Ohio Child Custody – How To Win Fathers Custody Rights

It is the general received wisdom that in many court systems the judge will automatically assume the child will be better off with its mother. This is based in historical president, but it must always be remembered that fathers custody rights are important too.

As a father I found my self in the extremely painful position of having to fight my ex wife for visitation rights to my daughter. Let me just say this, regardless of how well you and your ex do or don’t get on there is definitely a best way to go about things to get the best deal. If you are too nice, or in any way complacent about things your other half’s lawyer will try to run roughshod over you. You need to put up an excellent fight or you may lose out on your rights completely, ending up only seeing your child once a month or even worse when it suits your ex.

Some people are led to believe that if their ex gets full custody in the first court, then they can go back to court and apply for joint custody. While this is true, as a strategy this way of doing things rarely works. Even visitation rights could be put in jeopardy using this strategy. At the end of the day the more times you end up going to court the less likely you are to see a positive result and get child custody rights you deserve.

When Dealing with the Ohio child custody system (or that of any other state) you need to get as much information and knowledge as you possibly can before your court date. This may be one of the most important days in your life as regards your relationship with your child and surely that makes it well worth preparing for.

You have to be willing to put up a good a fight for your fathers custody rights. Get everything worked out and every shred of possible information you can before going to court. It can only work in your favour. You of course need to get yourself the best lawyer you can afford (an Ohio child custody specialist if possible). But also dont be afraid to learn as much about the whole process as you can yourself.

Ohio State Custody & Support Guidelines

In child custody cases it is important to remember that either one of the parents may be awarded custody, the court shall not give any preference to a parent because of that individuals financial status or condition.

The court may give parental rights and responsibilities as regards care of the children primarily to one of the parents. The court may also designate that parent as the legal custodian and residential parent of the child, the other rights and responsibilities for the care of the children, including, but not limited to, the responsibility for the provision of support for the children. The right of the non residential parent to have ongoing contact with the children may also be designated as the court sees fit.

The last point there is the doozie “contact with the children may also be designated as the court sees fit”. Essentially this means that if you really fail to make a case for ongoing contact, or if your ex spouse makes a very strong case to disallow you contact you may be stuck having virtually no rights as regards seeing your children.

It goes on to say. When allocating parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall take into consideration the following factors:

  • The wishes of the child
  • The wishes of the parents regarding the child’s care
  • The child’s interaction and interrelationship with their parents, siblings, and any other significant persons that may affect affect the child’s best interests
  • The child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved in the situation
  • Whether either parent has established a residence, or is planning to establish a residence, outside this state
  • Whether either parent previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offence involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused child or a neglected child
  • The parent more likely to facilitate court-approved parenting time rights or visitation rights

When determining whether a shared parenting arrangement is in the child’s  best interests, the court shall consider the following factors:

  • The ability of the parents to cooperate and make decisions jointly, with respect to the children
  • The ability of each parent to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent
  • Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, other domestic violence, or parental kidnapping by either parent
  • The proximity of the parents to each other geographic, as this relates to the practical considerations of shared parenting
  • The recommendation of the guardian ad litem of the child, if the child has a guardian ad litem (Ad Litem is a legal term that refers to a party appointed by a court to act in a lawsuit on behalf of another party who is incapable of representing themselves. In this case this will sometimes be your child)

When considering your actions building up to your case or the building of your case always keep these factors as high in your mind as you can as they can make all the difference between a satisfactory sharing of parenting and decent visitation rights and a very unsatisfactory result.

Pros and Cons of Mediation in Ohio Divorces

The goal of mediation is for you and your spouse to enter into a mediated settlement agreement in an Ohio divorce.

You can reach an agreement as to the entire case or as to specific issues, and leave to the judge those things you cannot agree about. But in all cases, the agreement is put in writing and filed in your divorce case. If you have an agreement before you have filed a divorce case, your mediated divorce settlement agreement will usually be filed with the other divorce papers, essentially making your divorce an uncontested one.

Sometimes, the final agreement may be called a Memorandum of Understanding or sometimes Mediated Settlement Agreement. Regardless of what you name it, the important thing to understand about these mediated agreements is that they are treated like any other contract, and once signed become binding If you change your mind for any reason and later want the judge to relieve you from what you agreed to do, you will have to litigate that. Litigation to try and get a settlement agreement set aside is costly; and depending on the facts of your case, may not be successful.

