Enforcing an Ohio Divorce Decree

Signing a divorce decree obligates you and your former spouse to fulfill each of the agreed-upon conditions. While circumstances may make minor, occasional, and unintentional violations unavoidable and forgivable, resolving long-term problems requires going back to court to compel compliance. Three reasons you may need to enforce a divorce decree are when your previous partner:

  • Stops making spousal support (alimony) and child-support payments
  • Refuses to allow visits with your children or keeps your kids longer than specified in divorce papers
  • Retains more proceeds from the sale of shared property or refuses to surrender listed items

Even when you and your ex agree that sticking to the original terms of the divorce no longer makes sense, deciding to alter arrangements without going back to court constitutes a violation. This means, for instance, that if a move by the custodial parents from Ohio makes stays with the other parent on alternating weekends impractical, you should petition the court to alter visitation rights.

Things to Understand When Seeking to Enforce a Divorce Decree

You must document every violation by your former spouse. This means, among other things, keeping copies of late and/or short support payments, details of checks returned for insufficient funds, and evidence that payment could have been made. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services maintains an Office of Child Support in every county. Staff there can help you explore nonjudicial options to secure payments and, if necessary, build a court case.

The results of being found in violation of a divorce decree can be harsh. Civil judgments can include

  • Orders to pay all past-due spousal support and child support with interest and penalties
  • Orders to pay the complaining spouse’s court costs
  • Garnishment of wages
  • Revocation of visitation rights
  • Forfeiture of property

Spouses who do not make support payments despite having adequate financial resources can go to jail. Refusing to abide by visitation agreements can also result in jail time for contempt of court, with the length of the sentence left to the judge’s discretion.

A third possibility is that a judge can find a former spouse in violation of the divorce decree but impose no immediate penalty. One acceptable excuse for failing to pay child support for a certain period could be unemployment due to incarceration or temporary disability. Recognize, however, that leaving Ohio does not automatically relieve a custodial parent of the duty to adhere to a child visitation schedule.

Work With a Columbus Family Law Attorney to Enforce Your Divorce Decree

Ohio law permits individuals to file petitions for the enforcement of divorce decrees on their own. Taking legal action against a former spouse with the help of an experienced Columbus family law attorney, however, could enhance your chances of success. We cannot guarantee any outcome, but our attorneys know which forms need to be completed, when they need to be delivered, and who must receive the paperwork to get it the attention it deserves. We also know which questions to ask to ensure all the necessary evidence gets collected and presented to make your case for a civil or criminal judgment as strong as possible.

If your ex has not fulfilled his or her obligation under your divorce decree, call us

How to Protect Your Retirement Assets in an Ohio Divorce

In any divorce, finances and property division can get ugly—especially if one person makes more than the other. It’s risky to assume your retirement assets are secure when you divorce, and you won’t realize how much you stand to lose until it’s too late. Central Ohio divorce lawyers can advise you on what to do when it comes to protecting your retirement assets. However, there are steps you can take to help secure your retirement assets during a divorce.

Know Ohio’s Divorce Law Regarding Property

All states have different laws regarding property during a divorce. For Ohio divorce law, most property falls below “equitable distribution of property,” which means any funds received during the marriage by either spouse are subject to equitable division. However, according to Ohio law, specific property not subject to division includes:

  • Any funds that were earned prior to the marriage by either spouse, and that spouse is entitled to keep it
  • Income generated by passive means
  • Any property attained after the divorce is finalized
  • Inheritance for either spouse

Other factors under Ohio law can impede a 50/50 division of property, but these factors are carefully considered by your attorney and the court. Your attorney will discuss which factors affect your assets in detail with you, which is why it’s crucial to keep current financial records of your property. These factors include:

  • Marriage length
  • Age and physical health of both spouses
  • Property or income purchased by each spouse
  • The standard cost of living for each spouse
  • Any agreements made between spouses during the marriage concerning property

It’s imperative to know which factors will affect you during the divorce. It’s also a good idea to restrict retirement accounts from receiving additional funds, and record all monetary deposits and withdrawals.

