We know you have questions. We're here to make a difficult process as easy as possible for you. Here are some of the questions we're commonly asked:
Why a law firm just for women?
We have spent our lives dedicated to helping women. It is our passion. As prosecutors, teachers, and family law attorneys, both of us have come to understand and appreciate the unique challenges faced by women navigating the legal system. Not harder challenges, not bigger challenges – just different challenges that are best overcome when understood and appreciated. These challenges include the need for many women to have not only advocates, but also partners. We both independently saw the need for a law firm specializing in helping women and we started this firm together in order to address this need.
How long will my divorce take?
There are several factors which will determine the length of your divorce process. Some of them are in your control and some of them are not. The length of a divorce is going to depend in part on the schedule of the court, the availability of the lawyers and the complexity of the issues involved. The willingness of the couple to cooperate and negotiate also plays a part in determining the length of a divorce. Many divorce settlements can be reached in a few months if both parties are motivated.
Who are the best candidates for mediation?
Mediation is magical process for helping couples end their marriages. The process will work for those couples that are willing to sit down and sort through all their issues in good faith and in the spirit of cooperation. However, there are instances where one party has so much control over the other, or there are insurmountable differences in educational levels that mediation is difficult. Additionally, mediation is difficult in cases where substantial mental health, domestic violence or addiction issues are present. Mediation is hard work and to be effective, both parties have to totally commit to the process.
Is Ohio a “no fault” divorce state?
No. Technically, Ohio courts require the party asking for a divorce to allege one of 11 grounds (faults) for divorce. Having said this, at least two of the grounds for divorce are considered to be "no-fault" provisions. These are "living separate and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for one year" and "incompatibility, unless denied by either party." In modern divorce practice it is extremely rare that “grounds” for divorce are ever an issue, and if one party wants to end their marriage, they will be able to do so.
How can a person obtain a protection order against an abusive spouse?
Obtaining a Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order is a complex process. You must first complete several forms and documents available through the Domestic Relation Courts. You then must request an emergency hearing and present your completed and notarized documents to the court staff. The Judge or Magistrate will conduct an emergency hearing immediately. If the Judge or Magistrate is convinced that your spouse or significant other has physically hurt you or has tried to physically hurt you, and that you or other household members are in danger, an emergency/temporary Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order will be issued immediately. A full hearing will be scheduled within 7 to 10 business days. At the full hearing (where your spouse or significant other must be notified and given the chance to participate), you will have to again show that your spouse or significant other has hurt you or has tried to hurt you and that you or other household members are in danger. If this is proven to the court’s satisfaction, a non-temporary protection order will be issued. We can and will help you through the process.
I am unhappy with the terms of my divorce decree. Is there anything I can do?
It depends. If the Judge made a decision in your case, you can file an appeal. If you entered voluntarily into an agreement, that document (the separation agreement) will outline the circumstances where you can ask the court to modify your agreement. Most changes to divorce agreements and orders involve children’s issues and/or spousal support. Child support is always modifiable. It is more difficult to change property settlements. In all cases you will likely have to show a substantial change in your circumstances since the original divorce decree was granted. It is best to consult with your attorney to determine if you have an opportunity to amend or revise the terms of your original agreement.
What is the difference between a dissolution and a divorce?
In a dissolution, both parties enter an agreement that they present to a court for approval once all issues have been resolved. The court is not involved except to determine if the final agreement is fair. These agreements must address all issues relevant to the marriage including child custody, visitation, support as well as property division, life insurance beneficiaries, tax consequences, and fees. Once the agreement is filed and the court deems that the terms are fair, the court will hold a final hearing within 30 to 90 days where the dissolution will be granted. This hearing lasts five to ten minutes.
In a divorce, one spouse files a lawsuit against the other to begin the termination of the marriage. A divorce process is not that different from a dissolution process in that usually after the filing of the divorce, the parties and/or their attorneys begin to resolve issue after issue until a complete agreement is reached. The major difference in a divorce is that once the case is filed, the court “supervises” the process to help the negotiations, discovery, and contested issues move forward. Filing for divorce involves the court immediately, which is beneficial when the couple needs court supervision to negotiate fairly. Finally, in a divorce, if you are unable to resolve an issue after significant negotiations, a trial is held. Witnesses are called, evidence is presented and the judge makes a decision about the disputed issues. It is in the parties’ best interest to resolve all their issues without a trial for financial and emotional reasons, but sometimes, a trial is inevitable.
