How to Recognize Adoption Fraud

Adopting a child is a stressful, time consuming, and ultimately rewarding experience that provides a child with an opportunity to live in a stable and loving environment. Though the legal and emotional aspects of adoption are often discussed, few talk about the criminal dangers that can be associated with adoption. One of the most heartbreaking things that adults wanting to become parents can experience is adoption fraud. As adoption becomes more difficult throughout the United States, an environment that breeds fraudulent activity grows, placing adults and children in danger. Knowing how to recognize adoption fraud can protect you or your loved ones from being hurt emotionally, physically, and financially.


No matter how reliable the agency is or how well-meaning a birth family seems, it is impossible for them to make certain guarantees. Time frames for adoptions can fluctuate based on court calendars, personal or professional emergencies, and other outside forces. If an agency or individual promises you that your adoption will be completed within an exact period of time, it is a good idea to be wary. Also, if any of your concerns regarding the health of the baby or compliance of both parents are met with absolute assurances, that could be a red flag. It is always possible that one parent could change his or her mind or that medical complications could occur, and most reputable agencies will advise you of that fact to prepare you for that possibility even if the chances are slight.

Multiple Financial Emergencies

A family with known financial issues or a person who is pregnant while homeless may legitimately need financial assistance. That is something most adoptive parents expect and are prepared to assist with. However, if a person who has not mentioned financial issues prior to the initiation of the adoption suddenly begins having nonstop financial emergencies, that could be a warning sign of things to come. A person who is constantly contacting you to request money for food, rent, medical expenses that are not documented, and other needs may only be focused on getting money during the pregnancy with no intention of completing the adoption. Anyone who needs financial assistance will not hesitate to provide you with information necessary to verify his or her story and instead of receiving funds outside of those already agreed upon will accept assistance in the form of direct payments to creditors, food deliveries, and more.

Limited Communication

A woman or family willing to place their child with you usually want to communicate on a regular basis to discuss your concerns, verify aspects of the arrangement, and confirm that you are the right choice for their biological child. If the person you are adopting from does not seem willing to talk to you at all, that is a major warning sign. Even if they are uncomfortable talking to you on the phone, emails, text message, and even social media messages are all viable forms of communication. Either you or representatives from the agency you are using should always be able to get in touch with the birth mother.

Getting Legal Advice

If you are afraid of being taken advantage of during the adoption process, the best way to protect yourself is by securing the assistance of an adoption attorney. The team at Lawrence Law Office is available to guide you through the adoption process while protecting your legal interests.  Contact us today and schedule an appointment so that we can begin discussing your needs.

Is Your Child Sabotaging Your Divorce Negotiations?

The mental health of children is one of the primary concerns of parents going through a divorce. Communicating with your children and helping them cope with a stressful process is important, but it is possible that your children may begin interfering with your divorce. Movies like The Parent Trap make children reuniting divorced parents seem fun when in reality, children working against your divorce often creates more heartache than it solves. During your divorce, recognizing the signs of interference from your children can help you determine whether or not your children are sabotaging your divorce negotiations.

Are They Spying for Your Spouse?

Even though keeping children out of the middle of your relationship is one of the first rules of divorce, it is possible that your spouse will ignore that courtesy for expediency. Obtaining information about you and your personal or legal plans can help your spouse get the divorce settlement that he or she desires. If your child is eager to please the other parent, desperate to do what he or she thinks will stop the divorce, or angry and looking for ways to lash out at you, then he or she may tell the other parent everything you are doing.

Are They Trying to Make You Do Things Out of Guilt?

Children of any age who are angry about a divorce may start using their parents’ concern or guilt against them. Children may start out by using guilt to stay up later, watch movies they previously were not allowed to see, or get food and toys they otherwise might be denied. As time goes by, the requests may become more unreasonable and if humored, it is possible that your children may begin demanding that you reconcile with your spouse. Not only does using guilt against you cause problems during a divorce, after the divorce is finalized, the pattern of making guilt-based demands can negatively impact your future relationships and the health of your parent-child dynamic.

