Practice Areas

Property, Support & Custody

Overview

How is property divided?

Ohio statutes define what constitutes “marital” property and what constitutes “separate” property. Marital property is property acquired during the marriage, which can include real estate, personal property, businesses, bank accounts, and retirement plans, regardless of the name of the spouse on the deed, business entity, title, or account.  Marital property can also include the increase in the value of separate property due to a spouse’s work or contribution of marital money to the increase of a property’s value (for example, the increase in the value of a pension or retirement plan)

Separate property can include monies or items received as an inheritance, property owned before the marriage, a gift during the marriage that is proved to be made only to one spouse, and an award for personal injury (except any part that compensates for lost wages during the marriage).

By applying the rules in the statute, the court determines what is and is not marital property.  Marital property is to be divided equally unless the court explains in writing why an equal division of property would not be fair.

The court also has the authority to make a “distributive award” of the separate property of one spouse to the other spouse. When one spouse has engaged in financial misconduct such as hiding property, wasting money on a non-marital purpose, or disposing of money fraudulently, the court may make an award out of the separate property of the offending spouse or make a greater award of marital property to compensate the other spouse.

What is spousal support?

“Spousal support” is the phrase for what used to be called “alimony.”  It is awarded to help sustain one spouse after a property division has been awarded. Some factors used in determining spousal support are the ages and health of the husband and wife, the length of the marriage, the earning ability of each party, and the standard of living during the marriage. The court may also consider any other factors it finds relevant.  Typically, the longer the marriage, the longer the duration of the spousal support award.  Since each case is unique, it is important to obtain personalized legal advice on the issue of spousal support and obtain a professional opinion as to how the facts of your case could be handled under Ohio law.

What if I or my spouse owns a business?

A business owned by you or your spouse can be considered marital property which is subject to an equitable division by a court.  In instances involving business ownership by a party, we may determine the necessity of engaging the services of a forensic accounting expert to conduct an analysis of the value of the business, as well as the cash flow and income of the business available for support.  We may also retain appraisers, actuaries, and other valuation experts, if necessary, to ascertain the fair market value and characterization of other marital assets.    Our attorneys are experienced in handling divorces and dissolutions involving privately-held businesses and have garnered an outstanding reputation in this area.

What are temporary orders?

The court may issue temporary orders to be in effect while a case is pending and before a final decision is made. The spouse seeking temporary orders files a motion with the court for such things as the use of the marital residence, parental rights, child support, spousal support, and who is responsible to pay marital debts (house or rent payments, car payments, insurance, utilities, etc.). These temporary orders are not necessarily what the court will award as a final order when the case is resolved.

How are parental rights, custody, and responsibilities decided?

Ohio courts ultimately base their parental rights and custody decisions on what is in the best interest of children.  The court prefers shared parenting, as there is no such thing as “joint custody” in Ohio.  If one or both parents submit a shared parenting plan, the court may adopt the plan and grant shared parenting. However, if the court finds the plan is not in the best interest of the children, it can change the plan or deny shared parenting. If no plan is submitted, the court will name one parent as the sole legal custodian of the children.

At one or both of the parents’ request, the court must talk to a child concerning the child’s wishes about the parenting arrangements if the child is of appropriate age. The court is not bound by the child’s wishes and concerns; it is only one factor to be considered.  Alternatively, a Guardian Ad Litem (“GAL”) may be appointed at either party’s request to conduct an investigation and provide an independent report and recommendation to the court as to what is in the child’s best interest.    Much like the child’s preference, the GAL’s recommendation is just one factor taken into account by the court.  Other factors include:

  • The child’s mental, emotional and psychological development;
  • The interaction between the child and other significant persons;
  • The child’s adjustment to the school, community, and home;
  • The ability of a parent to be the legal custodian;
  • Whether child support has been paid;
  • Whether visitation has been allowed or withheld;
  • Whether any abuse has occurred; and
  • If one parent intends to move out of state.

How are visitation rights decided?

In every case involving minor children, the court orders a specific schedule for visitation or parenting time. The primary consideration will be what is in the best interest of the children, however many factors are considered. Each county in Ohio has a standard order of visitation or parenting time. These standard orders can be changed to meet the needs of individual children.    Each case involving visitation is fact-specific.  It is essential that you meet with a family law attorney immediately to address your concerns, protect your rights, and guide you through the complicated process of trying to obtain the level of visitation you want.

How is child support determined?

Ohio law requires that child support must be determined by a procedure outlined in the Ohio Revised Code and a basic support schedule must be used to determine the appropriate amount of child support. This schedule is based on the average cost of raising children in households across a wide range of incomes. Child support is based on the number of children and the combined gross income of the parents.

To calculate the appropriate amount of child support, the court combines the incomes of both parents. The costs of medical insurance and necessary child care are added. This total is divided according to the percentage of each parent’s income into the total combined income. The court can decide, in certain circumstances, to deviate from the basic support schedule when it would be inequitable to apply for the basic support. The court will also issue orders for the medical needs of the children including insurance.  Child support must be paid to the Child Support Enforcement Agency and is usually deducted from the responsible parent’s paycheck by the employer.

Why Choose Dungan & LeFevre?

Issues of property division, support, and custody are frequently complex and fact-specific to your own case.   These issues can not only be overwhelming, but financially stressful and emotionally draining.  We can help ease the process by sharing our knowledge, explaining the process to you, and guiding you through tough decisions.  We work to resolve every case as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible.  During these highly-charged emotional times, it is crucial to have strong, committed, and intelligent legal counsel protecting your legal rights and pursuing your objectives.  Michael JurekJack Hemm, and Michael Rice practice in the field of Domestic Relations and Family Law, and are available to discuss your legal issue with you at your convenience.

Free 30-Minute Initial Consultation

Michael J. Jurek devotes 100% of his practice to Domestic Relations and Family Law, and serves Miami, Montgomery, Shelby, Darke and occasionally neighboring counties.  Mr. Jurek offers a FREE 30-Minute Initial Consultation, which can be scheduled by calling (937) 339-0511.