Divorce Mediation Columbus Ohio

Because these agreements can bind you, it is important that you understand the legal significance of what you are agreeing to.  The only option to understand the legal significance of your agreement is to have an attorney review the agreement before you sign it.  This is not a problem if you are represented by a divorce lawyer since that is what lawyers are supposed to do for you—make sure you understand the legal consequences.

If you have attended mediation without a lawyer, you can still have a divorce lawyer review that mediated divorce agreement for you.  This doesn’t mean hiring a lawyer to do the divorce but simply hiring them to review the agreement with you and answer all your questions or give you a heads up as to what you should be concerned about.

Now that you know more about the divorce mediation process, it will be easier to see the major benefits of using mediation for your divorce.

These major benefits are control, certainty of the outcome, confidentiality, and savings on legal fees.

Control

In a mediation, you and your spouse decide what issues to settle, and with how much detail and flexibility given your individual interests and goals.  Divorce trials, or the litigated divorce process itself, does not leave a lot of control in the hands of the couple getting divorce; control is left in the hands of the judge.

Courts have rules and procedures to follow to make sure there is an opportunity for each side to present their case.  These rules and procedures include time frames to get and present evidence, whether that evidence is documents or witnesses.

A different set of rules for evidence also limits what evidence you can present to the court.

By contrast, in a mediation you and your spouse set the pace of the mediation.  But, perhaps more important, since the rules of evidence do not apply in a mediation, you and your spouse can consider whatever documents you want to present to the other to make sure that everything is fully discussed and decided on by the two of you.

Mediation do have rules or principles, and the mediator will tell you what they are at the start of the mediation; but compared to the rules in the judicial system itself, they are rather few.

Certainty of Outcome

Since in mediation you and your spouse work on getting the results you want, you have a pretty good idea of what the outcome of the divorce will be once you both reach an agreement.  You and your spouse can continue to work together to hash out your differences and get them written into an agreement that will work for you.

Contrast that with the outcome in a divorce trial:  the decisions made in a divorce trial will be made by the judge.  At the beginning of a litigated divorce case you know what you want.  As the case moves along, each of you will have limitations imposed by any number of things, from the cost of getting evidence to the ability to pay for legal fees as the case drags on.  Each of you will have to present evidence as to why the judge should rule in your favor.

But the bottom line is that until the judge renders their decision, you will not know what that decision is or even if it will give you some of the things you wanted.

The biggest downside of that litigated process is that if, after going through a trial, you do not like the result, you will have to appeal the judge’s decision.  This is true whether you disagree with the decision the judge made on one question or on the entire case.

Confidentiality

When it comes to confidentiality, mediating a divorce provides quite a bit more than a divorce trial.

All communication in a mediation is confidential, except for certain exceptions provided by law.

What this means to you and your spouse is that you are both free to engage in discussions to reach an agreement without having to worry that anything either of you say during the negotiations may later be used against you in court.

In Ohio, divorce trials are open to the public.  Court files created in a litigated case are also a matter of public record.  The end result is that the details of your married life are exposed for nearly anyone to learn about.

In a sense, mediation limits what you make public.  Of course, once you and your spouse have reached an agreement and you put that in writing,  the agreement itself is usually not confidential and is filed with the court.

Save on Legal and Other Litigation Fees

If you start at the mediation stage without lawyers before filing for divorce, you may very well end up with an agreement.  Ohio divorces with mediated agreements are uncontested divorces.

Since you are dealing directly with your spouse and without lawyers, each of you will probably save a substantial amount in legal fees.  Since there is no litigation involved, you end up saving on other fees related to litigation such as subpoenas, service of process, court reporters, etc.

If you want to explore using a mediator first, get a list of certified Phio divorce mediators in your area.

What Ohio Divorce Lawyers Don’t Want You To Know

These are the first words I utter whenever someone I know, or have met, says they are going to be suing someone. And yes, the Ohio divorce process is one party suing another. However, the divorce mediation process is  different – it is two parties making an agreement. If you are contemplating suing anyone for anything, consider mediation.

