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Divorce

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Columbus Divorce Attorney

Considering the end of a marriage can be an emotionally charged and complex issue. When many people think of “Divorce” it is usually associated with strong fears and emotions, and stories of couples at war with one another (as personified in the movie “The War of the Roses” starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito). While this usually isn’t the case, there are many things to take into consideration, questions to be answered, and decisions to be made.

What are the options for bringing a marriage to an end in Ohio? What is the difference between “divorce” and “dissolution”? What is the relatively new divorce concept called “collaborative divorce”? Is it possible to work together to come to an agreement with dignity?

If my spouse is being unreasonable, what steps should I take to protect my rights? What will happen to the children, our home and assets? How long is this going to take? Ohio law provides options for couples to end their marriage. The choice of a “Divorce” or “Dissolution” ultimately resides with the spouses.

Usually, the fastest and most cost-effective method of ending a marriage in Ohio is through dissolution. In a marital dissolution both parties must be in complete agreement on every issue related to the ending of the marriage. That includes child custody, visitation and support; spousal support (alimony); and the disposition of assets and liabilities. Special attention must be given to retirement vehicles such as IRA and 401k or 403b retirement plans and pension plans; real estate; personal property ownership; debt obligations; business ownership, assets and debt issues; and pre-marital assets.

Divorce Realities

In many cases, there are areas of genuine disagreement between a wife and husband that cannot be resolved. That results in the filing of a divorce. A divorce complaint begins the process of beginning to separate the parties, their assets and liabilities, and establishing initial guidelines for the custody, visitation and support of any children.

My spouse served me with divorce papers. What action should I take? If you have been served with divorce papers by your spouse you are required to file a response known as an “answer” in a timely manner.

It is important to immediately seek the counsel of an experienced Columbus divorce attorney to discuss your unique situation and to formulate a strategy that will protect your interests and ultimately resolve your marriage in a way that most closely reflects your interests and priorities.

Contact experienced Columbus Ohio divorce attorneys, or call
866-920-1462 today!

In Ohio, divorces are usually contested over issues relating to child custody, visitation and support; spousal support (alimony); division of marital assets, liabilities and debt obligations; valuation and distribution of business ownership; disposition of investment portfolios; IRA or 401k or 403b retirement accounts; and company sponsored pension plans.

Proper State and County

To obtain a divorce in Ohio, the spouse seeking the divorce must have resided in Ohio for at least six months before the divorce was filed. Generally, a divorce is filed in the county where one of the spouses resides.

Grounds for Divorce

For a divorce to be granted, at least one of the parties must establish grounds for divorce. There are several different grounds for divorce. These grounds can be classified as "no fault" grounds or "fault based" grounds.

No Fault Grounds

A divorce may be granted based on two no fault grounds.

  • The parties agree that they are incompatible
  • The parties have lived separate and apart from each other for one year or more

Most divorces are granted based on incompatibility. Generally, a court does not want to hear about each party's shortcomings.

Fault Based Divorce

A divorce may also be granted based on eight fault based grounds.

  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Fraudulent contract
  • Gross neglect of duty
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Imprisonment of a spouse
  • One spouse already had another spouse living at the time of marriage (bigamy)
  • One spouse has been willfully absent for one year or more

Divorce Procedure – Preparing and Filing the Paperwork

A divorce begins when a party files a document called a complaint for divorce. The party who files the complaint is called the plaintiff. Several other documents must also be filed with the complaint. These documents include a financial disclosure affidavit which must state a party's assets, liabilities, income, and other financial information.

The complaint and the other documents are filed at the appropriate clerk of court's office. After the documents are filed, a case is opened, the case is given a case number, and a judge is assigned to the case.

The complaint and the other documents must then be served on the other party. The other party is called the defendant. There are several ways to serve the documents. These include the following.

  • Certified mail service
  • Personal delivery by a private process server
  • Personal delivery by the sheriff's department
  • Publication in a newspaper (if the other party cannot be found)

After the defendant is served with the plaintiff's documents, the defendant must file a written response with the court. The response filed by the defendant is called an answer. The answer states the defendant's position regarding the statements made in the plaintiff's complaint.

The defendant may also file a divorce against the plaintiff. A defendant's request for a divorce is contained in a document called a counterclaim.