Are They Actively Seeking Ways to Stop Your Divorce?

Older children and adult children may start trying to find ways to stop your divorce in its tracks, often failing to understand how delays can affect you emotionally or financially. While it is normal for your children to give their opinions on your divorce and talk to you or spouse about their feelings, trying to stop your divorce crosses many boundaries. In an effort to stop or delay your divorce, your children may try to contact your attorney, the judge hearing the case, or appeal to a therapist or counselor. Some children may even appeal to friends and relatives for help using social media, further complicating your divorce.

Discuss Your Concerns

Parents who are going through a divorce are often unsure about discussing their concerns with individuals outside of the marriage or relationship. That is understandable, but it is important to remember that the relationship between a divorce attorney and client is unique. Discussing your concerns with your attorney can help you determine possible solutions and keep your attorney aware of any developments that could impact his or her ability to represent you. The attorneys at Lawrence Law Office realize how hard a divorce is for you and your children. We are ready to talk about your concerns and help you decide how to proceed. Contact our conveniently located Columbus, Ohio office today and schedule a consultation.

Advice for Filing Taxes in the Middle of a Divorce

Couples getting a divorce are often so fixated on custody agreements, dividing assets, and obtaining a fair settlement that they often forget about other obligations. Filing taxes is one obligation that no adult looks forward to, but it is necessary if you have worked during the year. A couple that is in the middle of a divorce may not know the best way to file taxes, but it is important to be aware of what tax status to use, what deductions can be claimed, and the best way to handle filing taxes in the middle of a divorce.

Use a Tax Professional

Most married couples file jointly in order to take advantage of all tax credits that are available to them. Though it might be uncomfortable, you and your spouse can still file a joint tax return during a divorce. If you and your spouse are unwilling to sit down together to complete taxes on your own, consider using a tax professional. An accountant or other tax professional may be able to prepare your taxes without you and your spouse needing to meet. If you and your spouse are eligible for any refunds, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can deposit the amount into two different accounts allowing you to divide the amount evenly with limited interaction.

File Separately

During a contentious divorce, some couples do not want to share financial information, meaning filing jointly in any form is impossible. The alternative is for each spouse to file taxes separately. If you are still legally married, the status ‘married filing separately’ can be used to file your taxes without having to work with or otherwise interact with your spouse. When filing separately, be prepared to lose tax credits such as earned income credits, child credits, adoption credits, and education benefits.  Also, if your spouse uses itemized deductions you may not be able to claim the standard deduction.

File Early if You are a Head of Household

If you are still legally married with minor children and your spouse did not live in your household for six months or longer, then consider filing as Head of Household. Remember, the status can only be used if your child lived with you and you paid over half the costs of maintaining your household. The child you claim must be either a minor or a full-time student under the age of 24 and you must meet the custodial parent status according to IRS guidelines.  When taking advantage of this status it is a good idea of file your taxes early especially if you have reason to believe your spouse may attempt to claim your children even though they are not the custodial parent.

Talk to Your Attorney

No person going through a stressful divorce wants to run the risk of having a tax problem caused by incorrect filing during an ongoing divorce. Prior to filing taxes, discuss your concerns with your divorce attorney and get advice regarding tax issues that occur during divorce cases. The attorneys at Lawrence Law Office understand the importance of maintaining proper records and filing taxes correctly annually even when a divorce is in progress. Contact our Columbus office today to schedule a consultation so that we can give you the legal advice you deserve.

Getting Through Divorce Negotiations Without a Fight

In spite of promises to work together and place your own needs aside for the sake of your children, it is not unusual for an uncontested divorce to quickly become contested and downright hostile. Once a couple finds themselves unable to agree on one or more major issues, they must begin negotiating with the help of their attorneys, mediators, and in some cases the judge. Since a family court judge is not always willing to listen to what each side feels is important, letting a dispute go on for too long can lead to the judge making a decision with which no one is happy.  Working together towards a compromise is the only way to keep your divorce in your hands and that means you must be able to get through divorce negotiations without fighting.

