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Family Law

Ohio Appeal Rights

If you do not like the ruling at trial, you may have Ohio appeal rights, which is the right to appeal the trial court’s decision.  

Ohio Appeal Rights To Appeal The Magistrate

    If the trial or hearing was heard by a magistrate, you have the right to appeal the magistrate. If the magistrate issued an order, you have the right to ask the judge to set the order aside.  This must be filed within ten days of the order.  Filing this motion does not automatically stop the order from taking effect.  If the magistrate issued a decision, you have the right to object to the decision.  The objection automatically stops enforcement of the decision.  Unfortunately, this includes the parts you may like along with the parts to which you have objections.  The objection must be filed within fourteen days of the filing of the magistrate’s decision. (more…)

Ohio Paternity Parentage Cases

Ohio child custody rights of unmarried parents are decided in Ohio paternity parentage cases, which includes requests for legal custody, parenting time and/or shared parenting. In Ohio, an unmarried mother has sole legal custody of a child born outside of marriage.  The father has no legal rights to the child until he requests the court to issue orders establishing a father-child relationship and an order for parenting time.

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Modifying Child Custody In Ohio

Courts modifying child custody in Ohio have to follow a set of rules. As always, the best interests of the child must be considered.  However, before getting to that point, the court must consider a number of factors as to whether the case qualifies for a modification of parental rights and responsibilities.  A change in circumstances is required to even gain the right to be in court on a child custody modification motion.  This requirement promotes stability in the child's life and prevents motions for changes in custody based on insignificant events.

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Ohio Marriage Contracts

Ohio marriage contracts involves three parties: (1) you; (2) your spouse; and (3) the State of Ohio. Marriage is a legal contract with rights and obligations.  Of course, marriage is not just a cold legal concept—marriage is a spiritual and personal relationship between two people.  The obligations of marriage: mutual respect, fidelity and support.  The duty to support includes the parties’ mutual biological and adopted children.

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Ohio Divorce Impacts Benefits

An Ohio divorce impacts benefits in many ways. Benefits can be preserved while the divorce is pending. Rights to benefits can either be awarded or denied after the divorce is finalized. When a divorce is filed, most domestic relations courts in Ohio automatically issue retraining orders. These restraining orders prohibit the parties from selling assets or destroying assets, and from cancelling benefits. This means neither party can remove the other from any insurance coverage, including health insurance.

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Ohio Child Custody Evaluations

Some child custody battles in Ohio need a more in-depth look than what can be provided by just the testimony of the witnesses. Ohio child custody evaluations can provide that deeper look into the parents and children involved.  A child custody evaluation is ordered by the court and usually consists of psychological evaluations of the parents, observations of the parents with the children, interviews of the parents, and collateral information.

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Business Income In Ohio Child Support and Divorce

One of the more difficult tasks in calculating child support and spousal support for Ohio divorce and child custody is calculating and determining business income.  Business income in Ohio child support and divorce is complex and filled with pitfalls.  It can be frustrating to watch the opposing parent reduce his or her income significantly through business expenses.  Does this mean that the opposing parent’s income can be reduced from $120,000 in gross receipts down to a net profit of $30,000, simply because he or she claimed $90,000 in business expenses?  Not necessarily.

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Enforcing Ohio Divorce Decrees

An Ohio domestic relations court not only has the power to issue a divorce decree, but it also has the power to enforce it.  Enforcing Ohio divorce decrees is important because, without enforcement power, the decree would simply be a list of suggestions.  The divorce court enforces its orders through its contempt power.  Typically, the wronged party files a motion to show cause as to why a party should not be held in contempt of court.  The prosecuting attorney can file a motion for contempt for failure to pay child support.  The court then sets the matter for hearing for the offending party to appear before the court and explain why he or she should not be held in contempt.   If someone is held in civil contempt of court, he or she will be given a chance to correct the situation, commonly referred to as a purge period.  Failure to purge contempt in the time allotted can result in a jail term.  Repeated contempt motions can result in longer jail terms for failure to purge contempt.   (more…)

Child Custody In Ohio

How is child custody decided in Ohio? These issues are decided by domestic relations and juvenile courts in Ohio.  For disputes between parents, the domestic relations courts in Medina County, Summit County and Cuyahoga County hear such cases.  In Wayne County, Ohio, the domestic relations court hears child custody cases in divorce and post-divorce decree cases.  The Wayne County juvenile court hears child custody cases between unmarried parents.  For purposes of this article, we will refer to all these courts as the Ohio child custody court.   The Ohio child custody court must decide between sole custody to one parent and shared parenting with both parents. The parent who is awarded sole custody becomes the child’s legal custodian and will make decisions about non-emergency medical care, education, religion, discipline and extra-curricular activities.  The sole legal custodian must let the non-custodial parent know about such matters but will make the final decisions.   (more…)