Stop Contributing to Your 401(k) and IRA

Don’t expect your 401(k) or IRA to be completely protected from division. When the idea of “divorce” begins to float around in your home, stop making any monetary contributions to your IRA or 401(k). These retirement accounts would be divided between each spouse, especially if your husband or wife made any contributions.

It’s also vital to ask your employer to stop making contributions to your retirement and savings accounts. Some individuals lose over half of their contributions after the divorce only because they continued investing money into their retirement and savings accounts.

Monitor and Record all Your Debts and Assets

Take an inventory of everything you own: your financial assets and debts. You need to record all your financially-owned assets, and to know where your money is at all times and where it goes. Keep copies of credit accounts and loans, and note any funds that were recently received or removed. Also, make notes of home equity, business debts, and tax returns. Anything you have purchased, invested or contributed should be accurately recorded prior to the divorce proceedings.

Hire a Divorce Attorney in Central Ohio

The most important step is to hire an attorney. Central Ohio divorce lawyers are skilled and knowledgeable in divorce law, and they will take the necessary steps to help you protect your retirement assets during divorce proceedings. Your lawyer will guide you through the process beginning with recording your accounts to finalizing the divorce and signing the papers.

Need an experienced divorce attorney to help you? Edward F. Whipps & Associates is a seasoned law firm with over 30 years of experience aggressively protecting our clients’ retirement accounts.

What Are the Rights and Benefits of Former Military Spouses?

Divorce is a stressful and complicated time for anyone, but it can be a particularly trying experience for military spouses, who are often stationed far away from their friends and loved ones while facing divorce proceedings. Military divorces pose unique issues. Many spouses divorcing a service member are concerned about whether the benefits they enjoy as military spouses will continue after their divorce.

The law typically allows for a military divorce to be filed in the state where either the husband or wife has legal residence. This generally means that the person who started the divorce files in the state where he or she is a resident. It’s important to bear in mind that the state where a military member resides has the ability to divide the military pension in a divorce. Therefore, if you file for divorce in a state that isn’t the state of residence of the military member, then the court may not be able to divide the pension.

Overview of the United Services Former Spouse Protection Act

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) addresses concerns that military spouses may have about their rights and benefits after a divorce. Under the USFSPA, a former spouse can be designated as a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) beneficiary. SBP is an annuity that allows retired service members to provide continued income to the beneficiary in the event of their death. Retiring service members are enrolled in SBP unless they choose not to participate.

The USFSPA also allows former spouses to continue receiving commissary, exchange, and health care benefits after a divorce. In order to qualify for these continued benefits, a former spouse must prove the following:

  • The service member has 20 years of creditable service
  • The marriage lasted at least 20 years
  • The marriage overlapped with the period of service for at least 20 years

A former spouse meeting these requirements is referred to as a 20/20/20 former spouse. A 20/20/20 former spouse receives full health care, commissary, and exchange benefits. The health care benefits are provided through TRICARE and military treatment facilities. Former spouses who do not meet the 20/20/20 requirement will lose their commissary and exchange privileges as soon as the divorce is final.

If a service member has 20 years of creditable service and the marriage lasted 20 years, but the marriage overlapped with the period of service by only 15 years, then the former spouse will only be entitled to full medical benefits for one year following the divorce. These former spouses are known as 20/20/15 former spouses. In order to maintain full coverage, however, the former spouse cannot remarry or join an employer-sponsored health plan. After this one-year transitional period, the 20/20/15 former spouse will be eligible to purchase a conversion health policy negotiated by the Department of Defense.

Former spouses who are not 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 are not eligible for any military health benefits after a divorce, but they are eligible to receive temporary health care coverage from the DOD Continued Health Care Benefit Program, which provides 36 months of coverage. In order to qualify for this coverage, a former spouse must enroll within 60 days of losing full military health care benefits.

