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Columbus Family Law Attorney ◦ Divorce, Dissolution

Practice Areas

The Dougherty, Hanneman & Snedaker, LLC ("DHS") law firm handles matters involving only divorce, dissolution and other family relations law issues. Because DHS handles only family relations law matters, the firm is able to acquire a more specialized knowledge and to offer services more efficiently.

Family Law

Family law is also called "domestic relations law." Generally, family law deals with two types of relationships: first, the relationship between husbands and wives; and second, the relationship between parents and children.

Family law deals with specific lawsuits, specific issues and other specific matters. These lawsuits, issues and matters are discussed below.

Lawsuits

A lawsuit is a proceeding handled by a court in which the rights and duties of the parties are determined. Family law includes various types of lawsuits.

Divorce

A divorce is a lawsuit that terminates a marriage. Generally, other issues are also addressed in a divorce. Typically, the parties’ property and debt will be divided. If the parties have children, shared parenting, custody, visitation, child support and other child-related issues will be addressed.

Dissolution

A dissolution is also a lawsuit that terminates a marriage. In a dissolution, the parties have reached a full agreement on all issues. The parties submit their agreement to the court. If the agreement is legally proper, the court will review and approve the agreement, make the agreement the order of the court, and terminate the marriage.

Legal Separation

A legal separation is a lawsuit that recognizes that the parties have the right to live separately from one another. A legal separation lawsuit does not terminate the marriage. Generally, except for the termination of the marriage, a legal separation lawsuit will address the same issues typically addressed in a divorce lawsuit.

Annulment

An annulment is a lawsuit in which the court declares that the parties’ marriage is void. That is, the court declares that the marriage was never legally valid because of some barrier to the creation of a valid marriage. For example, a married person cannot legally enter into a second marriage without terminating the first marriage.

Domestic Violence

A domestic violence lawsuit is a lawsuit in which the court determines if one of the parties has committed an act of violence against the other party. If the court finds that an act of violence has occurred, the court can issue various orders. Most importantly, the court can order the abuser to leave the marital home and can grant exclusive possession of the marital home to the victim.

Paternity

A paternity lawsuit is a lawsuit that legally establishes a father-child relationship. After the relationship is established, the court may address other issues, including shared parenting, child custody, visitation and support.

Issues

In a lawsuit, a court will typically address many different issues. The issues addressed by the court will vary depending on the type of lawsuit and the facts of the case.

Grounds

In some lawsuits, like divorces, legal separations and annulments, a party must prove that grounds exist for the lawsuit. This means that a party must prove that some legal basis exists for the lawsuit. For example, in a divorce lawsuit, a party must prove extreme cruelty, gross neglect, adultery or some other appropriate grounds.

Property Division

Generally, the term property refers to financial assets. These assets include real estate, motor vehicles, bank accounts, investments and pensions. When a court divides marital property, the court generally awards each party one-half of the value of the total marital property. When a court distributes separate property, the court generally awards the separate property to the party who owns the separate property. The firm can represent clients about property awards and settlements, including complex asset or high income and significant asset division.

Debt Division

Generally, a debt is a legal duty to pay money. Debts include mortgage debts, motor vehicle debts, credit card debt and educational loans. When a court addresses marital debts, the court will usually make each party responsible for one-half of the marital debts. A separate debt will normally be the responsibility of the party who incurred the debt.

Shared Parenting

If a case involves minor children, a court must determine if it should issue a shared-parenting order. In a shared-parenting order, parental rights and duties are divided between parents. In many cases, the rights and duties are divided equally. However, the rights and duties may also be divided in an unequal manner. Whether custody is resolved in a divorce or in a custody case involving unmarried parents, the attorneys can help.

Sole Custody

If a court does not issue a shared parenting order, the court must issue a sole custody order. A sole custody order grants all or most of the parental rights and responsibilities to one parent (the custodial parent). Generally, the custodial parent has the right to have physical possession of the child or children and the right to make decisions regarding them. Typically, the non-custodial parent will be granted parenting time rights with the children. Parenting time rights were previously called "visitation" rights.

Parenting Time

If a court grants a sole custody order, the court will normally give the non-custodial party parenting time rights (visitation rights). Customarily, if a party has parenting time with a child, that party has the right to have physical possession of the child. Each county has a standard parenting time schedule. However, courts are free to deviate from these standard parenting time schedules when the circumstances are appropriate.