Focus on Future and Not the Past

When one or both spouses are unable to let go of the past it is almost impossible to move forward productively during a divorce.  Anger, hurt, and pain are all natural parts of a divorce but an inability to look towards the future can prolong things indefinitely. Beyond discussing parts of your marriage with your attorney in order to create a fair settlement offer it is best to keep your mind on the present and the future.  Focus on what you hope to accomplish during your meeting with your spouse or what goals you have set for yourself and children after the divorce is finalized.

No Yelling or Degrading

Insulting or yelling at your spouse may make you feel better temporarily, but it accomplishes nothing. Speaking loudly does not help you get your point across, and while foul language or insults may cause your spouse pain, neither of you will leave the meeting closer to an actual resolution. Instead of giving in to the urge to let out your pent-up frustrations, focus on the issues that need to be addressed in order to get the divorce settlement you want. If you get to a point where you are too upset to say anything positive or helpful, ask for a quick break so that you can leave the room and calm down in private.

Listen and Acknowledge

Do your best to listen to what your spouse is saying and acknowledge any questions asked of you. Interrupting or ignoring yoru spouse needlessly drags the discussion out by placing him or her in a position to feel like he or she is not being heard. Letting your spouse speak, no matter how much you disagree with what he or she is saying, increases the likelihood of being able to speak uninterrupted when it is your turn to talk. Communication during a divorce requires both partners to listen to each other and respond only when necessary.

Get Legal Advice

Even if you and your spouse are able to master the art of communicating without fighting, proper legal advice is still necessary. A skilled family law attorney is able to help you prepare a settlement that answers questions regarding child custody, spousal or child support, asset distribution, and more. The attorneys at Lawrence Law Office are here to provide you with the advice and support you need at our conveniently located Columbus, Ohio office. Contact us today at 614-228-3664 to schedule a consultation.

Three Ways to Ruin Your Divorce Settlement

In most contested divorce scenarios, each partner feels that he or she is in the right and that any settlement agreement should favor him or her. A family law judge will focus on hearing relevant information and making a fair judgment according to the facts of the case. Unfortunately, some divorcing adults take matters into their own hands hoping to find a way to guarantee that the judge favors them. When you or someone you know attempts to find a way to tip the scales in your favor, it is possible that you will instead find a way to completely ruin your divorce settlement.

Spying on Your Spouse

Television shows and movies often feature one spouse using technology to spy on a partner in order to obtain information to use against him or her in a divorce. Adults going through a divorce sometimes try to emulate what they have seen by spying on their spouse using computer programs, apps, or even professionals. The problem with spying on a spouse is that it can have legal consequences if not done correctly. Instead of obtaining irrefutable proof that your spouse is involved in wrong-doing, you could place yourself in the legal hot seat.

Hiding Assets

During the divorce process, both partners work with the attorneys and the judge to determine a divorce settlement that fairly divides assets. Some people do not have a clear idea of their personal property vs. marital property, leading them to attempt hiding assets that they do not feel should be shared. Attempting to hide money, property, or even lie about your income can all lead to extremely serious consequences. Not only will you have to share your assets with your spouse, the judge may penalize you by awarding your spouse a larger share. Also, hiding assets ruins your credibility, making it difficult for you or your attorney to convince the judge of anything in the future.

Oversharing on Social Media

The growth of the internet in general and social media specifically have changed the way information is gathered during divorces. Many attorneys have admitted to using social media to find out information about their clients’ spouses spending habits or parenting that was later used in court. A man or woman going through a divorce may feel tempted to use social media as a way to prove that life is continuing without issue by sharing pictures of outings, activities, or even using social media to insult his or her estranged spouse. All of these actions could lead to your social media activity being presented as evidence against you during your divorce hearings.  A woman who is claiming in court that her ex is leaving his children destitute may find herself  in an embarrassing bind if her ex’s lawyer presents pictures of her recent international vacation that was shared on social media.