Divorce Procedure – Temporary Restraining Orders

A party may request a court to grant a temporary restraining order. A temporary restraining order prohibits the other party from taking certain actions. For example, a temporary restraining order usually prohibits a party from:

  • Selling, transferring, or hiding assets
  • Incurring additional marital liabilities
  • Terminating utility service or insurance coverage
  • Permanently removing a minor child from the state

A temporary restraining order may also be issued against a non-party. For example a temporary restraining order can be sent to a bank. Such an order would prohibit the bank from allowing a party to withdraw funds.

Generally, a temporary restraining order is issued based on a motion and an affidavit signed by one of the parties. No hearing is conducted and the other party need not be present. However, if the other party believes that the restraining order is improper, that party can request that the restraining order be terminated or modified.

Divorce Procedure – Temporary Substantive Orders

A party can request a court to issue temporary substantive orders. Generally, such orders are called temporary orders. A court may issue temporary orders regarding the following issues:

  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support
  • Spousal support (alimony)
  • Health insurance and uncovered health expenses
  • Use and possession of the marital home
  • Use and possession of motor vehicles
  • Attorney fees
  • Expert witness fees and other litigation expenses

Generally, temporary orders are issued after the court reviews affidavits and other documents submitted by both parties. If a party believes that the court has issued improper temporary order, the party can request a hearing on the temporary order.

Divorce Procedure – Obtaining Information and Documents

Each party has the right to receive relevant information and documents from the other party and from non-parties. Generally, these rights are called discovery rights. Each party has the right to use the following legal tools.

Request for Production of Documents

A party may request relevant documents from the other party. For example, a party may request documents showing the other party's assets, liabilities, and income. Generally, the responding party must provide the documents within thirty days.

Interrogatories

A party may send written questions to the other party. The responding party has a duty to provide written answers. Generally, the responding party must provide the answers within thirty days.

Depositions

A party may take depositions. Generally, at a deposition, both parties, their attorneys, and a court reporter are present. The attorney for one party will ask the other party questions. The other party must answer the questions. The court reporter makes a written record of all questions and answers.

Vocational Evaluations

A party may demand that the other party submit to a vocational evaluation. After the evaluation, a vocational expert will state what jobs a party could do and what income a party could earn. Vocational evaluations may be very important in determining appropriate child support and spousal support (alimony) orders.

Property Appraisals

A party may request that an asset be valued by a competent expert. For example, real estate, pensions, business interests, and other complex assets are frequently appraised.

Subpoenas

A party may send a subpoena to a non-party who has documents or information relevant to the divorce. A subpoena is a court order. The subpoena can command a person to provide documents or electronic data. Further, a subpoena can command a person to appear and answer questions at a deposition.

Divorce Procedure – Pretrial Conferences

A court may schedule one or more pretrial conferences before the final trial. A pretrial conference may also be called a status conference or a settlement conference.

At a pretrial conference, the judge, the attorneys, and the parties discuss the status of the case. The judge determines what issues have been settled and what issues have not been settled.

Regarding the issues that have not been settled, the judge may make suggestions on how the issues can be resolved. Further, the judge may suggest that additional work be done before the issues can be settled or before the case goes to trial.

Divorce Procedure – Settlement Without Trial

More than one-half of all divorce lawsuits are settled without a trial. That is, in these lawsuits, the parties reach an agreement on all issues before the trial.

To settle a divorce, the parties must reach an agreement on the following issues.

It is possible for the parties to settle some, but not all, issues. In this situation, a court may accept the parties' agreement regarding the settled issues and conduct a limited trial on the remaining issues.

Divorce Procedure – Contested Trial

If the parties are not able to reach an agreement on all issues, the court will conduct a contested trial. A trial may last from a few hours to several weeks. The length of the trial will depend primarily on the number of contested issues, the complexity of the issues, and the amount of evidence to be presented on each issue.

The judge will consider the evidence and the arguments presented at the trial. The judge will then issue a final court order called a decree of divorce. The decree of divorce terminates the parties' marriage. The decree of divorce also addresses all other issues raised in the case.

The decree of divorce may be issued immediately after the trial. However, in some cases it takes weeks, and even months, for a judge to issue a decree of divorce.

Divorce Procedure – Objection or Appeal

If a party believes that a court has issued an improper decision, the party can file an objection or an appeal. An objection or an appeal must be filed soon after the final decision is issued.

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.