Divorce And Dissolution

How do divorce and dissolution differ from one another? A dissolution is an agreement to terminate the marriage, with an agreement on how to divide their assets and debts, as well as agreement on child custody, child support, parenting time and spousal support. In order to have a dissolution, the parties must agree on all of the issues. Paperwork is filed and the matter is resolved in a single hearing. The dissolution process is usually completed within two to three months after filing.   When the parties cannot agree on all of the issues, but wish to terminate the marriage, they must do so with a divorce. One of the eleven grounds for divorce must be alleged. Incompatibility cannot be proven, but must be agreed upon by both parties in order to be used as a ground for divorce. Divorce usually consists of temporary orders hearings, case management hearings, pre-trial hearings, and final hearings (trials). The final hearing does not usually occur until at least nine months after filing and sometimes well over one year after filing.   (more…)

What Is Mediation?

What is mediation? Mediation is a process in which two or more parties negotiate a voluntary agreement with the help of a mediator. The mediator facilitates communication between the parties. Statements made during mediation are protected under Ohio’s Uniform Mediation Act (UMA) as set forth in Ohio Revised Code 2710.01-2710.10 (R.C. 2710.01-2710.10). This privilege gives one the ability to stop other people from revealing what was said at a mediation. Does this mean everything said in a mediation is protected by privilege? No. The following topics are not protected by privilege under the UMA: discussions disclosing abuse or neglect of children and abuse or neglect of the elderly; plans to commit crimes; threats of violence; whether a mediation occurred; and signed settlement agreements. Mediators are neutral third parties who assist the parties with issue identification and problem solving. The mediator will usually meet with each side separately, but some mediation sessions are held with all the parties present face-to-face. Mediation is a useful tool used in several areas of the law, including civil cases, child custody cases, divorces, foreclosures, and abuse, neglect and dependency cases. If the parties do not reach an agreement, the mediator may schedule a follow-up session or may report to the court that an agreement was not reached.   (more…)

When Can Grandparents Take Custody Of A Child?

When can grandparents take custody of a child? A nonparent can be awarded custody of a minor child if the court makes a finding of parental unsuitability. Parental unsuitability can be determined if the "parent abandoned the child; contractually relinquished custody of the child; that the parent has become totally incapable of supporting or caring for the child; or that an award of custody to the parent would be detrimental to the child.” Parents who are suitable persons have a paramount right to the custody of their minor children.   In other words, parents have a right to care for and raise their children. In order to infringe on that right, someone must first demonstrate that the parent is unsuitable, commonly known as unfit parents. A typical case of parental unsuitability is when the parents leave the children with the grandparents and disappear for a long period of time. In such an instance, the grandparent will likely be able to prove parental unsuitability and may be able to obtain custody of the children.   (more…)

Filing Tax Returns During A Pending Divorce

In my practice, I frequently confront the question of filing tax returns during a pending divorce, whether they should file an individual or joint return and what they should do with the refund. The other issue is whether the parties should file an individual or joint return.   Filing tax returns during a pending divorce depends on the situation. First, in the vast majority of divorces, there are restraining orders prohibiting the parties from disposing of assets and possibly even filing tax returns in the absence of a court order or mutual agreement. Therefore, going off on one’s own, filing an individual tax return and keeping the refund could be grounds for contempt.   (more…)

Minimum Amount Of Child Support

Is there a minimum amount of child support that a court must order?  Yes, there is.  Courts usually order guideline support, which is the amount of support calculated under the child support guidelines.  However, Ohio Revised Code 3119.06 (R.C. 3119.06) requires the court to order a minimum child support order of $50 per month.  If the person is not working and receiving needs-based assistance, then, while the arrearages accrue, the obligation to pay child support is suspended as long as the person is complying with a seek-work order.   Even though the statute says that is the lowest amount, is it?  No.  Ohio law also allows the court to order one to pay less than $50 per month or not require any child support if the parent ordered to pay has a medically verified or documented physical or mental disability or institutionalization for mental illness.   (more…)

Courts Impute Income For Child Support

Courts impute income for child support.  This means that the court will determine that you should make a certain amount of income even if you do not.  How does the court do that?  The court considers employment history, education, physical and mental disabilities, availability of employment in the area, typical wages in the area, skills and training, whether the person has the ability to earn the imputed income, the age and special needs of the child, and experience in the field.  Basically, the court will impute income if a parent voluntarily reduces income or loses a job.  If the income loss or reduction was involuntary and the person cannot easily obtain another job at the same income level, then the court may accept the person’s current income level for child support purposes.   (more…)

What Do Those Words In My Child Support Order Mean?

There are a lot of technical terms in a child support order that can lead a parent to ask, “What do those words in my child support order mean?”   Ohio Revised Code 3119.01 (R.C. 3119.01) defines a substantial number of these terms.  Lets take a look at some of the terms.   Obligee means the person who is entitled to receive the support payments under a support order.   Obligor means the person who is required to pay support under a support order.   Extraordinary medical expenses means any uninsured medical expenses incurred for a child during a calendar year that exceed one hundred dollars.   (more…)

What Factors Does A Court Use To Decide Child Custody?

