Cleveland Ohio Family Law Lawyer
We represent both men and women regarding the numerous issues that may arise in the area of domestic relations and family law. We understand that separation, divorce, and custody issues are difficult for all parties concerned. While we seek to resolve matters with minimal court intervention and family upheaval, we will litigate with fairness or aggressively when necessary.
Divorce is the legal process by which a marriage is terminated. Divorce occurs when the parties cannot agree to the terms of their separation and ask the Court to make decisions as to property division, support, and parental rights and responsibilities.
Most divorce suits are eventually settled by agreement between the parties. When this occurs, a Separation Agreement is prepared, signed by the parties and submitted to the court for approval. When approved, the agreement is made effective by a court journal entry.
If the parties cannot agree to resolve one or more of their disputed issues, the disputes are presented to the Court. The Court will review the parties' evidence and make its decision based on Ohio law. Frequently, the Court assists the parties and attorneys in seeking fair settlement.
The entire process can last from a few months to one to two years to complete. Ultimately, the duration of the process will depend on the parties’ ability to cooperate and compromise and whether the attorneys focus on settlement versus litigation. If the parties find, that many issues are in dispute, the process will almost certainly take longer to finalize.
The residency requirement for divorce is six (6) months of residence in Ohio and ninety (90) days in the county of filing. The 90 day requirement can be excused if filed in the county where the defendant resides.
Dissolution is a legal process that can occur only if the parties mutually agree to dissolve their marriage. Usually, each party has their own attorney to negotiate the settlement terms. In less complicated cases, only one party may choose to be represented by an attorney. Once the parties have agreed to terms concerning property division, debt division, and spousal support, child support, child custody and visitation and a Separation Agreement is prepared by the agreed opinion and the parties can file a Petition for Dissolution. Between thirty (30) and ninety (90) days later, the parties will appear at a Court hearing to reaffirm their agreement and their respective desires to dissolve their marriage. If the Court determines that the Separation Agreement is fair, the Court will grant the dissolution of marriage, legally terminating the marriage.
Legal Separation is a civil lawsuit that does not legally terminate the parties’ marriage but allows the Court to issue orders concerning property division, spousal support, child support, and allocation of parental rights and responsibilities including custody and visitation. Legal separation may be right for people with religious convictions that limit divorce. An individual must be a resident of Ohio for ninety (90) days to commence a legal separation actionin Ohio.
An annulment is a judicial pronouncement declaring a marriage invalid or void. To receive an annulment, one must prove that grounds for the annulment existed. Though these “grounds” can vary, they are generally limited to fraud, bigamy, or mental incapacity. Most annulments must be filed within two (2) years of the marriage.
Spousal Support (formerly “alimony”):
Spousal support, formerly referred to as “alimony”, can be awarded by the Court to either spouse at the termination of a marriage based on a variety of factors such as: length of marriage, age, health, relative incomes, standard of living during the marriage, and each party’s ability to be self-supporting. Spousal support is intended to enable the recipient spouse to complete childbearing responsibilities, and further education or job training in preparation for entering the workforce and becoming self-sufficient. Because spousal support operates with these goals in mind, it is generally temporary in nature. In some instances involving marriages of long duration, spousal support can be awarded indefinitely if one spouse, due to advanced age or poor health, would be unable to become financially self-sufficient.
Child support can be awarded in either Domestic Relations or Juvenile Court. The non-custodial parent is responsible for contributing a certain portion of his or her income, based on state child support guidelines, to help support each child. The amount of child support to be paid is dependent upon a number of factors, including the incomes of each party, child care costs, health insurance costs, and special visitation costs. Generally, child support is paid until the child at issue is emancipated, which occurs when the child turns eighteen (18) years old or when the child graduates from high school (if later than the child’s 18th birthday). Child support must terminate at the child’s 19th birthday, unless the child has serious disabilities.
Paternity refers to a legal action to establish that a man is the father of a child. A paternity action may be brought in order to impose a child support obligation, establish a right to inheritance, secure consent for a child's adoption, or gain or prohibit custody or visitation rights.
Adoption can take place either through a licensed adoption agency or independently, often with the guidance of an attorney who is well-versed in Ohio family law. Stepparents may adopt a stepchild six months after marriage with the consent of the biological parent or in circumstances where the biological parent has failed to support the child and has not had contact with the child for a period greater than one (1) year.