There are many advantages to mediation, few drawbacks and no reason not to give it a try. The worst that happens is that you have spent some money and some time, but in exchange you do get some information from the other side which can be helpful if you decide to proceed to the court house.

This is not to say you should use mediation as a tool for discovery, but instead, consider it an opportunity to organize yourself, prepare for battle and hope to reach a settlement which is fair and one you can live with.

Mediation has increased in popularity as the costs of litigation have skyrocketed. Mediation is an alternative method of dispute resolution which encourages direct communication between the disputing parties. Proponents of the mediation process believe that these structured communications can result in a long lasting effective agreement because they are borne of the parties’ voluntary efforts and not those of their attorneys.

Mediation is also a process that is much faster than the court system. This is partly due to the over burdened court calendar and also due to the popularity of litigation, finding the most effective and prevailing attorneys often unavailable. A typical mediation takes approximately seven hours to complete. It is therefore both cost effective and time sensitive.

Mediation often results in a preservation of relationships. It is not adversarial, not confrontational, and often times find the parties able to compromise. By its nature, the parties are forced to communicate, if not directly with each other, then through the mediator.

Oftentimes, the parties have learned something about each other, have focused on the underlying cause of the dispute and willingly reach agreement.

Mediation allows you to have control over your litigation. This is tremendously important. One never knows if the judge has had a prior experience with someone you remind them about. Perhaps you were that girlfriend who jilted him in the 10th grade, or the guy on the field who unfairly tagged him out. Or you might have been the guy who broke her heart or the girl who stole the love of her life.

Everyone has a history, walking into a court room risks the judge’s opening up your past and having it become your present and future. A very well known family law attorney is quoted as saying “try to avoid the person in the black robe at all costs. You never know what that person will do with your case”.

Believe it or not, the most exasperating word a family law attorney can hear is MEDIATION.

Why? Because once most, not all, attorneys who practice primarily litigation involving dissolution of marriage and child support and custody issues get a case, they view them as a continuing stipend.

The more court hearings they can force, the more money they can make. The more assets they can convince their client they are entitled to, whether true or not, the more conflict and angst they can conjure up and the more money they can ensure themselves during the long drawn out fight that accompanies the litigation fiasco.

I have seen literally dozens and dozens of cases end in mindless and needless court battles, because the attorneys have created issues out of whole cloth. Any of these would have been better served through mediation in California.

They have stirred the pot, like witches brew. Is their interest what is best for their client, or what is best for them? I am sorry to say, that in so many cases, my colleagues put their interests, ahead of their clients.

Because of this pretense marital cases can cost the husband and wife thousands of dollars. I was personally involved in one marital dispute in which the wife was represented by one of the top boutique marital dissolution law firms in Beverly Hills.

There was a large corporation involved, which I represented, and the husband was represented by a two person well known law firm. The wife’s law firm had two partners and several associates sitting around a conference table during the rented judge trial while the husband had one.

The wife’s attorneys’ had her believing she could get ½ of the corporation and run it, when she had never stepped foot in it and her husband had been running it for years extremely successfully and with an independent board of directors. Telling her she would get to run the business and that her husband would do everything to steal money and keep her from getting anything was an abominable lie meant to exacerbate her already vicious feelings about her husband, with the only reason being the lining of the law firm’s pockets.

So how do you avoid these tremendous fees and bad outcomes?

You seek good mediators who have no skin in the game and who only care about doing one thing. That one thing is seeing to it that the parties reach a resolution of their case at the least possible cost, both financially and emotionally.

As mediators we help guide you through the process of developing your own resolution of divorce mediation or any mediation settlement. By being the master of your own destiny you own the process and decisions as opposed to attorneys and a judge.

When you own the decision you feel better about yourself and, in many cases, your spouse or other party with whom you may be locked in conflict. This helps to take much of the emotion out of the mediation which is especially important when dealing with issues involving children insofar as you and your spouse may have years of co-parenting children well under the age of eighteen and continuing your relationship with your children’s families.

Many times women feel more comfortable with a female mediator and men with a male mediator. This is why we have developed the concept of cross gender mediation.

