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Frequently Asked Questions About Marriage Termination

I have compiled a list of family law questions below that I hear frequently. Please contact me for further information and also to discuss your individual case.

What Does Ohio Law Provide For Dividing Assets And Debts?

Who keeps the house? Who gets the retirement accounts? Who pays the outstanding credit card and medical debt? Your marital assets and debts are subject to a fair and equitable division upon divorce. State law allows marital property to be divided "equitably," or equally between parties, unless it would be unfair.

Marital property is any property obtained by either spouse during marriage, including property obtained during the divorce process itself until the final divorce hearing. Separate property is anything owned by one spouse prior to the marriage. It remains separate when the marriage ends. Inheritances received during the marriage or assets acquired prior to the marriage are typical examples of separate property.

If a couple cannot agree how their assets and debts will be divided, the court will make the decision to divide marital assets and liabilities between spouses. A judge will consider each person's circumstances prior to making its decision about property division based on information such as:

  • How long the parties were married
  • Each party's debts and assets and the impact of taxes
  • Whether the house should be kept or sold
  • The cost of selling the home and the real estate market trends
  • Retirement benefits
  • Other factors the parties or the court find relevant

What Does The Law Say About Parenting Issues?

Both parents have a duty to provide support for their child until the child is 18 years old or graduates high school. Parents are required to nurture, provide food, clothing, shelter, pay for health care expenses, child care, educational and other expenses for their children. Depending on the custody status, the court orders child support to cover some or all of these costs.

Ohio family courts use the term "the parental rights and responsibilities for the care of the minor children of the marriage" when referring to a child custody determination. Child custody cases can be settled in various ways. Parties can come to an agreement through a variety of processes, such as early neutral evaluation, mediation, collaborative law or lawyer to lawyer negotiation. The court looks to the best interests of the child when establishing parental rights and responsibilities of the child. The court considers many factors, including:

  • Maintaining stability for the child in their home, education and community
  • The physical and mental health needs of the child and parent
  • The child's parental relationship
  • The child's expressed wishes (depending on the child's age)
  • The parents' wishes

In a child custody battle, it is best to maintain an uncontentious relationship with your former spouse as much as possible for the well-being of your child. In some cases, having the courts decide is the best option, but this process can take longer and is often far more expensive.

How Does Child Support Work?

A child's residential parent or guardian can seek an order for payment of child support and health care for the child. An application can be submitted directly to the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) or by contacting an experienced child support lawyer.

The Ohio child support guidelines are used to determine the amount of support a parent is required to pay. Child support is based on the number of children in question, both parents' verified incomes, who the child lives with, and the cost of health insurance to cover the child and work-related child care costs. Standard child support figures may fluctuate on a case-by-case basis. When dealing with child support, courts attempt to preserve the best interests of the children and have set a standard guideline all parents must follow.

If you are seeking child support or paying child support, it is important to work with an attorney who is knowledgeable about Ohio child support laws and understands how and when deviations from the standard formula for child support apply. Deviations may include:

  • Special needs of the child, such as a disability
  • Pre-existing child support obligations from another relationship
  • Travel expenses for visitation
  • The standard of living of the child and parents

How Does Alimony, Or Spousal Support, Work?

Ohio uses the term "spousal support" instead of "alimony"; however, the meanings are the same. A spouse whose income is less than the other spouse's income may request that the court award spousal support on a temporary and/or permanent basis upon termination of their marriage. Ohio does not have specific spousal support guidelines, so courts consider several elements to determine the amount and length of a support award, including:

  • The couple's standard of living prior to divorce
  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse's current income, education and earning capabilities
  • The time and expense for the party seeking support to acquire the necessary education or training to increase their earning ability

Call Me To Learn More In A Consultation

While the law provides straightforward rules that may seem simple enough, end-of-marriage emotions can get caught between the law and simplicity. I am Bobbie O'Keefe, and I can help you make informed decisions so you can move forward confidently with your divorce and family law matters. Please email me or call my office in Columbus at 614-633-4777 to schedule a consultation at O'Keefe Family Law LLC. I serve communities in Madison County, Fairfield County and Delaware County.