Get Legal Help

Once you have decided to get a divorce, getting legal help immediately is the best way to protect your case. A divorce attorney can prevent you from making any serious blunders that could impact your ability to obtain a fair divorce settlement. The attorneys at Lawrence Law Office understand the difficulties of going through a contested divorce and we are here to give you the legal representation and advice you need to obtain the settlement you desire. Contact our conveniently located Columbus office today and schedule a consultation.

Tips for Surviving a Military Divorce

Getting a divorce is never simple, but when one partner is in the military, the situation can get complicated quickly. Over the years, the federal government has implemented several measures designed to protect service members and longtime spouses. These additional protections can increase the amount of time needed to finalize the divorce, creating additional stress for both parties. Staying informed and being proactive throughout the divorce can make the process easier to handle, but even the most prepared adult can find him or herself overwhelmed. Fortunately, surviving a military divorce is possible if you keep a few tips in mind.

Take Advantage of Residency Exceptions

The first step in most divorce filings is proving that you or your spouse are a resident of the state in which you are filing. A person who is in the military or married to a service member may end up in a situation in which he or she is not yet a legal resident of the state they are living in at the time divorce becomes a necessity. This prompts many to initiate a divorce in what they believe to be their state of residency, leading to additional travel expenses and the added burden of worrying about being able to attend last minute court hearings. Taking advantage of state laws that allow a military member or their spouse to file for divorce in the state in which they are stationed, even if traditional residency requirements are not met, can simplify your divorce while saving both parties money.

Utilize the Civil Relief Act

Military divorce rates have slowly started to decline, but the chances of a divorce being initiated during a deployment remain high. The marriage challenges associated with deployment include long-term separation, anxiety, depression, and resentment all combining to increase the likelihood of one or both parties wanting a divorce. A spouse who has remained behind may attempt to file for a divorce while the service member is still deployed, hoping to get a favorable settlement without engaging in a long battle with his or her spouse. If your spouse suddenly files for divorce while you are on deployment, utilizing the Service Members Civil Relief Act allows you to postpone all court proceedings until you are able to attend. The act protects you from having an unfavorable judgement entered against you if you are unable to attend court because of duty.

Remember Moving Expenses

A person who is focused on having his or her marriage legally dissolved often forgets to plan for the future immediately following a successful divorce. One thing you do not want to overlook is having your moving expenses covered by the military or included in your divorce negotiations.  If you or your spouse is stationed in Hawaii and plan to return to Ohio after the divorce is finalized, the last thing you want to worry about is financing your move. The military may pay for moving expenses, especially if you are stationed overseas, or the couple can include reasonable moving costs in the divorce settlement.

Contact an Attorney

Even with careful planning and knowledge of tips that can make your divorce more manageable, it is easy to forget major details that can ultimately cost you emotionally or financially. Turning to a military divorce attorney for help is the best way to protect yourself and ensure your divorce is handled properly.  The attorneys at Lawrence Law Office realize how difficult it is to get divorced while you are in the military or married to a service member. Our staff is ready to provide you with the legal advice you need. Contact our conveniently located Columbus, Ohio office today so that we can discuss your case.

Do You Need a Prenuptial Agreement?

The term prenuptial agreement is one that most adults hear in connection with the marriage or divorce of a celebrity or a person with substantial financial resources. While prenuptial agreements were once not something a middle-class couple would consider, the increased number of adults waiting to marry until after they are established financially has changed that.  Couples who are older, have children from a previous relationship, or own a business are now more likely to consider creating a prenuptial agreement prior to getting married. Asking yourself a few key questions can help you determine if you need a prenuptial agreement.

Are You Working Toward Something Profitable?

It is not unusual for a person who has not yet established the success he or she wants to disregard any suggestions regarding obtaining a prenuptial agreement. However, if you have been working towards a business or invention for a long time it is a good idea to protect your future profits.  While you may not have the resources yet, an agreement can protect you in the future if you later decide to divorce. Forgoing an agreement could lead to a situation in the future in which you are forced to share profits from your business because while you started working on it several years before getting married, no money was earned until after you married.

Do You Have Children?

