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.

Difference Between an Annulment and a Divorce in Ohio

A divorce is a court agreement that a marriage is legally over. The court will only enter a judgment of divorce if it finds that certain grounds for divorce exist. “No-fault” grounds for divorce include incompatibility or living separate and apart for a year. “Fault” grounds for divorce include bigamy, adultery, willful absence for one year, gross neglect of duty, etc. Divorce is not the only way to end a marriage in Ohio, however. You can also terminate a marriage through annulment.

Annulment is a court decree that a marriage is legally invalid because of a defect that existed at the time the marriage was entered into. An annulment decree essentially declares that the marital status never existed in the first place. A court can grant a marriage annulment only when certain circumstances exist. The following are the six grounds for annulment in Ohio:

  1. Either you or your spouse were under the age required for marriage at the time that you got married (18 years of age for males and 16 years of age for females).
  2. Either you or your spouse were already legally married and the other spouse is still alive.
  3. The marriage consent of either you or your spouse was obtained by fraud, unless you continued to live with your spouse after learning all the facts. An annulment based on fraud must be filed within two years after discovery of the fraud. For example, consent could be obtained by fraud if a spouse misrepresents his or her gender or identity.
  4. Either you or your spouse had been declared mentally incompetent, unless competency was restored later and you subsequently lived together as husband and wife.
  5. The marriage consent of either you or your spouse was obtained by force, unless you lived together as husband and wife afterward. This type of annulment must be filed within two years of the marriage date.
  6. The marriage was never consummated, or in other words, you and your spouse didn’t have physical relations following the ceremony. This type of annulment must be filed within two years of the date of the marriage.

In order to have a marriage annulled in Ohio, you must prove one of the six grounds of annulment listed above. Most annulments are filed early in a marriage because in many situations, you must bring a request for annulment within two years of the marriage date or within two years of discovering the facts.

You can file a petition for annulment with the court, addressing the grounds for the annulment. The petition must be served on the defendant spouse. Keep in mind that if you file an annulment, spousal support cannot be awarded. The Ohio statute that allows a party to recover attorney fees doesn’t apply to annulments, either. However, in civil annulment cases that involve fraud, the court may award attorney fees.

Hire a Columbus Divorce Lawyer to File a Petition for Annulment in Ohio

Because the grounds for annulment are complicated and the actions that the court must take are not always clear, it is a good idea to hire a Columbus divorce lawyer to represent you. An attorney can help you determine whether you should file for a divorce or an annulment. If there are grounds for both divorce and annulment, consider the amount of property you have and the financial compensation you need. If after assessing the facts of your case, it looks like you are likely to be awarded spousal support or attorney fees, keep in mind that a divorce would give you access to these remedies but an annulment most likely would not. Divorce may also be a better option if you accumulated a significant amount of marital property during your marriage.

If you or a loved one is contemplating a divorce or annulment, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Columbus divorce lawyers. We have over 30 years of experience providing sound and thoughtful counsel in divorce cases. We also have a strong track record of obtaining much-needed financial support and other favorable outcomes for our clients.

Tips for Preparing for a High Net Worth Divorce in Ohio

Divorce is often a delicate and painful issue for all involved. If one or both parties in a divorce have a high net worth, dividing the marital estate can be even more complicated. It’s not uncommon for high net worth individuals to feel overwhelmed during the divorce process because there is so much at stake and emotions are running high.

High net worth divorce cases require more expertise than typical divorce cases because there may be an ownership interest in a business, an extensive investment portfolio, inheritances, or other complications. High net worth divorce attorneys must work closely with accountants, actuaries, business appraisers, and real estate appraisers to assess your case and provide an objective analysis.

Start with a Plan

It’s important to begin a high net worth divorce with a specific plan. First, gather all of the necessary accounting and business records to prepare a balance sheet of assets and debts. Your Columbus divorce attorney may bring in forensic accountants, business appraisers, and other experts to help during the planning stages.

