Family Law

What is Family Law?

The phrase “Family Law” includes a wide variety of cases. Dissolutions and divorces are the two most popular, however Family Law also includes any post-divorce or post-dissolution action such as contempt citations and custody modifications. Family law also includes areas of law such as adoptions and parentage actions – where the paternity (father) of a child is determined and then the rights and responsibilities of the unmarried mother and father are set forth.

What is the difference between a Divorce and a Dissolution.

A divorce and dissolution look very similar in the end – there will be a court order detailing which spouse receives specific assets and debts, and if children are involved, the court order will detail all aspects of custody. It is the beginning and middle of both processes that can be significantly different:

In a Divorce, one spouse files a Complaint (and accompanying documents) to get the case started. There is typically no agreement yet, and instead the filing party is simply asking the Court to start the process. Often there are several hearings and pretrials, during which temporary orders may be established and the attorneys may attempt to negotiate a settlement. Attorneys will generally file documents called discovery to learn about various aspects of the case. While most divorces end in the parties reaching an agreement, the ability to argue in the form of a trial is also available if settlement attempts are unsuccessful.

In a Dissolution, both spouses file a joint Petition (and accompanying documents) with the Court to terminate the marriage. The parties have also already reached an agreement with respect to all aspects of assets, debts, and if applicable, the children. These agreements are generally filed with the Petition. The Court sets a court date, and if all is in order at this hearing, the Petition is granted, the agreement(s) are adopted and ratified by the Court, and the marriage is dissolved on those terms.

What is the cost of a divorce or dissolution?

There are generally two types of fees you have to consider whenever you are going through a divorce or dissolution. The first is attorney fees. Many law firms take a retainer – which is simply an initial deposit of money that the attorney works from. The attorney then earns a specified amount per hour, often broken down into smaller increments, and pays him/herself from the retainer. If during the course of the case or at the end the total attorney fees exceed the retainer, an invoice is sent to the client for payment of the overage. If the total fees are less than the retainer, the remaining amount is refunded to the Client. The next fee to consider is court costs. Often the initial court costs are paid only by the spouse who initially files for a divorce, or by either/both spouse(s) in the event a Petition for Dissolution is filed. However, as the case progresses, other court costs may be incurred: fees for appointment of a guardian ad litem (see question below), mediation, and other expenses may arise.
The cost for a divorce or dissolution can vary greatly, and are often unpredictable at the onset. Generally speaking, dissolutions are more efficient (with respect to time and money) than are divorces. Putman Law Offices welcome any comments or questions you may have regarding the cost of a divorce and/or dissolution: (419) 238-2200.

How long does it take to get a divorce?

Ohio’s Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 75(K) to be exact) state that no divorce action may be heard and decided until at least 42 days have passed since the non-filing spouse is served with a Complaint for Divorce. If that non-filing spouse files his/her own counterclaim, then a final hearing and decision cannot take place for at least 28 days after the counterclaim is served upon the initial spouse.

What is a Guardian ad litem?

A guardian ad litem is simply a court-appointed individual (often another attorney) who qualifies as a guardian ad litem based upon specific requirements for certification he/she must maintain. Often the Court will require a deposit from one or both parties when a guardian ad litem is requested. A guardian ad litem can help the Court in determining an allocation of parental rights and responsibilities with respect to children whose parents are going through a divorce, parentage action, or efforts at modifying custody.

The guardian ad litem is charged with conducting a thorough investigation – normally to include seeing each parent interact with the child(ren); viewing the potential living environments for the child(ren); talking with relevant individuals such as each parent, teacher(s), family member(s), friend(s), and medical professional(s), to name a few; reviewing court filings and other relevant documents; and investigating other aspects of the case. Once the guardian ad litem completes his/her study, the guardian ad litem then writes a report to the court detailing his/her findings and making a recommendation as to what serves the child(ren)’s best interests.

What about other areas of Family Law or other questions I have about divorces or dissolutions?

At Putman Law Offices, we realize that one of the more frustrating and intimidating aspects for Clients is simply the unknown. While some of the more common questions may be addressed in the previous answers, there are undoubtedly several more questions and concerns you may have. Please do not hesitate to contact Putman Law Offices at (419) 238-2200 so that we can discuss your situation and help walk you through what your case entails.

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