As unfortunate and challenging Divorce and/or family law situations are to the parties involved, evidence today shows that these issues still arise for a majority of the population.
If you find yourself in a situation where:
- You want to initiate a Divorce, are the recipient of a Divorce Complaint, or have agreed with your spouse to enter into a Dissolution;
- You want to ensure proper child custody and shared parenting is established for you and for the best interest of your child or children, whether you were married or unmarried;
- You or another seeks a post-decree modification an existing child support or spousal support, child custody and shared parenting, or any other order relating to a Divorce or Dissolution;
- You want to protect your assets and determine other rights with a prenuptial agreement;
- You would like to initiate an adoption of a minor or adult child, as a stepparent or otherwise;
- You have found out you are a party to any such legal proceedings and want to make sure you enforce your rights and Divorce laws and see that every legal aspect of your situation is justified;
Then we are here to guide you through the process and minimize your burden. The stress that a Divorce can bring on one’s life is sometimes overwhelming. Let an experienced attorney help you to your goals in the best ways possible.
In most cases, you can expect to go through the five stages of grief in response to the stress — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance — before you will find strength and peace to move forward with your situation. Let us help you through this process and let us take care of the details.
The emotional and sometimes physical toll of these situations can be daunting. We are here to be sure that your finances and other vital relationships will not also be affected unfairly.
The majority of Divorce proceedings are governed by Ohio Revised Code (ORC) §3105.
A Divorce is initiated by filing a Complaint in your county’s Court (every county has a little different process). This can be done by either the husband or wife. However, the filing-party must reside in Ohio with six months of residency before submitting the Complaint. The “grounds”, or legal right, to initiate a Divorce may be one of several:
- Incompatibility (or irreconcilable differences)
- Have been separated (living apart) for at least one year
- Gross neglect of duty
- Extreme cruelty
Grounds for Divorce are rarely a disputed issue and have little bearing on the Court’s decisions regarding allocation of parental rights, division of property or payment of support. The Supreme Court of Ohio requires affidavits of income, expenses and property to always accompany the Complaint.
If children are involved, then affidavits of health insurance and parenting (to determine temporary parental rights, responsibilities, and child support) are filed as well. If there are children involved, each parent is required to attend a one time, three (3) to four (4) hour parenting class before the Divorce can be finalized. Keep in mind that parties to a Divorce always have the option of hiring or have a court appoint a Guradian Ad Litem (GAL) to represent the best interests of the children, separate from the wishes of each party.
Once the Complaint has been filed and served, the next step is to resolve the key issues that the parties have not agreed upon, including:
- Property and debt division
- Spousal Support
- Child Support
- Child Custody and Shared Parenting
After the Complaint is filed and served on the spouse an initial hearing is scheduled, sometimes called a scheduling conference or pretrial. Additional hearings, scheduling conferences, pretrials and trials will be scheduled as necessary, for motions filed or for other areas listed above.
Sometimes the issues listed above can be resolved by the parties through mediation. Mediation is a method of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to resolve any of these issues outside the courtroom. This can reduce cost for the parties, lessen emotional stress and conflict, speed up the resolution of the proceedings, provide flexibility outside of the court rules and procedures, and strengthen communication to manage results.
Property, Complex Property, and Debt Division
In Ohio, all marital property and debt is subject to an equitable division unless the parties can prove otherwise or come to a mutual agreement about the division. The first issue to resolve is whether the property is “marital” (accumulated during the life of the marriage) or “non-marital”. The main principle is to divide all “marital” property equally – as straightforward as that may seem, sometimes problems arise of how to divide up certain assets and property. To determine the way property and debts will be divided, the Court will consider a number of various factors including:
- Whether the property and debts were “marital” property or “separate” property;
- The liquidity of that property;
- The assets and liabilities of each party;
- The degree of difficulty in ascertaining value of assets (sometimes requiring financial professionals);
- The desirability of awarding the family home to a spouse with whom the children will primarily be living;
- The economic desirability of retaining as asset intact;
- Tax consequences and a variety of other factors that the Court expressly finds to be relevant
In planning for a potential Divorce, or Dissolution, you will need to accumulate all financial related records and documents such as: bank statements, investment accounts, retirement plan and/or pension statements, life insurance policies, any deeds of real estate owned or with interest in, most recent W-2s or other income documentation, past tax filings for the past five (5) years, other asset (business ownership) or liability (such as debts – student loan, credit cards, mortgages) documentation.