Modification of Child Support:
Child support can be modified either by a court approved agreement of the parties or by the Court that has jurisdiction over your case. If the parties cannot agree, either party can file a motion to modify child support with the Court. A court will not grant a modification unless the moving party can show a change in circumstances that justifies the modification. A “change” occurs when a change in income results in a 10% change in the child support worksheet computation, the obligor becomes unemployed, or a change in parenting time occurs.
Child Custody or Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities:
Child custody can be established or modified by agreement of the parties or by Court order. When determined by the Court, allocation of parental rights and responsibilities is determined using the “best interest of the child” standard. Many factors may be considered in making that determination, such as: age of the children, gender of the children, physical and mental health of the children, physical and mental health of the parents, emotional bonds, ability to provide necessities for the child, a willingness to encourage a healthy relationship with the non-custodial parent, and a child’s own preferences. The older a child, the more weight his or her preference will be given. Any modification in custody must be in writing and approved by the court.
In a divorce or dissolution, property can be divided either by an agreement of the parties or by Court order. Generally, any property that is considered “marital” can be divided by the Court whereas property that is categorized as “separate” will remain the property of the party to whom it belongs. “Marital property” includes any tangible or intangible property acquired during the marriage, including the marital home; a second or vacation home; home furnishings and appliances; artwork; vehicles; money; stocks, bonds, and other investments; pensions; and privately owned businesses. In addition, any increase in the value of an asset (ex: appreciation of a home) that occurred during the marriage or as a result of martial contributions will be considered “marital property.” "Separate property" includes gifts, inheritances, or property brought into the marriage; however, a party claiming a separate property interest must be able to prove this claim and document the history of ownership.
A Prenuptial Agreement is a contract entered into by a couple in contemplation of marriage. Such agreements generally address property issues in the event of divorce or death but can include other matters as well. This kind of agreement can be used as a way to protect the inheritance of children from a prior relationship and/or to protect the property of a spouse who brings substantially greater assets to the marriage. This agreement should always be prepared by a qualified attorney in that these agreements have stringent validity requirements.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”):
ADR is the common name for methods of resolving legal conflicts without trial or litigation such as:
- Mediation, which involves a neutral third party as the facilitator of the negotiations. The mediator is a trained professional who helps the two parties in dispute reach a mutually agreeable solution.
- Arbitration, which involves the decision making of a third neutral party who agrees to hear all the issues at hand and to make a decision as to the merits of each side’s stance on the issues.
- Collaborative law. This is the general term for an approach to family law that operates with a combination of arbitration and mediation techniques.
Domestic violence occurs when a household or family member (defined as a spouse, an ex-spouse, a parent or child, a step-parent or step-child, persons related to the abuser who reside in the home or persons who have resided in the home with the abuser previously) does any of the following:
- physically abuses another household member
- threatens another household member in such a way that it puts the victim in fear of imminent and serious harm
- abuses or neglects a child, as defined by statute.
A victim of domestic violence has two legal remedies available:
To file criminal charges and/or pursue civil remedies. Criminal charges are filed with the prosecutor’s office, so that the state can hold the abuser accountable for his or her violence. The victim is the primary witness in the state’s case against the abuser. While a domestic violence criminal case is pending, the victim can obtain a protection order from the Court. However, this criminal protection order lasts only until the case is resolved, which can be as short as thirty (30) days.
If a victim of domestic violence chooses to pursue civil remedies, he or she can enlist an attorney to help obtain a civil protection order mandating that the abuser stay away from the victim and his or her children for five (5) years. If the abuser violates this Order, he or she could go to jail. Through a civil protection order, a victim can obtain. The following use of the residence even if the home is in the abuser's name, temporary custody of children with or without visitation arrangements, court-ordered treatment or counseling for the abuser, alimony and or child support, division of household items, and/or use of a car. The civil domestic violence law provides an ideal and important remedy to protect spouses and children. Slive & Slive attorneys specialize in this area of the law.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation enabling grandparents to petition the courts for visitation rights with grandchildren. The laws do not make granting of visitation rights automatic – they merely give grandparents the right to ask for a visitation order. Ohio courts encourage grandparent visitation when grandparents have difficulty securing visitation through their children.
Often, a grandparent (or other permitted third party if state law permits) may petition for visitation after the death of a parent or upon divorce of the parents. Some statutes allow grandparent petitions for visitation when a parent is incarcerated, when a child is born out of wedlock, or when the child has previously lived with the grandparent.