Determine Marital vs. Separate Property

In Ohio, the property that you bring into the marriage is known as separate property. Marital property is property owned by both the husband and wife. Separate property doesn’t become marital property just because you get married. If separate property is not commingled during the marriage, it typically remains separate property.

If either party in a marriage assists in increasing the value of separate property during the marriage, the appreciation in value may be considered marital property. The premarital value of the separate party is not considered marital property, however. A high net worth divorce attorney in Columbus, Ohio can help you trace the life of complex assets throughout your marriage to determine what would be considered marital property and separate property.

Protect Your Business

If one or both parties in a divorce own a business, it’s important to accurately appraise and divide that business. Simply dividing a business in half is not considered equitable under Ohio law. An attorney would take the time to understand your business and then work with experts to accurately value it. The value of a business is tied to cash flow, receivables, and tax liabilities. Getting the help of a divorce attorney is critical to achieving equitable results when appraising and dividing a business.

Determine Spousal Support

Spousal support is a payment from one spouse to the other that is designed to prevent financial hardship following a divorce. It is typically paid on a monthly basis. Determining spousal support can be a particularly challenging issue for high net worth individuals. Each spouse may have the expectation to maintain the same quality of life during the separation and divorce process as in the marriage. The amount of spousal support that you must pay or are qualified to get is decided on a case-by-case basis. Factors that the court considers when awarding spousal support include the age, lifestyle, financial resources, and future earning potential of both parties.

In a high net worth divorce case, choosing the right Columbus high net worth divorce attorney is crucial. You need an attorney with the qualifications, experience, and resources necessary to handle the complexity of such a divorce. We have extensive experience in high net worth divorce cases. Our strong background in psychology and our in-depth understanding of how emotional issues affect divorce cases set us apart.

Should You Hire Your Own Private Ohio Divorce Judge ?

Divorce can be time-consuming and expensive.  With the numerous visits to the court, time away from other commitments, and expense of trial, many are turning toward private judges or arbitrators.  In some instances, it may be favorable to work with a private judge or arbitrator to avoid the public setting of the courthouse and to save time.  An Ohio statute has been on the books for nearly 40 years which allows private judges to handle civil cases like divorce and dissolution.  Work with a Columbus, Ohio divorce lawyer to learn if hiring a private judge is beneficial to your specific situation.

You have the right to utilize a private judge or arbitrator when seeking a divorce.  This is especially beneficial if you and your spouse have very few contested matters and hope to keep the divorce a private matter.  Uncontested divorces are often heard and decided in a fraction of the time that would be needed for a contested divorce in the court system.  As in any arbitration case, the private judge or arbitrator will hear both sides of the civil matter, and present a decision to the parties.  The decision will then be submitted to the court for confirmation.  Again, this process is much faster than seeking divorce through the court system. 

Even in contested matters, agreeing to a private judge will make the divorce process much faster.  A private judge will hear evidence from both parties, and issue a decision in all matters.  A Columbus, Ohio divorce attorney can review your specific situation and advise whether or not a private judge would be best.  While divorce through the court will still provide a satisfactory resolution and is still recommended by some divorce lawyers, Columbus, Ohio courts often set trial dates that could stretch out the length of your divorce proceedings.  Work with a family law attorney who understands the need for a swift resolution with desirable results.

The use of private judges is ever-increasing as couples seek ways to divorce without the mess of working through the court system.  Private judges heard around 20% of all divorces in Franklin County in 2012 alone.  That number is on the rise as more couples take advantage of the many benefits provided by hiring a private arbitrator, such as time-saving arbitration scheduling.  Rather than visit the court for appearances or mediation conferences with the judge at the courthouse, the private judge will meet with the parties at a mutually convenient time and place.

Lastly, if you prefer to preserve your privacy and keep your divorce out of the public eye, hiring a private judge may be in your best interest.  Many uncontested divorces are performed with limited waiting and in the privacy of an office rather than in the public eye.  Keeping assets and other marital disputes out of the courtroom may be beneficial for both business and privacy reasons.  If you feel working with a private judge would best fit your needs, contact a Columbus, Ohio divorce and family law attorney for more information.  Rather than try to find the private judge on your own, work with someone with the requisite experience and contacts to find the right arbitrator for your needs.