The sooner you can obtain these items that relate to you, the sooner the Law Offices of Matthew N. Miller can resolve your potential Divorce proceeding and unburden your situation as soon as possible.
A common question amongst our clients is one that seeks to know what exactly the difference is between a Divorce and Dissolution? Referencing ORC §3105.08, a Dissolution has the same end result and effect as a Divorce, since it ends your marriage, but all of the key issues mentioned above are determined before any documents are filed with the court.
A “Separation Agreement” is then written to encompass all that the parties have agreed upon. This is signed by both parties and filed with other documents, such as the Petition in both spouses’ names, which collectively request the Court to legally end your marriage and adopt your already-agreed-upon Separation Agreement. A court date will be set no less than thirty (30) and no more than (90) days from the date of filing the Petition.
If you and your spouse can manage to resolve all issues into a Separation Agreement, this just might be the better solution for you. A lot of future time is preserved, whether in court or otherwise, and additional money expense is avoided because of the shortened proceedings. Further, any possible remains of a post-Divorce/Dissolution friendship between spouses will likely be conserved because any unfavorable facts do not necessarily need to be revealed at court or during the proceedings, and other disputes and conflicts would be avoided as well. Maintaining a healthy post-Divorce/Dissolution relationship is always ideal in cases involving children.
The Law Offices of Matthew N. Miller will help you during each stage of the Dissolution process to safeguard the best possible outcome for you and your children. Since the same key legal issues in a Divorce exist in a Dissolution, some factors may be overlooked if parties try to take on the process without experienced counsel.
How is Collaborative Divorce different from Dissolution?
A Divorce is rarely an easy decision to make and never is the process easy on those involved. However, the process might be a bit easier since Ohio Governor Kasich signed the Collaborative Family Law Act into practice. This mandates a “streamlined” structure of voluntary Divorce settlement conferences, attended by the respective family’s “professional Divorce team” – lawyers, accountants, mental health professionals and anyone else. This way, a lot of cases will be finished before the need for a trial.
Collaborative Divorce is a process available for reaching an agreement on all key issues before a formal Complaint or Petition is filed with the Court. The spouses in a Collaborative Divorce enter into a written agreement at the outset. The agreement sets forth the spouses’ commitment to the Collaborative Divorce process. Once the final agreement is put into writing and signed by the spouses, it will be filed with the Court as a Dissolution. Some of the benefits of collaborative family law include:
- Reduced emotional conflict and stress of Divorce;
- Spouses retain more control of the process, likely to then feel more satisfied with the results of their Divorce;
- Accountants, appraisers, and other experts are hired by both parties, and therefore both parties share the expense and save money, instead of each spouse hiring their own experts;
- Spouses shape the form of the marital Settlement Agreement, which lessens conflict and keeps children out of the dispute;
- Spouses get the benefit of additional privacy and confidentiality outside of Court, which reduces fear and anxiety.
We at the law offices of Matthew N. Miller, LLC are skilled negotiators who strive to save a great deal of time, stress, and money, so that the goals of fairness and justice are obtained without dragging out the process any longer than is necessary. As painful as the process of Divorce could be, we strive to make it as painless as possible for you, so that you can move past this stage of your life. Sometimes, while focusing on getting you the optimum results you deserve, the situation may not necessarily be about “winning” every issue, but about “defining victory”. In these certain circumstances, the marital resolution “pie” can be expanded to meet the needs of your situation, while saving time and money.
A very common question our clients like us to address is how exactly does a Court determine Spousal Support (formally known as alimony)? An Ohio Court determines Spousal Support only after the property division issue – of dividing marital property and debts – have been agreed upon and resolved. Then, under ORC §3105.18, the Court considers factors such as:
- The length of the marriage;
- The income and earning capacity of each party;
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The extent of relative education of the parties;
- The contribution to the education, degree, training, career advancement or earning ability of the other party – if necessary, the time and expense necessary for the spouse seeking spousal support to acquire education or training to re-enter the workforce;
- The age and health of each party;
- The relative assets and liabilities of each party;
- The retirement accounts and benefits of each party;
- Tax consequences for each party if Spousal Support is ordered;
- Child Support and Child Custody issues and/or other Court orders;
- Whether the recipient of the Spousal Support is cohabiting or supported by another person;
- Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.