To avoid this preference issue, both a man and woman are offered to facilitate these cases at the cost of the usual single mediator. This company has as its major goal, keeping people who are at their most vulnerable condition, focused on their children first, if there are any, and their assets and liabilities as opposed to the unconstructive feelings that have lead them to this stage of their marriage, and to do so at a cost that will not deplete the parties bank accounts.

If you are facing a situation where you foresee ‘black robes’ in your future, call today and let us help you settle your issues in confidential mediation – rather than as a matter of public record in the open court room. We specialize in divorce mediation in Ohio and we can help!

Why Confidentiality Is Important In Ohio Child Mediation

Confidentiality of the communications that occur between the child and the mediator is an area worthy of discussion.

It would seem that in order to advocate for a child, the child needs to feel comfortable that what is shared is not to be disclosed. After the interview is completed, the child may be unwilling to have some or all of the communications disclosed.

The mediator should abide by the child’s preference.

The child may be unwilling to directly speak to the parents and would prefer the mediator to act as an advocate for them. If the mediator feels it is appropriate that the child share their feelings, the mediator can invite the parents into the room.

Cautions needs to be exercised if the feelings the child is about to share may be damaging to the relationship of the child to their parent(s). The mediator would need to speak with the parents before speaking in an attempt to minimize the potential problems associated with the sharing of information for the child.

There are some serious issues that need to be considered when contemplating involving a child in the mediation process of child custody disputes.

The child will be at the center of the custody battle between the parents.

  • How detrimental will this be if the child is included in any part of this process?
  • Is the information gleaned worth the potential damage to the child?
  • Should a mental health professional be present at the mediation?
  • Is it appropriate to suggest that after the mediation process has concluded, the child see a mental health professional as a follow up?

Children are often confused about their parents’ divorce. They have a limited amount of coping strategies available to them at every given age. The younger ones, up to the age of 5, may react by regressing. The children ages 6-8, tend to cry more or long for the absent parent. The older ones, 9-12, tend to get angry and blame one or the other parent for the divorce and the adolescents tend to be slightly more expressive and accusatory, blaming their parents for leaving.

Unfortunately, these coping mechanisms are most readily apparent during the earliest stages of divorce, the time when mediation is often employed as a means for the parents to cope with their changes.

Is it appropriate to involve a child at this phase of their life?

By involving the child, is mediation already adding to the difficulties that are already being experienced? Many children will feel guilty for choosing one parent over another or for causing additional tensions between their parents. They may be criticized or punished after the mediation session is over.

A mediator needs to be, mindful of these issues and address them directly with the child and with the parents. It may be helpful to have a mental health professional present to assist the child if they run into difficulties, or to make a follow up appointment with a counselor after the mediation has concluded to insure proper behaviors are being exhibited by all parties.

What is the involvement or lack thereof in the mediation process saying to the child?

There are some children who will feel an inappropriate sense of power as a result of their ability to influence their parents’ decisions. They may also feel that they have some form of control over their parents and exploit it for their own benefit.

On the other hand, some children may feel a sense of powerlessness, because, they were unable to have their feelings and/or preferences heard and will hesitate to express them in the future. If they are left out of the process altogether, there may always be a question in the child’s mind as to what was said and how accurately their feelings were represented.

Being an advocate for the child in mediation is a delicate role. The decision to advocate should be made after careful consideration is given to all factors. If any of the steps above are omitted, I believe a mediator role as an advocate will be compromised.

The paramount concern to the mediator should be the effect both short and long term on the child. For if the child is adversely affected by the process, the mediator who advocates for the child’s best interest will have failed to do so.

As trained and experienced mediators, we take all parties into consideration. If you have questions or concerns, please call us today for a confidential consultation.

Pro Se Divorce Mediation in Ohio

In the judicial system, a party is “pro se” when they represent themselves; they don’t use an attorney.

For pro se divorce mediation in Ohio, you also do not need to have an attorney with you.

Likewise, you also do not have to file for divorce first in order to use the mediation process in your divorce case.

If, on the other hand, by pro se divorce mediation you mean doing the mediation without a mediator, then that would not be mediation.  It would simply be a negotiation directly between you and your spouse. Whether these direct negotiations will work will depend a lot on what kind of communication you are having with your spouse.  Publications such as Divorce Negotiations might provide you tips on how to negotiate directly with your spouse if you want to try that first.