Our divorce attorneys understand the steps that must be taken to obtain the services of a private judge and when one should be used.  If you or a member of your family faces significant legal issues and need the experience of a family law attorney, you can arrange an initial consultation.

Relocation and Child Custody in Ohio

Moving for a job can be difficult and often hard on your family.  When you are looking for work during a divorce or immediately after a divorce and need to move away it can be even more of a challenge.  Did you know that if you move during the divorce process a judge might find in favor of your spouse when the question of child custody comes up?  Many courts view moves during divorce proceedings to be against the best interests of the child.  It is up to the parent seeking custody to provide a strong case to the court that the move won’t disrupt the life of the child.   Examine a few of the following factors when you consider relocation if child custody is at stake. 


Will you move to a similar school district so your child can continue to attend a school similar to the one he or she is currently attending?  This factor may seem unimportant to those without children, but those with children understand the importance of a good school district.  If you are just starting your divorce proceedings and moving to a district with poor schools, the judge may see that as move that may harm your child’s education.  If you are moving to an area with poor schools after the divorce decree has been finalized, your spouse may challenge the current child custody arrangement.

When you relocate after a divorce, you must often be aware of not only your child’s needs, but of the visitation agreement set by the court.  If you move away from your former spouse and he or she is no longer able to participate in school activities you may have complications.  When relocation becomes an issue for you or your children, you need an attorney who is experienced in handling such matters.  Work with a family lawyer where Children Matter Most to advocate on your behalf.

Parenting Time Schedule

Setting a parenting schedule is crucial for those who elect to have joint custody of the marital children.  If you move for work, will you still be able to maintain your custody schedule in a way that is both economically feasible and logistically sound?  For example if you move from Dublin, Ohio to Grandview Heights, Ohio your child will still be able to participate in many of the same activities and likely attend the same school.  Moving within the Central Ohio area rarely presents a problem, as it is just a short commute to visit the other parent.  The same cannot be said if the relocation for work takes you out of state, or out of the country.  Work with a Columbus, Ohio child custody attorney to find the best arrangement for you and your family.

Additionally, you need to think about what will happen should your spouse feel you are not allowing him or her enough time with the child per your agreement.  A spouse who feels you are preventing their child from visiting as per your agreement can seek a modification of any child custody arrangement.  If this happens in part because you had to relocate for work or any other reason, reach out to a Columbus, Ohio child custody lawyer.  Attorneys can advocate on your behalf and help guide you through the process of modifying a child custody order.

Custody Arrangements

Divorce is difficult, as you not only must consider your financial future, but the financial future of your children as well.  Have you discussed the custody arrangements with your soon to be former spouse?  Do you know if you will stay in the area after divorce, or will economic factors drive you to find work elsewhere? All are important factors to consider during the divorce proceedings.  This is why having a child custody attorney is so crucial.  Not only will he or she act as an advocate on your behalf, but also provide useful and insightful knowledge about future needs you many not foresee.

The time to think about possible relocation isn’t just during your divorce proceedings; you need to consider that possibility after the divorce decree has been signed.  If you do not decide on a joint parenting arrangement and have sole custody of your child, you can still expect a fight from your former spouse.  Even with visitation only available for a few times a year, you must consider as the court would whether or not the move will be in the best interests of the child.  Columbus, Ohio child custody attorneys recommend consulting with someone who has experience dealing with child custody matters before planning a to move a child out of state away your spouse.

If you have already relocated and are facing challenges from your former spouse, a child custody attorney can help.  An attorney can help you communicate with your former spouse, and even advocate for your rights if you must modify any parenting orders.  Find an attorney well versed in the modification of child support orders and one who understands the needs of a child during a divorce.