The number of people who remarry in the United States after one divorce has increased, but unfortunately, a person who has gotten a divorce once has a greater chance of subsequent marriages ending in divorce. After spending a lifetime amassing property and establishing financial security for children from a previous marriage, no one wants to risk losing assets intended for children through divorce. A prenuptial agreement gives you more control over the amount of money a future spouse can receive if your marriage ends, allowing you to protect certain property and intangible assets from being lost during a divorce.

Is Your Future Spouse in Debt?

Prenuptial agreements can do more than protect property and money. It is possible to use an agreement to protect yourself from creditors if your future spouse has a large amount of debt.  Creating a legal agreement that keeps debt separate is a way to avoid being held responsible for debt that your spouse acquired after the divorce is finalized. Limiting your debt liability prior to marriage can preserve your credit and keep certain marital properties safe from your spouse’s creditors.

Contact an Attorney

The idea of planning for a divorce prior to getting married is not pleasant, but it is practical. If you or someone close to you is getting married and are worried about future financial repercussions, contact an attorney. Talking to a prenuptial agreement attorney is a good way to find out if obtaining an agreement prior to marriage is something that will benefit you. The attorneys at Lawrence Law Office are able to assist you with creating a valid agreement.  We can answer your questions and help you decide the best way to secure your assets. Contact our conveniently located Columbus, Ohio location today to schedule a consultation.

Should You Remain in Your Marital Home?

The family home is one piece of property over which a divorcing couple will often battle. In addition to the cash value of the home, the sentimental value may influence both party’s desire to keep the home. However, once the divorce is finalized and tempers have cooled, it is always a good idea to think about the pros and cons associated with maintaining your recently won residence. The decision to remain in the marital home after the divorce is over could significantly influence your personal and financial future.

Can You Afford it?

Affordability should be your primary concern when deciding if you should stay in your marital home after a divorce. Once the divorce is finalized, it is normal for an adult to be short on cash and overwhelmed by the responsibility of managing a household with only one income. If you were a stay-at-home parent who is awarded spousal support or a parent now receiving child support, your available funds are often finite and depend solely on whether or not your former spouse makes timely payments. Before committing to staying in your home, calculate how much money you will need to pay your mortgage, utilities, purchase necessities, and keep your household solvent without aid.

Are There Tax Benefits?

Owning a home usually means that you are able to receive multiple tax benefits that are not available to renters. After a divorce, the mortgage interest, property taxes, and other property-related tax write offs can be beneficial. If you decide to sell your home and move into an apartment or into a home with other friends or family, those potential tax benefits are lost.  Remember, a house is an asset that provides more tax benefits than most other purchases, and after your divorce, you will be the sole beneficiary of those tax perks.

What are the Alternatives?

The most important thing to ask yourself before initiating the sale of your house is what are the alternatives to living in your current home. Will you be able to afford another house? Will you need to move into an apartment? Though downgrading is usually a good way to save money, it is possible that the area you want to live in does not have any desirable properties that are less expensive than your current residence. The last thing you want to do is move into a less attractive residence that gives you no financial benefits.

Talk to an Attorney

Before making any choices regarding what assets you want to keep during a divorce based on your post-divorce plans, it is best to talk to an attorney. An equitable distribution attorney will help you review marital assets and decide what property is beneficial to you in the long run. The attorneys at Lawrence Law Office understand how overwhelming asset division is and we are prepared to help you make choices that will set you up for a comfortable future. Contact our conveniently located Columbus, Ohio office today to schedule a consultation so that we can discuss your needs.

Why You Should Discuss Your Divorce with Your Child

Deciding to get a divorce is a choice that many adults struggle with for months or years. No matter how difficult the relationship has become, it is not unusual for a couple to attempt to work through their issues, especially if children are involved. Once the situation reaches a point at which divorce is inevitable, it is important for both parents to talk to their children. Unfortunately, parents often avoid directly talking to their children about getting a divorce.  Some parents are uncomfortable about discussing their relationship with their children while others assume that their children already know about the divorce. Understanding how much simply talking to your children prior to the divorce can help them may encourage you to do so, even when you might not want to.