Going through the mediation process in a divorce before actually filing the divorce case in court can make sense; it will significantly reduce the amount of time you spend in the court system getting your divorce done.  That’s because once you have a signed mediated agreement in your divorce, your divorce is an uncontested divorce from the beginning.

But there are things to keep in mind if you will go through the mediation and sign an agreement with no legal representation:

1.         A mediated divorce agreement is a contract.   This is a big factor to keep in mind because once you sign an agreement, you may find you can’t get out of it later in court.  This will apply even if you didn’t have the advice of a lawyer to tell you the legal significance of the terms of the mediated agreement.  It is important because it means that once you sign the agreement you may be stuck with it even if the legal consequences were not what you intended.  The remedy for this is to have a lawyer review the agreement before you sign it, to make sure you understand the legal consequences of what you are agreeing to when you sign it.

2.         There are still rules you may have to comply with.  Ohio family law rules require some financial disclosures in certain situations.  One example is where there is child support, in which case at least a financial affidavit will have to be filed by each parent in a divorce.  While you do not need a lawyer to complete your financial affidavit, you will need one to be able to complete the child support guidelines where there are children in a divorce.

How to do a Pro Se Divorce Mediation in Ohio

Mediating in a Divorce

The process of doing a pro se mediation in Ohio is pretty straightforward.    Of course, both you and your spouse must agree to mediate; otherwise there is no mediation to attend.

Since the whole point of mediation is to provide a process where each of you has as much power over your divorce as possible, there is no point in forcing someone to mediate.

Note:  In a divorce that’s already been filed in court and is going to go to trial, parties are ordered to attend mediation in most courts in Ohio.  This does not mean they have to mediate; it does mean they have to at least show up to the mediation.  Whether there is an agreement from that point on is a different matter.

Choosing a Mediator

Once you are both in agreement to mediate, the next step is to choose a mediator.  There is no requirement that you use a certified mediator in Ohio.

However, using a certified mediator is a good idea because certified mediators in Ohio are certified only after completing certain courses and meeting certain requirements.  This ensures that you are using a trained professional with real skills to help you.

In addition, mediators in Ohio are certified according to areas.  So, for example, a certified family mediator in Ohio is one who has received the specific training required to mediate family law issues, including divorce and anything related to divorce. Like all other certified mediators, certified family mediators are also required to complete continuing education to maintain their certification.

All of this training and requirements ensure that you get a trained professional who will probably be more effective at being able to help you resolve your divorce without costly litigation.

Both you and your spouse must agree on which mediator to use.

If there are children then the mediated agreement must also include a parenting plan.  Parenting plans include provisions as to how much time children will spend with each parent and also the amount of child support to be paid by one or the other parent. Mediators will usually  calculate the Ohio child support guidelines as part of their services in mediating your divorce.

Contacting the Mediator

Once you and your spouse have agreed on the mediator for your divorce mediation, contact them to find out about their rates, and how they work.  It is important to determine what information you must bring to the mediation so that your session is more productive.  It’s may also be a good idea to share the information with your spouse so that they can be equally ready to discuss the problems.

What to Do in a Mediation

The most important thing you can bring with you to a mediation is an open mind.  It may sound silly, but if you walk into a mediation with the idea that you will get everything you want or there will be no agreement, then chances are that you will not reach an agreement.

The idea of mediating a divorce (or any other issue) is to create a win-win for both sides.  An agreement that will work for both of you.

Besides keeping your mind open during the process of mediation, preparation includes collecting all documents related to the things that must be decided.

For example, if you and your spouse must deal with the home, then bring all documents that pertain to the home.  In this example, that could be mortgage statements, unpaid tax and insurance bills; or, if your home is in foreclosure, the paperwork to reinstate the mortgage or to do a modification.

As another example, if you have children, then your paperwork may include extraordinary expenses relating to the children—perhaps medical bills left unpaid from a child’s last illness; or maybe paperwork on the tutoring cost for a child who needs some help while in school.

Of course, with children, the child support guidelines need to be calculated.    Paperwork to bring for that would include pay stubs, tax returns for the last year and information on any health insurance covering the children.