Our child support attorneys  have over 30 years of experience and know the ins-and-outs of child support. If you are considering pursuing a modification of child support, you can trust our Columbus, Ohio child support attorneys to provide you with sound and well-reasoned advice to help meet your needs and those of your children.

Dividing Property and Debt in an Ohio Divorce

Property division could turn an otherwise amicable divorce into a contentious fight for marital assets.  Likewise, the allocation of debt could cause additional stress and could lead to additional strain on the relationship.  During these difficult times, it is important to find the balance when seeking a settlement with your spouse, lest the courts become involved and divide all property and debts.  Amicable division or property and debts is always best, because when the court gets involved everything is generally split 50/50, which may not be fair to each spouse.  Finding the right attorney to help is crucial so you can come to a fair division or property and debt in divorce. 

First, the division of marital property is complex.  Marital property is the property acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage.  This includes but is not limited to: marital home, vacation property purchased with joint funds, and artwork.  During the divorce process, it is important to accurately record the value of the property so each spouse receives a fair portion of the marital property.  You will need to make a note of all property that each person brought with them into the marriage, generally known as individual property.  This can includes cars, artwork, and even small business assets.  Understanding the fine line that separates marital and individual property is very important, which is why hiring a property division lawyer is key.  When you work with a professional to review all financial records and property records, you have a better chance of receiving a fair division of assets.

Not only must there be an accurate accounting of the marital property, but there also must be an accounting of the debt accrued by both spouses.  Debts accrued during the marriage include, but are not limited to: mortgage payments, joint credit card debt, and medical expenses.  Courts have the authority to divide the debts of a marriage as they would property of a marriage.  As such, knowing the true nature and value of the debt is important.  The court will examine these debts and divide the debt equitably, as they see fit.  If you and your spouse are considering divorce and hope to come to your own settlement terms, it is important to first have an attorney review your debts as well as your property so there is a fair division.  By keeping the matter out of court and settling the matter with the help of attorneys, you can divide the property in a way that may be more beneficial to you.

One of the most common financial questions that divorcing spouses ask about property and debt division is closely tied to keeping the marital property after divorce.  So what happens if you keep the house, and you still owe the bank money?   If there are mortgage payments that are still to be made on the property, the spouse who retains the home is responsible for the debt associated with the property.  In most cases, the spouse remaining in the marital home will “buy out” the departing spouse and will then be responsible for all debts and tax benefits that follow the property.  Additionally, when spouses have car loans or other vehicle loans the debt follows the property and the spouse who retains the property pays the debt.

Medical debt is considered a marital asset, so any medical expenses accrued before the date of the separation are considered divisible debt in the divorce.  In many states medical debt is split 50/50 between both spouses, unless only one spouse is employed.  If both spouses are working courts will generally divide the debt equitably. Even if your significant other promises to pay the medical debt before you sign a divorce decree, you will need to get the statement in writing.  Any promise to pay debts will not be enforceable without the correct wording on the divorce decree.  Division of marital debt can be difficult, so finding the right property division lawyer in Columbus, Ohio can help review your specific situation and advise the best course of action.

Not all debt is created equal, so not all debt is split as medical expenses or joint credit card bills.  Unlike the debt incurred to further the marriage, certain debts which one spouse incurs with know knowledge of the other spouse is not considered marital debt.  Examples of such debt include: huge credit cards bills in one spouse’s name, gambling debt, or debt incurred purchasing an additional home for a friend or lover.  If brought before the court, the spouse who racked up the debt without the consent of his or her significant other will be forced to pay for the debt.  Finding the right attorney is crucial, as a trained property division lawyer can advocate for your rights and make sure the only debts divided in the divorce are marital debts.

If you are considering divorce, it is important to think about the financial ramifications of dividing property and debt.  As a property division lawyer, we can advise you on the best course of action and the most beneficial division of assets for your future needs. Work with a team of experts to research and properly analyze marital property and debt to discover the right settlement solution for you.  Every situation is different, which is why hiring a professional with years of experience to help you transition to the next chapter in your life is so crucial.  Contact the property division attorneys for a free consultation.  To arrange a mutually convenient time for your initial consultation, contact us by phone email email.