Are Former Spouses Entitled to a Portion of Retirees’ Retired Pay?

There is no law that automatically entitles a former military spouse to a retiree’s military retired pay. Nevertheless, a former spouse is eligible to receive direct payments from a retiree’s retired pay if the court order satisfies specific requirements and conditions.

State courts are authorized to divide military retired pay as a marital asset or as community property in divorce proceedings. In order for a former spouse to qualify for direct payments of retired pay under the USFSPA, the former spouse must have been married to the service member for 10 years or more and the service member must have had at least 10 years of creditable service during that time.

Speak with a Columbus, Ohio Military Divorce Attorney

If you have any questions about your rights and benefits as a former military spouse, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We are a Columbus, Ohio military divorce attorney with extensive experience handling divorce cases on behalf of service members and military spouses.

How the Courts Determine Who Gets Custody of a Child in Ohio

Parents normally share complete custody of a minor child, unless they go through a divorce, legal separation, annulment, or dissolution. If two parents are unable to agree on who will get custody of the minor child or children in a time like this, the courts will have to make the decision.

The decision of who will get custody varies on a case-by-base basis. Under Ohio law, judges are required to make a decision about parental rights and responsibilities based on a child’s best interest. They must inquire about the care and maintenance of the child in order to make an appropriate decision.

In the past, the courts typically granted custody to the mother, while the father provided child support. Today, child custody cases are no longer based on the gender of the parent. It has become increasingly common for fathers to win custody of their children. Although most custody disputes are between the father and mother, a third party may be involved in some cases, such as if one or both parents has passed away or if a parent is unable to care for a child.

Factors That the Courts Consider When Assigning Parental Rights

The primary goal of the court is to provide a stable environment for the child. A parent who cannot provide proper childcare or who does not have a stable work situation may not be able to get custody of a child. There are various factors that the courts must consider when determining which parent should get custody, including the following:

  • Employment status
  • Personality and disposition
  • Relationship with the child
  • Home environment
  • Physical and mental health
  • The parent’s motive in seeking custody
  • Child-rearing skills
  • Whether a parent or any member of a parent’s household has been convicted of or has pleaded guilty to domestic violence, a sexual offense, or any other crime

Other factors that the courts may consider include the impact that moving could have on the child and whether or not the parent plans to relocate with the child. The courts may also consider the child’s wishes regarding whom he or she wants to live with, if the child is old enough to make that decision.

Under Ohio law, unless a court order deems otherwise, the biological mother of a child born outside of wedlock is considered the legal custodian and sole residential parent of the child. Biological fathers do not have rights to custody or parenting time for children born outside of wedlock unless they pursue those rights in court. In order for a biological father to win custody, he must establish paternity and then bring an action for custody or parenting time before an Ohio juvenile court.

Joint Custody vs. Shared Custody

Joint custody, also known as shared parenting, is a parenting agreement in which both parents are considered the residential parent of the minor and both equally share in decision-making for the child. Sole custody is when one parent is designated as the custodial parent and has the right to make decisions in all matters concerning the child.

Once the courts make a decision regarding sole custody or joint custody, it can be difficult to overturn that decision. However, there are situations when a custody decision made by the court can be changed, such as if a custodial parent develops a drug or alcohol addiction or if a custodial parent is convicted of a crime and goes to prison.

As a parent, there is nothing more important to you than your children. If you’re going through a divorce or dealing with a custody dispute, having the help of an experienced child custody attorney can be invaluable.

Contact a Child Custody Attorney in Columbus, Ohio

If your family is facing child custody issues and you need a child custody attorney in Columbus, Ohio, contact us. At our law firm, children matter the most. We understand the impact that custody disputes can have on children and strongly encourage parents to put their children first and reach an amicable agreement. Our goal is to help children transition to a happy and positive future.