At a minimum, preparation may include a list of talking points of things that are important to you and which must be decided with your spouse.

Once you’ve chosen a mediator, he or she may instruct you as to what to bring or what you should have before the date of the mediation.

The Agreement

At least in Ohio once a couple reaches an agreement, it is put in writing for both to sign.  At this point, the options are also pretty straightforward.

The first option is for each of you to sign it.  The second option is to take the agreement with you and have a divorce lawyer review it with you to make sure you understand what you are agreeing to, before you sign it.

The Divorce

If you have done the mediation before filing for divorce, the last step is filing the divorce case itself, with the agreement being filed together with all the papers.

For people who are doing their own divorce, Ohio has self-help centers that walk you through the entire process until the divorce decree is signed by the judge assigned to your case.

If you have a lawyer, the lawyer can set it for an uncontested divorce hearing.  Although the actual schedule of the judge assigned to the case will determine when it will be set for hearing, it is not uncommon for an uncontested divorce to take about3 to 4 weeks after the agreement is signed.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Alternate dispute resolution (ADR) can take many forms, but one widely cited definition from the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University is that an alternative dispute resolution is “any means of settling disputes outside of the courtroom.” In family law matters, pursuing an ADR can spare loved ones the time, expense, and emotional hardship of a lengthy court trial. ADRs also usually yields outcomes that all parties to a dispute find more equitable and acceptable.

As Ohio divorce lawyers and family law attorneys, our legal team often advises and represents clients who opt to use alternative dispute resolution processes in cases involving

  • Division of property following divorce, marriage dissolution, or legal separation
  • Spousal support/alimony
  • Child custody
  • Child visitation
  • Modification of court orders involving custody, visitation, and support payments

Conciliation, neutral evaluation, arbitration, and mediation are the ADR procedures used most frequently in family law cases. We briefly describe each below.

Conciliation

A conciliation hearing takes the form of a structured negotiation conducted directly between the parties to a dispute. As a legal term, conciliation is another word for compromise. Parties who agree to pursue conciliation as an alternate dispute resolution process agree beforehand to each give up some of what they would consider their best outcome in order to avoid a trial. Attorneys play a significant role in consulting with a client before the conciliation session by helping the person determine what they can live without in order to secure the things they cannot live without.

Neutral Evaluation

Neutral evaluations involve each side presenting their case to an experienced third party who is neither a judge nor otherwise involved with the dispute in any way. Each client’s legal team presents their evidence, testimony, and arguments to the neutral evaluator separately, and the evaluator issues an opinion on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two cases. That opinion can be binding if the parties in dispute agree to accept it. Often, the opinion resulting from a neutral evaluation becomes advisory, providing insight that one or both parties to the dispute use to improve their chances of succeeding during a trial before an actual judge.

Arbitration

Parties who agree to submit to arbitration commit themselves to abiding by the decision of the arbitrator who hears each party’s case. Attorneys can trade inquiries before the start of the arbitration hearing, but the hearing itself involves only presentations to the arbitrator. The arbitrator’s decision favors one party over the other, making arbitration the ADR process most similar to a court trial in effect.

Mediation

Mediation closely resembles conciliation because both involve negotiation. During a mediation hearing, however, the disputing parties receive assistance from an expert and neutral third party who listens to each person, summarizes the statements made, points out areas of agreement, and suggests ways to resolve disagreements. Divorce court judges often order spouses to try reaching mediated settlements before going to trial, especially when only a single issue stands in the way of having the couple end their marriage amicably. Attorneys are involved in each stage of mediation, helping their clients decide what their preferred outcome is, advising on offers made by the other party, and counseling on how to propose resolutions.

Alternate dispute resolution procedures play a large role in family law. To learn more about ADR, or to get assistance with a conciliation, neutral evaluation, arbitration, or mediation, call or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

Understanding Divorce Procedures in Ohio

Completing a divorce in Ohio can require going through numerous court hearings, participating in court-ordered counseling, and engaging in several rounds of negotiation with your soon-to-be ex. These processes play out over the course of at least three months and can be roughly grouped into the steps of filing, cooling off, securing pretrial orders, negotiations and mediation, and trial. Each divorce proceeding follows its own unique course, however, so having advice and representation from a caring and knowledgeable family law attorney can help you achieve your best outcomes at each step.

