Rick Marks knows that you have many questions that need answers when you face a family law issue. In the discussion below, Rick provides answers to common questions from clients.
A person who files for a divorce must be a resident of Ohio for six months before filing. In an action for dissolution of a marriage, one of the spouses must reside in the state for six months before filing.
In Ohio, a dissolution petition is an alternative to divorce for ending a marriage. Spouses may file a joint petition for dissolution only if they are in complete agreement on all matters relating to division of property, custody and parenting issues, child support, and spousal support. A settlement agreement specifying the terms is submitted to the court with the joint petition. As compared to divorce, dissolution is an expedited proceeding that may finalize the end of the marriage within two to three months.
Divorce is the legal process used by spouses who wish to end a marriage, but do not agree completely on division of property, custody and parenting issues, child support, and spousal support. During a divorce proceeding, the attorneys for the spouses try to negotiate a settlement agreement, which the court encourages. If the parties cannot reach agreement on any issues, the court holds a hearing to receive evidence and ultimately decides the outstanding issues for the parties.
Regardless of whether you consider dissolution or divorce, talking with an experienced family law attorney is strongly recommended before you take any steps to begin the process. Complex statutes and court rules apply to both types of proceedings. Without sound legal advice, you may inadvertently give up important legal rights or make mistakes that are very difficult and expensive — or even impossible — to fix.
If the spouses do not agree on any issues involving division of property, custody and parenting matters, child support, or spousal support (alimony), the court makes those decisions for the parties. Property division often includes challenging issues, such as division of retirement accounts or an interest in a closely-held business.
Ohio law establishes the standard of equitable division for marital property in a divorce. Equitable division usually means equal division, with specific exceptions stated in the law. If the court determines that equal division is not equitable, the court has authority to divide property in a manner deemed equitable. The law includes factors for the court to consider in making those determinations.
The family home is part of the division of property that occurs as part of a divorce case. If keeping the home is important to you, your attorney will work hard to negotiate settlement terms that enable you to stay in your home.
Ohio law requires the court to decide custody issues and matters relating to parenting according to what is in the best interests of the child. The determinations include consideration of a wide range of factors relating to the child’s welfare and well-being, as well as factors involving the situation of each parent.
Under Ohio statutes, basic child support is determined according to a formula. A court can deviate from the basic calculated amount for specific reasons set forth in the law.
Spousal support is the term Ohio law uses for alimony. The court has authority and complete discretion whether to award spousal support to either spouse in a dissolution or divorce action. In most cases, the court does not address the issue of spousal support until all issues relating to division of property have been resolved. The statute contains numerous factors for the court to consider in determining whether to award spousal support.
If you have a valid and enforceable prenuptial agreement, it may affect the equitable division of property in a divorce proceeding. Before a marriage occurs, individuals with an interest in a business or other substantial separate property, children from a previous marriage, or other financial concerns may benefit from entering into a prenuptial agreement with their intended spouse.
If there is a substantial change in circumstances after the divorce, you may be able to ask for modification of the divorce decree terms relating to custody and parenting, child support, and (sometimes) spousal support. Post-decree modification and enforcement proceedings are not at all unusual after a divorce case. If you have questions about modification or enforcement, you should talk with a knowledgeable family law attorney.
The length of the legal proceeding to end a marriage varies greatly, depending on the circumstances between the spouses. A dissolution proceeding, with all documents properly prepared and executed, may finalize the end of a marriage within a matter of months. In a divorce proceeding, the extent of disagreement between the spouses significantly affects the length of the proceeding. The case will go on for as long as necessary for the parties or the court to resolve all outstanding issues. A divorce can take a year or even much longer if the issues between the spouses are substantial.
While Ohio does not require you to have legal representation in a divorce or dissolution action, you risk losing significant legal rights if you do not talk with a lawyer before you initiate an action or defend against a divorce. The laws that apply to the divorce process, division of property, custody and parenting, child support, and spousal support are extensive and extremely complex. When you initiate a court action, detailed rules of court procedure also apply.
Proceeding in a dissolution or divorce action without a lawyer is extremely risky. Without the proper knowledge, expertise, and skill, you could make mistakes that are costly to fix. In some cases, errors made in self-representation are impossible to remedy after the fact.