Lasting Memory

Studies have shown that children remember when they were told about an impending divorce.  No matter how long ago a divorce took place, the memory stays fresh, illustrating how much of a psychological and emotional impact the news has on a child. Since children remember being told about divorce,  it is important that parents control the way the information is delivered.  Failing to actually talk to your children about the divorce creates a situation in which the child may find out about the divorce through a friend, other family members, or by overhearing something.  Even if your children forget some of the circumstances surrounding your divorce or marriage, they are very likely going to remember when they found out about a divorce and how they were told.

Developmental Issues

The age of a child can also impact how he or she receives the information about the divorce and how that child will later interpret it. A child who is not able to understand complexity, is very dependent upon their parents for care, and is not able to truly verbalize feelings may show his or her distress in other ways. Children who are 5 years old or younger experience anxiety, anger, and experience developmental regressions. Some small children may blame themselves for the divorce, making it important to talk to children and reassure them. Patience and communication help your children understand and cope with the major life change.

Helps Keep Things Simple

Beginning the divorce process and talking to your children sporadically makes the entire process of explaining the situation more complicated than it needs to be. Regardless of the age of your children, a simple discussion with a clear message is often best. Older children who are probably not surprised will still be reassured by having their suspicions confirmed in a concise way.  Telling your children that their parents will be happier living in separate homes while remaining a stable part of their lives can ease some of their unconscious anxiety and help them prepare for the transition process.

Talking to an Attorney

Once you have decided that a divorce is definitely the answer and have spoken to your children, it is important to talk to an attorney. Having the advice and assistance of a family law attorney is vital when you are hoping to reach a beneficial child custody and support agreement with your spouse. That attorneys at Lawrence Law Office are prepared to provide you with the support and legal advice that you need. Contact our conveniently located Columbus, Ohio office to schedule a consultation.

Preparing for a Military Divorce

Getting a divorce is never easy, but being an active duty service member or retired veteran adds complications to an already difficult process. The unique circumstances often surrounding the end of a marriage when one partner is, or was, in the military require specialized knowledge and extra preparation. If you or someone close to you is preparing for a military divorce, it is important to educate yourself regarding certain factors that can seriously impact your divorce settlement. Failing to consult an attorney who understands military divorce could create a situation in which you do not have the representation of an advocate who is truly able to act in your best interest.

Obtain Funds

Divorce is typically expensive regardless of the route you take. Once you are certain that divorce is your only option, it is a good idea to begin saving funds to use for your divorce and to pay for basic expenses. Most attorneys will require you to pay a retainer and if you are a military spouse, it is possible that the service member will stop any allotments that you are receiving. Also, if your spouse decides to move out of the marital home, there might be a period of time during which you are required to handle all of the household expenses alone. Entering the divorce process with no cash on hand increases the likelihood of agreeing to an unreasonable settlement because you are in a desperate financial situation.

Take Advantage of Counseling

Active duty military personnel and their spouses are able to receive counseling prior to getting divorce. The counseling services are free, confidential, and can offer the emotional support you need. Instead of focusing on encouraging a couple to stay together, pre-divorce counselors can provide realistic advice and can continue to provide you with an emotional outlet once the divorce proceedings begin. Military counseling services aid military spouses and service members during the extremely stressful divorce process. These services are especially useful in situations where a pre-divorce separation is required.

Gather Documentation

Many aspects of military divorce are reliant on the length of time the couple was married while the service member was in the military. Retirement sharing, health insurance, and other benefits are determined by how much of the marriage took place while the military member was in service. Gathering documentation regarding your marriage, the time spent in the military, investments, accounts, property information, and other details can help prove your case along with the assets to which you are entitled. Also, record your own spending and income so that disclosing your financial resources is easier.

Contact an Attorney

Contacting an attorney who has experience helping military families is the most important part of your divorce process. A military divorce attorney who understands military benefits and retirement distribution can ensure that your rights are protected. The attorneys at Lawrence Law Office understand how complicated a military divorce is and we have helped many clients achieve positive outcomes. Contact our Columbus, Ohio office today to discuss your situation and schedule a consultation.

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