Filing for Divorce

Contact the Domestic Relations Court for your Ohio County to request all the forms you need to fill out. Unless you and your spouse mutually agree to end your marriage without contesting any of the reasons and while reaching amicable agreements over custody, property, and support, you must use one of the divorce court forms to state grounds for divorce. These grounds include infidelity, abuse, cruelty, and abandonment.

Filing the first set of forms constitutes making a request for a divorce decree. The court prepares the request and serves the defendant spouse (i.e., the person who did not file) with the papers.

Cooling Off

No divorce trial can be held for at least six weeks after the defendant receives the divorce papers. During this time, the judge handling the case may order you and your spouse to undergo counseling aimed at resolving the issues that led to the divorce filing. Such court-ordered counseling must be completed before a ruling in a divorce trial will be issued.

Disclosure and Pretrial Orders

Early in the cooling-off period, the defendant spouse must respond in writing to claims made in the divorce papers. This is also the period during which each spouse is required to inform the court of all their financial assets, personal and shared property, and interests in maintaining custody of the children. Consulting with an experienced Ohio divorce attorney can help you avoid problems created by not fully disclosing assets and also enable you to protect assets that are not subject to disclosure and division.

The cooling off period is also a time when the judge can issue pretrial orders regarding protection from harassment and abuse, temporary child custody and visitation, and support for a custodial or low-income spouse who lacks sufficient financial resources to maintain a household on his or her own. Each pretrial order may result from a hearing before the judge.

Negotiations and Mediation

Divorcing spouses can often agree between themselves to settle most, if not all, of the issues raised by ending a marriage. Negotiations and mediation can even constitute the entirety of the post-filing divorce process, resulting in a mutually acceptable agreement that a judge must only approve and witness the signing of.

Our family law attorneys explain mediation here. The judge handling the divorce can order that couples try this when he or she suspects that deciding a matter of custody, visitation, or property division in court will serve neither spouse as well as an agreed conclusion. Importantly, your attorney can advise you before, during, and after each negotiation or mediation session, and those discussions are generally protected by confidentiality rules.

Final Hearing and Issuing of Divorce Decree

Matters that cannot be settled by negotiation or mediation are decided by the judge. The court’s decision can be appealed by either party to a three-judge panel. When a court’s decision is considered final, both spouses must sign the resulting divorce decree to make its provisions fully enforceable.

Are Only Biological Parents Entitled to Child Support?

A biological, or birth, parent, probably has the easiest case to make for retaining child custody and receiving child support payments following a divorce, but that is not the only situation that can occur. First, child support can also be requested following a separation, an https://www.divorceattorneysohio.com/are-only-biologi…to-child-support/out-of-wedlock birth, and an adoption.

Further, the recipient of the payments does not need to be the child’s biological mother or father. Because child support payments are intended to ensure that the child receives adequate housing, food, clothing, health care, and education, the money can be claimed on the child’s behalf by any person who has legal custody of the boy or girl.

This means that a stepparent who becomes the custodial parent after divorcing the biological parent can request child support. So can a grandparent who takes in a grandchild for whom a biological parent has been providing financial support. Many other relationships between an adult who lives with and cares for a child full time could be listed. But, again, the take-home message is that the support is for the child and follows the youngster accordingly.

Formal, legal adoption can strengthen a claim for support, as can working with a case officer from the Office of Child Support in the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. Contacting the ODJFS would also result in receiving referrals to other sources of financial support besides payments from a noncustodial parent.

Does Paternity Matter at All?

Being a biological parent matters more for paying child support more than it does for receiving such payments.

Following principles developed under common law going back thousands of years, both mothers and fathers have enforceable obligations to support all their children until the youngsters reach the age of 18. In modern legal scenarios, this translates into a noncustodial parent who earns more money being ordered to pay child support to a custodial parent who earns less. This happens even if the mother and father were never married and when legal paternity can be proven to the satisfaction of a court. A stepparent and, in Ohio, a grandparent may also be placed under order to financially support a child when specific situations exist.