How is custody decided?
If custody of the minor child(ren) cannot be agreed upon by the parties, then the court will be required to determine what is in the best interest of the child(ren). In making this determination, the court will consider all relevant factors. Often, outside experts and guardians will be called upon to make recommendations to the court. The court will apply a list of applicable factors that can be found in the Ohio Revised Code Section 3109.04(F)(1). After evidence is presented, the court will make its determination and issue a custody order. Custody trials are gut wrenching for the parties and experienced legal representation is crucial in protecting and advocating for the best interests of your child(ren).
Am I entitled to spousal support?
Spousal support may be awarded to either party for a variety of reasons. Generally if there are significant differences in income levels between the couple, spousal support is appropriate.
Many factors are considered when determing the amount of spousal support. For example, the length of the marriage, the work history of the couple, the standard of living the couple had during the marriage are all considerations. People can work out this extremely difficult issue with their spouse collaboratively. In Ohio, there are no set guidelines for courts to follow when deciding the amount, duration or modifiability of spousal support. Every case is unique and spousal support awards vary from county to county and judge to judge.
For more information, see Alimony.
Will I be able to stay in my house with my kids?
It depends. In many cases, one spouse wants to keep the house after a divorce and buy out the other spouse's equity or even more commonly, refinance the existing debt. The first question to ask is whether you can you afford the payments after the divorce. If the answer is yes, then you will need to determine if your spouse will agree, and of course, whether it is in the best interest for you (and the children, if relevant) to stay in the marital home.
In many cases, the desire to stay in the home is an emotional response to the tremendous upheaval caused by a divorce. While the emotional issues are important, it is also important to consider the long-term financial costs of keeping a home post-divorce, such as property taxes, maintenance costs, potential dips in the value of the home, and how paying for a home with just one income may impact funds available for retirement and for your family.
For more information, see Property Division
Insurance, pension plans, 401’s, retirement...how will all of these be affected by my divorce?
In many cases, pension, 401(k)s and retirement funds are the biggest assets of the marriage. Generally, the retirement savings (whether pension, 401(k) or IRA) of both spouses earned during the marriage are marital property and are subject to division.
Pensions, 401 (k)s, IRAs, and annuities are extremely complicated to value and distribute fairly. At Newton Law Firm, we have years of experience helping clients sort through these investments so that you know what you have now and what you will have after the divorce. We also, in partnership with you, employ trusted experts to help you make sure you make sound investment decisions with whatever type of pension or investment you have.
As for insurance, there are two types: cash value and term. Which type you have will help determine what you may need in the future. Insurance is almost mandatory when child and spousal support are involved. Disability insurance is also important to consider when significant future payments might be owed you after the divorce.
Can I get sole custody of my children?
First, when addressing the question of custody, and sole custody, it is important to distinguish between legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the “custody” over the major decisions that affect your children such as school, religion, and medical care choices. Physical custody refers to where the child(ren) physically spend their time.
Once people are comfortable with the options open to them in terms of “custody”, parents usually opt to enter a shared parenting plan. In this type of custody arrangement, each parent is in control when his or her children are with him or her and vice versa. Additionally, they agree o both weigh in on issues of medical, religion, insurance, extraordinary expenses and school choices. It is very rare for a parent to get sole legal custody, but there are times that it is in the best interest of the children for one parent to be the parent in control.
If you can’t work out custody issues among yourselves, courts in Ohio use the “best interest of the child” as the standard by which all child custody decisions are made. There are many factors used to determine what is best for your children including the child’s wishes, the child's relationship with the parents, siblings, and extended family members, the mental and physical health of all parties involved, each parent's willingness to encourage the relationship between the child and the other parent, and how close the parents live to each other. It is generally a long and divisive process if you want a court to make custody and parenting time decisions, and usually is in your family’s best interest to attempt to reach a collaborative solution.
For more information, see Child Custody