What factors does a court use to decide child custody and parenting time?  The following from Ohio Revised Code 3109.051 (R.C. 3109.051) sets forth the factors:  
  1. The prior interaction and interrelationships of the child with the child’s parents, siblings, and other persons related by consanguinity or affinity, and with the person who requested companionship or visitation if that person is not the parent, sibling, or relative of the child;
  2. The geographical location of the residence of each parent and the distance between those residences, and if the person is not a parent, the geographical location of that person’s residence and the distance between that person’s residence and the child’s residence;
  3. The child’s and parents’ available time, including, but not limited to, each parent’s employment schedule, the child’s school schedule, and the child’s and the parents’ holiday and vacation schedule;
  4. The age of the child;
  5. The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
  6. If the court has interviewed the child in chambers, pursuant to division (C) of this section, regarding the wishes and concerns of the child as to the parenting time by the parent who is not the residential parent or companionship or visitation by the grandparent, relative, or other person who requested companionship or visitation, as to a specific parenting time or visitation schedule, or as to other parenting time or visitation matters, the wishes and concerns of the child, as expressed to the court;
  7. The health and safety of the child;
  8. The amount of time that will be available for the child to spend with siblings;
  9. The mental and physical health of all parties;
  10. Each parent’s willingness to reschedule missed parenting time and to facilitate the other parent’s parenting time rights, and with respect to a person who requested companionship or visitation, the willingness of the person to reschedule missed visitation;
  11. In relation to parenting time, whether either parent previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused child or neglected child; whether either parent, in a case in which a child has been adjudicated an abused child or neglected child, previously has been determined to be the perpetrator of the abusive or neglectful act that is the basis of the adjudication; and whether there is reason to believe that either parent has acted in a manner resulting in a child being an abused child or a neglected child;
  12. In relation to requested companionship or visitation by a person other than a parent, whether the person previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused child or neglected child; whether the person, in a case in which a child has been adjudicated an abused child or neglected child, previously has been determined to be the perpetrator of the abusive or neglectful act that is the basis of the adjudication; whether either parent previously convicted of or pleaded guilty to a violation of section 2919.25 of the Revised Code involving a victim who at the time of the commission of the offense was a member of the family or household that is the subject of the current proceeding; whether either parent previously has been convicted of an offense involving a victim who at the time of the commission was a member of the family or household that is the subject of the current proceeding and caused physical harm to the victim in the commission of the offense; and whether there is reason to believe that the person has acted in a manner resulting in a child being an abused child or a neglected child;
  13. Whether the residential parent or one of the parents subject to a shared parenting decree has continuously and willfully denied the other parent’s rights to parenting time in accordance with an order of the court;
  14. Whether either parent has established a residence or is planning to establish a residence outside this state;
  15. In relation to requested companionship or visitation by a person other than a parent, the wishes and concerns of the child’s parents, as expressed by them to the court;
  16. Any other factor in the best interest of the child.
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Regaining Custody Of Your Children

The United States Supreme Court and the Ohio Supreme Court have repeatedly said that the “right of parents to raise their children has been deemed basic and essential, protected by due process of law.”  While a parent does not lose this right when the other parent is awarded custody of the children, this right does not help much when the noncustodial parent tries to regain custody of his or her children.   Ohio law also creates a hurdle, stating that modification of custody will not occur unless a change in circumstances of the child or child’s residential parent occurs.  If there was a shared parenting decree, the change in circumstances can occur with either parent.  The modification must also be in the best interests of the child, and: (1) the residential parent agrees to a change; (2) the child, with consent of the residential parent or of both parents in shared parenting, has been integrated into the family of the person seeking to become the residential parent; or (3) the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantages of the change of environment to the child.   (more…)

Can I Record My Child’s Wishes?

One may ask, “Can I record my child’s wishes?”  The answer is no.  Ohio Revised Code 3109.04 (R.C. 3109.04) specifically prohibits the court from considering such evidence:   “No person shall obtain or attempt to obtain from a child a written or recorded statement or affidavit setting forth the child’s wishes and concerns regarding the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities concerning the child.  No court, in determining the child’s best interest for purposes of making its allocation of the parental rights and responsibilities for the care of the child or for purposes of resolving any issues related to the making of that allocation, shall accept or consider a written or recorded statement or affidavit that purports to set forth the child’s wishes and concerns regarding those matters.”   (more…)

Child Support Deviation

When does a court consider a child support deviation?  Normally, child support follows a specific formula as set forth in Ohio Revised Code 3119.021 (R.C. 3119.021).  However, a court may deviate from the usual amount of child support if the court determines guideline child support would be unjust, or inappropriate, or not in the best interests of the child.   Ohio Revised Code 3119.23 (R.C. 3119.23) sets forth a number of reasons for a court to deviate from the guideline child support amount:   (more…)

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