Child Support

Child support is money paid by one party to another party to help pay for minor children’s living expenses. If a court issues a sole custody order, the court will usually order the non-custodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent. A presumptive amount of child support is determined by using a mathematical formula.

After the presumptive amount is determined, a party may present evidence and arguments as to why the amount is too high or too low.

The same general rules apply in a shared parenting case. However, because of the shared nature of the parties’ duties, determination of child support can be much more complicated.

Spousal Support

Spousal support is money paid by one party to the other party to help with the party’s living expenses. In the past, spousal support was called "alimony." A number of factors determine spousal support. Generally, the most important factors are the duration of the marriage, the income earned by each party, and the difference in incomes between the parties.

Health Insurance

If minor children are present, a court will usually order one or both parties to provide health insurance for the children. The court will also issue an order requiring the parties to pay any of the children’s medical and dental expenses that insurance does not cover. Generally, a court will not order one party to pay for the other party’s health insurance. If the court determines that one party should contribute to the other party’s health insurance expenses, the court will typically issue a spousal support order.

Income Taxes

Courts address various income tax issues. If an income tax debt is due, a court may treat that debt as a marital debt. If an income tax refund has been sent, the court will generally treat the refund as marital property. Other tax benefits may also be divided as marital property. If minor children are present, the court must issue an order stating which party has the right to claim a child as a dependent.

College Expenses

A court does not have the direct authority to order one or both parties to pay for their children’s college expenses. However, if the parties reach an agreement on college expenses, the court can approve the parties’ agreement and make the agreement an order of the court. College expenses may include tuition, room and board, books and fees, and other expenses.

Modifications of Court Orders

After a divorce or dissolution, one or both parties may find that circumstances have changed, and that a divorce decree must change with regard to child custody, child support, or other matters.

Other Matters

Objections and Appeals

After a trial has occurred, and a decision has been issued, one party may feel that he or she was not treated fairly. In these situations, objections or appeals may be filed. The handling of objections and appeals is a specialized area of law. The DHS law firm handles objections and appeals throughout the state of Ohio. The firm also represents clients in the Supreme Court of Ohio. Please click here to view a video of Attorney Dougherty arguing and winning a case before the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Premarital Planning

Marriage creates new rights and duties between spouses. The DHS law firm provides information regarding those rights and duties. The firm also provides information and advice about how legal and financial matters should be structured to minimize a spouse’s risk if the marriage is ultimately terminated.

Premarital Agreements

Premarital agreements are also called "prenuptial agreements." Premarital agreements are powerful planning tools. By using a premarital agreement, a party can stop the creation of certain duties that would automatically be created at the time of the marriage. Generally, when a marriage ends, each party receives one-half of the marital assets. However, by using a premarital agreement, one party may be able to keep all legal and financial interests in one or more assets.

Alternatives to Litigation

Sometimes, the parties to a divorce, dissolution or other dispute discover they do not want the expense and stress that come with a courtroom conflict. Some parties would rather not give up control of their family issues to the family law court. In those cases, alternatives to litigation, such as mediation or a collaborative divorce approach, may provide longer-lasting and more effective resolutions of the issues.

Success Stories


The DHS law firm attorneys have produced successful outcomes for many family law clients. Please click here to read about success stories that reflect various family law issues. Perhaps you will see your marital issues reflected in one or more of these brief stories.

Contact Us

Please contact DHS for a confidential consultation with attorney Dougherty or Hanneman or Snedaker. Each is an Ohio State Bar Association Certified Specialist in Family Relations Law. They are three of only 115 attorneys in Ohio who have earned this designation as of January 1, 2013. Less than one-half (1/2) of one (1) percent of all family relations attorneys registered in Ohio has achieved this status!

DHS is located in a safe, convenient northwest Columbus suburb with free on-site parking. The building is west of the intersection of Sawmill Road and Bethel Road. (Bethel Road becomes Hayden Road west of the Sawmill Road intersection.) The offices are in the classic redbrick Northwest Law Offices Building:

  • next to Bravo! Cucina Italiana Restaurant,
  • on the north side of Hayden Road, and
  • east of Riverside Drive (State Route 33).

Then turn onto Donnylane Boulevard from Hayden Road. Then turn right into the parking lot behind the building. The main entrance is at the rear of the building.