The most important question we ask our clients during the initial consultation is, what is your goal at the end of this process. Where do you picture yourself financially, personally or as a parent when the case is over and then we work back from your stated success and determine a roadmap on how to achieve your goal. Divorce is a very personal issue which touches every aspect of a person’s life. There are similar and predictable issues within every case, however the outcome of these issues can be greatly manipulated based upon the needs and desires of each client. Our job as your attorney is to first listen to your needs and then explain the process and options available to you during the divorce that will allow you to make educated decisions regarding your life after your marriage.
In Ohio, you will still need to state the grounds for divorce (Gross Neglect of Duty, Adultery, Extreme Cruelty, Incompatibility) however the stated grounds rarely impact the outcome of a divorce case. The trial or any hearing on a divorce in Ohio, like most states, will only be decided by a judge, without a jury. While most people think of a divorce as a contested matter, you may also chose to file a no-contest divorce action with a separation agreement already signed by both parties. This will allow for only one party to appear for the final hearing and works well when the defendant has already relocated out of the state or is unable to attend the hearing.
Another important issue which we discuss with clients at the start of the case is where the case will be filed. The County which the case is filed will greatly impact the approach we take to achieve your stated goals. For instance, if you are married with children and filing for divorce in Butler County or Warren County, Ohio, the court will issue a temporary order of child support and parenting based upon the initial information provided in the Complaint for Divorce, without any input from the defendant. However, if you are filing for divorce in Hamilton or Clermont County the court will allow the opposing party 14 days to file a responsible pleading before issuing temporary parenting and support orders. This is just an example of many differences within the local rules of each County in Ohio. As your attorney, we will review your filing options and choice the most advantageous location to file based upon your legal options.
Depending on whether you are deciding to file for divorce or if your spouse has already filed, it is important for your to organize and prepare your case from the start. The person or party who is most prepared for each stage of the case, will more likely be pleased with the result. There are certain financial documents that we request in every case. Preferably before you separate or discuss a divorce, you should secure copies of all these documents for both you and your spouse:
- State and Federal Tax Returns for past three years
- Last three earning statements
- Disability awards or statements
- Health Insurance Cost/Plan information
- All retirement/pension statements
- Monthly statement for every financial account/checking/savings
- Last statement for all brokerage accounts
- Medical records for any disability of you, spouse or children
- Any prior court orders regarding support, custody or property
- Cost of child care if appropriate
- Last mortgage statement(s)
- Most recent appraisal(s)
- Most recent monthly credit card statements
- Most recent loan documents (vehicle, furniture, etc)
These documents will be the launch point for further discussion with your attorney and may be used throughout your case as evidence of your “defacto” separation date. If your spouse is unwilling to provide you with this information or is less than forthcoming regarding your finances, it is always helpful if you make a list of assets and liabilities that you believe may exist and where they may be located.
We will also discuss with you the risks and benefits of shared parenting verse sole custody of your children. There are benefits to each type of custody which you will review with your attorney. It is safe to say that communication and cooperation between the parents are significant factors to consider when entering into a shared parenting plan. Many people believe that child support will be modified or reduced if there is shared parenting. That is simply not the case. Child support may be modified as a result of many factors, regardless of the type of custody arrangement, the fact that you have a shared parenting plan does not immediately impact a child support obligation.