accounts);
  2. Custody, visitation and support of any minor children born as issue of the marriage and/or adopted by the parties;
  3. Spousal support (alimony);
  4. Division of liabilities (determination of responsibility for marital debts).

Learn more about the divorce process.

Collaborative Divorce 

Collaborative Law (also called Collaborative Divorce or Collaborative Practice) is a structured process that provides an alternative to court. The Collaborative choice offers you the opportunity to focus on what is important to you, your family and your future.

If you choose the collaborative route, we will sign a Participation Agreement which provides that if the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the lawyers will withdraw from the case and assist the clients in transitioning the case to trial attorneys. The agreement requires both parties to: exchange complete financial information so that each spouse can make well-informed decisions; maintain absolute confidentiality during the process, so that each spouse can feel free to express his or her needs and concerns; reach written agreement on all issues and concerns outside of contested court proceedings; authorize the attorneys to use the written agreement to obtain a final court decree. By establishing an open, cooperative environment, parties and their counsel can work toward a settlement that benefits everyone.

The collaborative approach is a great opportunity to remove the threat of “going to court” and allows you to focus on settlement. This reduces anxiety and fear, thereby helping you focus on finding positive solutions.  In addition, you typically get more from your resources. The collaborative process is usually less costly and time-consuming than litigation. When you reach an agreement, it can be finalized within a shorter time frame. You do not get bogged down for months while you wait for a court date. Learn more about collaborative divorce.

Division of Property

Under Ohio law, “Property” entails almost everything in your tangible estate, including but not limited to, retirement accounts, real estate, automobiles, cash on hand, bank accounts, interests in businesses, debts, etc.  In a divorce, each item of property owned by either spouse is classified as “marital,” “separate” or “mixed.”  How an item of property is classified dictates how it is distributed.

Marital property includes property acquired by either spouse during the marriage, as well as income and appreciation generated during the marriage from property owned before the marriage by one party (though only if the income or appreciation is the result of a monetary, labor, or other contribution from either spouse, as opposed to simply being “passive” income or appreciation).  An example of marital property is a car you purchase during the marriage (assuming that the money you spent to purchase it could not be traced to money you had prior to the marriage).  It does not matter if the car is titled in your name only; it is considered marital property regardless, because it was acquired during the marriage.

Separate property includes (1) traceable inheritances, (2) traceable premarital property (property owned by one spouse prior to the date of marriage), (3) traceable “passive” income and appreciation from premarital or separate property, (4) property acquired after the date a decree of legal separation is filed, or which is excluded from marital properties by a prenuptial agreement, (5) compensation for personal injury or claims for lack of consortium, if traceable, (6) gifts received by a spouse during the marriage, only if they can be proven by clear and convincing evidence to have been intended to benefit only the recipient, as opposed to being a gift to both spouses.

Pursuant to Ohio law, marital property is divided equally (“50-50”), unless an equal division would be “inequitable.”  Separate property is disbursed to its owner, meaning it is not divided.  Therefore, if it is possible to argue that certain property is separate, it is crucial to do so and to gather all evidence available to support that argument.

As noted above, property may also be considered “mixed,” rather than marital or separate.  Mixed property is partially marital and partially separate.  An example would be a bank account that you owned before marriage, but that you deposited more money into after getting married (assume for simplicity that no money was withdrawn from the account, and that the money deposited into the account during the marriage came from marital funds).  If you had $50,000 of your own money in the account before the marriage, and you and/or your spouse deposited another $50,000 into the account during the marriage, then (assuming all this could be proven), the $100,000 in the account would be considered mixed property.  The part that is separate would go to you, and the part that is marital would be divided 50-50 unless such a division would be inequitable.  Therefore, under this hypothetical, you would most likely be awarded  $75,000 from the account (your initial $50,000, plus half of the $50,000 marital contribution), and your spouse would be awarded $25,000 (half of the marital contribution).

It is crucial to emphasize that the party seeking to show that property is separate has the “burden of proof.”  That means that for you to convince the Court that certain property is your separate property that should not be divided, you must be able to “trace” the property and prove you owned it prior to marriage.  Whether separate property is “commingled” with marital property (for example, if you owned a house prior to the marriage but sold it during the marriage and deposited the proceeds into a joint bank account) is not dispositive; however, it can make it harder to trace.  Therefore, it is very important that you provide your attorney with all documentation possible regarding all money or other assets you would like to argue are your separate property, such as bank account statements.

Another important concept to understand is the role that the “date of separation” plays in property division.  This is the date the court will use to divide the assets and debts.  For example, “the parties shall equally divide the balance of the retirement accounts as of January 1, 2015, as this the date of separation.”  The default date of separation is the day the divorce is granted, unless there is another date which would permit a more equitable division of the property. Learn more about property division.

Spousal Support

Spousal support is a very difficult issue to predict.  The court considers a laundry list of factors in order to determine if an award of spousal support is “appropriate and reasonable.”  The factors the court considers are:

  1. The income of the parties, from all sources;
  2. The relative earning abilities of the parties;
  3. The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the parties;
  4. The retirement benefits of the parties;
  5. The duration of the marriage;
  6. The extent to which it would be inappropriate for a party, because that party will be custodian of a minor child of the marriage, to seek employment outside the home;
  7. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
  8. The relative extent of education of the parties;
  9. The relative assets and liabilities of the parties, including but not limited to any court-ordered payments by the parties;
  10. The contribution of each party to the education, training, or earning ability of the other party, including, but not limited to, any party’s contribution to the acquisition of a professional degree of the other party;
  11. The time and expense necessary for the spouse who is seeking spousal support to acquire education, training, or job experience so that the spouse will be qualified to obtain appropriate employment, provided the education, training or, or job experience, and employment is, in fact, sought;
  12. The tax consequences, for each party, of an award of spousal support;
  13. The lost income production capacity of either party that resulted from that party’s martial responsibilities;
  14. Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.

Custody 

In Ohio there are two kinds of custody arrangements, shared parenting or one parent is designated the legal custodian and residential parents.  The most important issue regarding your child and the determination of custody is decision-making abilities.  If you are in a shared parenting plan, you and your wife will jointly decide the school your children attend, the religion they practice, the extra-curricular activities they participates in, and non-emergency medical decisions.  If one of you are named the legal custodian and residential parent, that parent will have the final determination in regard to these issues.  Regardless of the custody determination, both you and your wife will always have full access to school records, medical records, etc. Learn more about child custody.

Parenting Time

This is the actual time you will spend with your children.  It is important to develop a parenting plan that allows significant contact with both parents while also permitting your children to have a routine, structure and stability.  In addition, it is important that the parenting plan is respective of the parents’ (and the children’s) work schedules and the children’s school, social life, and extra-curricular activities.

Child Support

Child support will be paid pursuant to an Ohio statute that provides a worksheet used for the calculation of child support to be paid after considering the parent’s gross income, health insurance costs, day care costs, and other factors the court considers relevant. Child support will typically terminate when your youngest child graduates high school, or reaches the age of 19, whichever happens first. Learn more about child support.

Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements ensure that in the case of a divorce, one spouse cannot take advantage of the property that the other spouse owned prior to the marriage. They can also dictate that if a spouse receives assets through inheritance or future income through a business, the other spouse is not entitled to these monetary assets in the event of a divorce. Learn more about prenuptial agreements.