Documents to Keep after Your Divorce

Divorce is a difficult process, and the last thing many want to consider is what legal documents or other documents to keep after the divorce.  Although many are tempted to discard all traces of their marital records, it is important to retain many of those documents.  Rather than trash the paper trail that you have built up to this point of your life, save the documents and find a system to help make them easily available when necessary.  While attorneys advise against destroying any important documentation, the following are crucial documents that you should preserve after your divorce. 

  1. Last Will and Testament

An updated last will and testament should be executed after the divorce decree, however if you have not had the chance to complete the process, retain your current will.  As mentioned in previous blog posts, it is important to have an up-to-date will and to update the document any time there is a major life change.  This is especially important should you have sole custody of your children.  Your last will and testament is the document that is an instruction manual once you are gone.   This is the place to address issues like guardianship of minor children, property division, and donations you wish to have made in your name.  A divorce counts as a major life change that triggers will revision. A Dublin, Ohio divorce attorney can help you understand the challenges you would face without an updated will.

  1. Life Insurance Paperwork

As mentioned above, divorce signals a time to change many important documents.  This includes your insurance policy.  If you or your spouse has a life insurance policy listing each other as the beneficiary, it is time to contact the insurance company and make a change.  Unlike your will, the insurance company won’t look to see if there has been a divorce decree.  The company will pay out on the policy as directed in the documentation.  Be sure to retain a copy of the life insurance policy if you are listed as your ex-spouse’s beneficiary, as you are entitled to the benefits as long as you are listed as the beneficiary.  If time comes to collect on the policy, and your former spouse has not yet changed the beneficiary, you are entitled to the policy proceeds.

On the other hand, be sure to change the beneficiary of your life insurance policy to reflect your new marital status.  Should you fail to do so, your ex-spouse will collect on the event of your death.  A divorce attorney in Dublin, Ohio can help walk you through all the documents that will need revision after the divorce.  It’s important to have a trusted advocate on your side to advise you during these challenging times.

  1. Copies of Checks, Money Orders, or Other Payment Documentation

Retain copies or receipts of payments if you are receiving child support or spousal support from your ex-spouse.  Attorneys suggest you receive the payments in check form to allow for a paper trail of the payments.  However, if your ex-spouse insists on paying in cash, you should make a record of the payment by providing him or her with a receipt.   Log all these payments using either a notepad, or track the money using spreadsheet program.  If payments are decreasing, increasing, or are just infrequent, it is important to have the evidence to back that up.  Should you find yourself in trouble financially due to unpaid child support, you should contact a Dublin, Ohio divorce attorney to help you get the support you deserve.

  1. Marriage License

Your marriage license is still an important legal document, even after the court issues a divorce decree.  As tempting as it may be to destroy the document once your divorce is finalized, you will need it to seek certain benefits.  If you and your ex-spouse were married for more than 10 years, then you are entitled to your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits.  To collect the benefits, you will need to contact the Social Security Administration and provide information about the length of your marriage and your divorce decree, all with the requisite documents.  Working with a divorce attorney can help save you the hassle of remembering the specifics.  Your attorney will remind you what documents need to be retained and how to best store the original documents.

  1. Settlement Agreement, Child Support Order, and Divorce Decree

Keeping a copy of the settlement agreement, child support order, and divorce degree is crucial.  This is true especially if you have to seek court support to enforce any part of the final divorce decree or child support order.  Much like retaining financial records of payments from your former spouse, the original documents will help substantiate any claim for breach of agreement between you and your ex.  When you hire an advocate to represent you during the divorce process, your divorce attorney will remind you which documents should be kept safe for future use.

In addition to the aforementioned documents, you should always keep a copy of any court documents after the divorce.  Again as tempting as it may be to celebrate the conclusion of the divorce proceedings with a ceremonial burning of the documents, attorneys recommend you retain all court documents.  Speak with your divorce attorney about which documents he or she will keep on file, and which you are expected to keep in your own records.