The term of the Spousal Support order may be a specified period of time or it may be indefinite. If there is a change of circumstances after the Divorce decree is final, Post-Decree Modifications may be necessary and our firm can help you make such adjustments.
In Ohio, the standard that Courts use to determine child custody, and thus a shared parenting plan, is: “what is the ‘best interest’ of the child (or children)?” Referencing ORC §3109.04, there are various factors the Court will use to determine the best interest of the child, including:
- The age of the child (or children);
- The wishes of the child (or children), depending on the age of the child;
- Each parent’s wishes;
- The relationships and interactions the child has with each parent;
- How the child (or children) has adjusted or is adjusting to his/her home and school community;
- The ability of the parents to provide for the child (or children)
- Whether there are any signs of abuse, neglect or domestic violence;
- The physical and mental health of parents and children;
- Sometimes an in-camera interview can be conducted where the Judge or Magistrate asks the children certain questions without any of the parties of attorneys present.
It is our pleasure to guide you toward what justifiably is best of all parties involved, especially the children. At our firm, we will do what is necessary to make the Court aware of all the facts that should be presented in order to determine the best interests of the child (children) and get justified parenting time.
The Law Offices of Matthew N. Miller also helps unmarried parents resolve their issues with child custody and child support orders, or the modification of such orders. By default, under ORC §3109.042 the unmarried biological mother of a child is the sole residential parent and legal custodian. However, if it is in the best interest of the child to establish paternity and parental support, our firm is here to help the court establish what is justified for all parties involved, whether by DNA test or other means. Establishing paternity not only gives parental rights to the father, but will ensure responsibility for that child through custody, visitation rights, and child support. Parents have a right to be in their children’s lives and obtaining legal recognition is an important step in that process.
Abuse, Neglect and Dependency
Our Offices also handle cases involving child abuse, neglect, dependency, and/or domestic violence in primarily Butler County. Whether Butler County Children’s Services Board files such charges and removal of the child, or a private party initiates such charges and obtains temporary custody orders, we are here to give you the legal aid that will put yourself in the best possible position that is aligned with the best interests of the child.
If your Divorce involves children, it is essential that those children are ensured that their needs are provided for after the Divorce is final. Nonetheless, those needs should to be met in a fair way amongst the parties involved that considers your rights.
In the state of Ohio, there is a standard “worksheet” (ORC §3119.022) that uses a mathematical formula calculation that also considers a “basic child support schedule” (ORC §3119.021) to determine child support in any situation involving minor children. However, under ORC §3119.23 and ORC §3119.24, the amount ordered by the Court might differ from the amount derived from the calculation because of certain extraordinary circumstances. The factors the Court can consider are those such as:
- When the parents’ shared parenting agreement is equal or close to equal in time;
- Special costs associated with a particular parent’s parenting time;
- Extraordinary physical and/or emotional condition, needs, or circumstances of a particular child (or children), such as counseling, clothing or medical expenses;
- Significant ordinary in-kind contribution expenses from a parent for sports, lessons, and schooling;
- Whether one parent has help or benefits from living with another person or from a re-marriage;
- Earning ability of the child;
- Disparity in household income between parents that is not accounted for in the standard mathematical formula calculation;
- Other relevant factors in the best interest of the child (or children)
Let the Law Offices of Matthew N. Miller, LLC see this aspect of your situation to its justified end, and guide you through the process.
Civil Protection Orders
In addition to criminal and juvenile defense, our firm also assists clients in filing for or defending civil protection orders (CPOs). The threat of or the actual infliction of physical harm and/or emotional pain is a serious matter. The law provides anyone a way toward avoiding and preventing these happenings, or a way to prove that such an order is unnecessary and unmerited. Contact our firm if you find yourself in any of these situations.
Everyone can agree that throughout our lives, the only consistent things are the inconsistent and unforeseeable ones. The needs and desires of all parties involved in a Divorce will continue to evolve with age and circumstances. This is natural and understandable, and our firm is here to make sure you don’t lose the opportunity to protect all your rights you worked so hard to preserve and enforce in the previous Divorce decree.