Consulting with a Columbus, Ohio, child support attorney any time a child’s living situation changes due to divorce, separation, or relocation is a wise decision because any existing court order requiring support payments may need to be modified. Specifics regarding the amount paid, schedule of payments, and recipient named on checks or fund transfers can only be enforced if a judge signs off on the details. Even if a custodial parent and a noncustodial parent agree between themselves to certain conditions regarding child support, those understanding will not hold up in court should one party renege on the arrangement.

To learn answers to all your questions about child support, contact the Columbus, Ohio, family law offices or schedule an appointment online.

What Rights Do I Have as an Ohio Grandparent?

Answering the question posed in the title is complicated, but allow us to start with the best news: Ohio law grants grandparents rights to adopt grandchildren from unsafe or unhealthy home situations and to retain visitation rights following a divorce or marriage dissolution. Where things become difficult, and where an Ohio child custody lawyer  can be of assistance, is that both of those rights exist primarily in relation to the grandparents’ relationship with the grandchild’s birth parent. The best interests of the child are also always taken into consideration, and a grandparent is often asked to speak to that.

For instance, a wife who divorces her child’s father and retains custody can confer child visitation rights to her own parents. Such an arrangement can be agreed to through mediation or ordered by a judge following a divorce hearing. Getting the arrangement in writing is important, though, in order to have a contract that can be enforced in court.

Still, even such a legally certified grandparent visitation arrangement could then be voided if the wife subsequently loses custody to the birth father, gives up the grandchild for adoption to a third party, or gets remarried and the new stepparent successfully contests the earlier visitation arrangement.

In cases where a grandparent, alone or as a member of a married couple, attempts to adopt a grandchild, either of the birth parents can contest the adoption petition. An existing custodial order under which a grandchild lives with a grandchild can also be challenged after months or years by a birth parent.

The reverse, however, is rarely true. If a stepparent or third party files to adopt their grandchild, grandparents have almost no statutory grounds for contesting the petition. A grandparent also has few options other than offering opinions on what is in the child’s best interest when it comes to a divorcing mother or father requesting sole custody.

Our Ohio child custody lawyers have helped many grandparents conclude adoptions and fight for the preservation of visitation arrangements. If you want to give your own grandchild a forever, loving home or just stay involved in their life following the end of a relationship between your own child and someone else, contact us online or call us.

I Want a Divorce but my Spouse is Mentally Ill, How Should I Proceed?

Mental illness recognizably has an impact on a marriage. However, in the State of Ohio insanity, serious mental illness, or drug abuse are not grounds – or reasons – for divorce.  That being said, Ohio is a “no fault” divorce state, and grounds for divorce may be cited as “incompatibility.”

Mental illness will influence issues such as visitation and custody. The court’s primary concern in custody and visitation issues is the best interests of the child or children. Mental health issues will not necessarily disqualify a parent from visitation or even custody. There is, of course, the chance that the parent could receive treatment or the condition may be mitigated by medication.

If the court thinks it is necessary, it can place restrictions to assure the child’s safety. In addition, in extreme situations where a judge would be concerned for a child’s safety with a parent, the judge can order that visitation be supervised. This means that the visit between parent and child would be conducted in someone else’s presence, such as a grandparent or a member of a social services agency. Be aware though, that a court may terminate parental rights all together if it determines that the mental illness is so severe that the parent cannot provide a permanent home for the child, or care for the child. The court will also, in the case of severing parental rights, need to see that the situation will not likely change in a one-year period.

Mental health may also play a role in property distribution and alimony. According to Ohio law, the court must consider a number of factors when determining whether to award support, the amount of support to award, and length of time support will be paid, and one of the factors the court considers in making this determination is the mental health of the spouses.  If the mental illness is so severe as to keep the spouse from being self-supporting, the court may order extra support for that spouse.

It is important to have the best representation possible, with attorneys who are familiar with psychological issues and their impact on the family dynamic.

Central Ohio Divorce Attorney

Do you need an experienced divorce attorney? Whether or not you anticipate any difficulty in your divorce, Edward F. Whipps & Associates is here to help you. If you wish to consider mediation to help resolve your divorce issues, call Edward F. Whipps & Associates to arrange an initial consultation at a mutually convenient time.