Finally, when the divorce has been finalized, it may come time to move. Make sure you know where these documents are at all times during a move.  Treat the documents as you would your wallet.  If you find yourself moving from location to location without a stable or secure place to store your legal documents, consider a safety deposit box at a local bank.  The cost will be offset by the peace of mind you have knowing the legal documents are safe.  It is often best to find the right firm to represent you as your divorce attorney. Dublin, Ohio attorneys Edward F. Whipps & Associates can help guide you through this uncertain time.

Finding the right advocate is important, that is why it is best to find a divorce attorney close to home.  Here at Edward F. Whipps & Associates, we want you to know you don’t have tackle this all on your own.  Although divorce can be daunting hiring the right attorneys can reduce the stress of navigating through the process.  With over 30 years of experience and a unique understanding of psychology and it’s role in the process, the attorneys at Edward F. Whipps & Associates are well equipped to maximize your results with the most efficient and respectful legal approaches.

Why Should You Think Twice about Divorce without a Lawyer?

Divorce is something that one should not face alone, especially due to the sensitive emotional nature of the process.  Often couples assume they can file for divorce without the aide of an attorney.  Those who try often face challenges they could not have foreseen including: uncertainty of the future, negotiation challenges, and unfamiliarity with the court system.  Here are a few reasons why you should think twice about divorce without an attorney.

Uncertainty of the Future

The divorce process brings with it uncertainty.  This includes uncertainty about the financial future, what to do with the marital home, and what will happen to the children. Such questions are at the heart of the process that affects so many families.  Attorneys with a focus in divorce and family law can help guide you through these uncertain times.  Attorneys will bring the requisite knowledge and expertise to help you plan for your future, both financially and legally.  Family law attorneys will often help with estate planning and with other things you may overlook when going through a divorce.

Uncertainty can put stress on many people in different ways, and this is especially important when spouses with children divorce.  Children at different ages will respond in different ways to the divorce process.  An attorney can come in and act as an advocate for the rights of the children as well, especially if you fear for the safety of your children.  If you feel your spouse has said or done things that you find may indicate a personality disorder, it is important to work with a firm with a background in psychology to find the necessary resolution.  Finding a law firm where Children Matter Most is important, especially when you feel a child may be at risk because of the behavior of your spouse.

Negotiation Challenges

Many spouses are not aware of their future financial needs and tend to attempt to evenly split the assets 50/50.  With so many marriages ending amicably, negotiations are less confrontational and more cooperative.  Being fully prepared to explain your future needs even in cooperative situations will lead to better relations after the divorce decree has been finalized.  Hiring a Columbus, Ohio divorce attorney can help prepare you for the negotiation and settlement proceedings that follow your initial decision to divorce.  Even with amicable settlements, it is important to have an advocate who can fight for your rights and future interests.

Unfamiliarity with the Court System

Procedural crime dramas only showcase part of the legal system, so as a viewer you are unaware of the multiple hours of research and planning that go into the courtroom scenes.  If you were to prepare for a divorce without the aid of an attorney, you would need to complete all the requisite research that attorneys have spend years completing.

In addition to the research involved in learning the procedures in court, you would need to track your own trial and hearing dates.  For some, attending the various scheduling conferences and appearing for the trial dates equates to time away from work and possible threat of unemployment.  In Columbus, Ohio, divorce attorneys are able to work together with the court and schedule events at times that are mutually convenient.  Attorneys act as advocates and can represent you and your interests at each stage of the divorce.

Lastly, it is important to remember that experienced attorneys will have the resources and knowledge to help prepare your case.  Attending a hearing or other settlement negotiation on your own can be daunting, so it is important to hire a professional to prepare the requisite documentation.  This is especially true if you suspect your spouse may have a personality disorder, and the judge requires evidence of such a disorder.  Many Columbus, Ohio divorce attorneys would not have the background needed to address psychological concerns, which is why hiring the right attorney is so important.