In Ohio, the Courts look at these predictable and unpredictable happenings as “Changes in Circumstances”, and Ohio Courts have jurisdiction to modify court orders and decrees when there are significant Changes in Circumstances. Typical such circumstances that can affect support orders and shared parenting plans include:
- A substantial involuntary reduction in the income of either the paying or receiving spouse of Spousal or Child Support (Child Support may also be modified in an administrative hearing outside the legal Court system);
- The loss of employment of a spouse;
- Remarriage or cohabitation of the spouse receiving support payments with another person;
- The change or development of a disability one spouse acquires;
- Medical expenses resulting from an injury or illness;
- Changing needs of the child (or children);
- The death of one spouse;
- The inability of parents to work with one another with the current decree-orders;
- When one party is in contempt of the prior decree-orders;
- Relocation of one party (usually because of job, loss of job, re-marriage, or to be closer to extended family members)
The law will determine if the relocation is in the best interests of the children and if it will harm the relationship between the child (or children) and the non-residential parent who is not relocating.
As all orders involving children, post-decree modifications must be done with the “best interests” of the child in mind. Unless your final Divorce decree specifically prohibits modification in some area, or requires parties to go through a mediation process with each other before involving the Courts, then it is legal to modify your prior decree agreement, and an experienced attorney should give you the guidance to preserve your rights and maintain the best interests of your children.
Prenuptial Agreements are contracts entered into by potential spouses that can be drafted for many various reasons. Many times, these contracts are used to help people protect their assets. However, they can also be used to pre-determine issues surrounding their future, or then existing, children (biological or adopted) in case of a Divorce or death of one spouse. There are many reasons for potential couples to get a Prenuptial Agreement in order to gain control over important marital issues, including:
- Great disparity in income or wealth (possibly from a previous marriage) between spouses;
- High debt in the name of one or both of the spouses;
- If one spouse owns a business or partial share of a business;
- For future estate planning;
- Predetermining support and custody issues should a Divorce ever take place;
Overall, a Prenuptial Agreement eases the minds of the potential spouses and eliminates some of the future uncertainty. Both potential spouses must agree to submit a full disclosure of assets and liabilities and each potential spouse must sign the agreement in sufficient time before the marriage. There are firm procedures to follow when drafting such an agreement and we are here to make sure it is done correctly and satisfactorily.
When couples Divorce without some sort of pre-marital agreement, and then they are unable to work out issues of custody, visitation and Spousal or Child Support on their own, the Court will use the law of Ohio as its own guidelines to determine those issues. A pre-marital agreement can help alleviate future time and expense spent on those issues.
Besides being here for you to take on the burden and tediousness of completing and submitting all required forms with probate Court, our law offices will explain and guide you as to the number of requirements needed before a legal adoption can take place. The main issue to resolve is that the natural mother and/or father must provide formal consent to another, such as a stepparent, before that person can obtain legal adoption of the child (or adult). However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when one parent has not had any communication with the child (or adult) nor provided any financial support for the child for one (1) year or greater.
Another important issue involves a theme seen in child custody situations, and that is one of determining the best interest of the child (or adult) in question. The family who is adopting the child needs to be healthy and well-functioning, and we are here to help determine that along with the Courts.
An Annulment is a third unique way to end a marriage, besides Divorce and Dissolution. Since marriage is in itself a contract between two persons, sometimes the contract, or agreement, could have been mistakenly entered into, like any other contract. There are two (2) main types of Annulments:
- Religious – depending on the church or synagogne, parties might not have seen or known each other before the marriage and/or may not have fully understood the terms of the contract. Factors such as psychological unfitness, misrepresentation of intention, or the inability to have children. These Annulments are granted at the discretion of the particular church or synagogue.
- Civil – again seeking to establish that the marriage was not valid to begin with, a number of factors can be looked at to determine whether the Annulment should be granted such as:
- Either party was still legally married to another living spouse at the time the union took place
- Either party has been adjudicated mentally incompetent
- The party seeking the Annulment was not of legal age to marry when the union took place (and the minor also did not obtain parental consent)
- The consent of either party was obtained through fraud or force
- The marriage was never consummated
For the first two grounds, Annulment can be sought at any time. For a spouse who was under the age of majority (In Ohio, seventeen (17) or younger) at the time of marriage, the action must be filed within two (2) years from the date the spouse reaches the legal age of consent (otherwise barred by the Statute of Limitations), though the suit could be brought by a parent or guardian at any time between the marriage and age of consent. For the last 2 grounds, the Annulment must be filed within two (2) years of the date of marriage. Some of these grounds will require proving that cohabitation did not occur after the marriage took place.