We have a solid understanding of personality disorders and the impact that they make on divorce proceedings and child custody arrangements.  It is important to protect your interests and those of your child if you suspect your spouse has a personality disorder, and if you are faced with the possibility of divorce.  We will advocate for you and your children with the requisite experience and knowledge need to prove to the court the presence of a personality disorder should one exist.

Types of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Divorce Cases

Divorce can be expensive, time consuming, and emotionally draining. Traditionally, divorce disputes played out in the court. However, there are alternatives to traditional litigation that may be more appropriate for your situation. If you are looking or a Columbus, Ohio family lawyer, make sure he or she is knowledgeable about alternative dispute resolution.


Simple negotiation with your spouse and his or her attorney can be the one of the best ways to resolve disputes without having to use the Courts. Sitting down at a table with both lawyers and making decisions about how the divorce will operate can save time and money if the parties can be reasonable.


In mediation, you set down with your spouse and a third party called a mediator. The mediator facilitates communication and discussion between parties to help them reach a voluntary agreement about their dispute. Mediators are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice. Mediators are also not able to make decisions for the parties.

Mediation allows the parties to retain control over decision- making and consider each party’s needs and interests, and to create a plan that best fits their unique situation. Because mediation does not focus on evidence and the law as in an adversarial process, the potential for long-term conflict between the parties may be reduced. Mediation in Franklin County, when children are involved, is free.

One disadvantage to mediation is that you cannot take your lawyer into mediation. Mediators also cannot individually counsel either party. The mediator is, for example, limited in getting necessary information if one party is reluctant to provide it.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce, also called collaborative dissolution, is a “team” process in which the parties engage attorneys and other professionals to assist in the negotiation and settlement of their dispute. Collaborative law uses an “interdisciplinary model,” meaning that third-party “neutrals” (such as CPAs, valuation experts, child psychologists and mental health professionals) are engaged to assist the team. The goal is not to just get signatures on the dotted line, but also to address underlying issues in reaching a lasting agreement.

One advantage of a collaborative divorce is that it focuses negotiations on helping parties to communicate effectively over the long term. This generally minimizes the negative impact upon children. It is also less expensive, both financially and emotionally, than litigation. All information is shared and all negotiations take place in face-to-face “four-way” meetings. Generally, these meetings foster trust because the other spouse’s attorney does not function as an adversary. Each of the lawyers is retained for the limited purpose of helping the clients reach an acceptable settlement without litigation or threats of litigation. This allows the lawyers to focus on creative solutions rather than on preparation for trial.

One disadvantage is that, if the collaborative process fails, neither lawyer who was engaged in the process can continue to represent the client. Therefore, each client must retain new counsel for litigation. At any time during collaborative negotiations, each side has the unilateral right to terminate the process and force the other party into litigation.

Neutral Evaluation

Neutral evaluation involves bringing in an experienced third party with experience in family law. The third party evaluates each side of the case and articulates an opinion regarding the case. Both parties present information and the neutral offers each party a confidential opinion regarding the likely outcome of the case and an analysis of strengths and weaknesses of each side’s arguments. Through neutral evaluation, both parties get a realistic view of the case and to encourage settlement.

The neutral party acts as an educator, consultant and evaluator. This can encourage the parties to explore a broad range of creative options and solutions. Neutral evaluation provides a map of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case. The neutral evaluator does not provide any individual, personal or legal advice. Also, the neutral does not draft documents for either party. At the end of this process, the parties are referred to other lawyers for personal advice and drafting of documents.

In cases where parties are in high conflict or where there are personality disorders or drug or alcohol addiction issues, this option may not be appropriate or effective. Since the parties’ lawyers generally do not participate directly in the negotiations, any agreement that was reached may be scuttled once each party receives her or his lawyer’s critique.

Although divorce can sometimes be a time consuming and expensive process, it is often possible to work out mutually amicable solutions without such extensive litigation.