The Line Between Protection and Alienation

A couple who has separated and is preparing to get a divorce wants what they believe will be best for their children. In many cases a parent’s primary concern is protecting a child from any type of physical or emotional harm. However, in situations in which a parent feels his or her spouse is a danger, it is possible for the line between protection and alienation to be crossed.  Parental alienation is a serious offense that can damage the relationship between your child and their other parent. In order to avoid being accused of parental alienation, it is important to understand what actions could be considered alienation by a court and how you can protect your child without fearing repercussions.

Types of Parental Alienation

When parental alienation is discussed, most people believe that a person guilty of alienation is making a conscious choice to interfere with the relationship that his or her child has with the other parent. It is true that some alienators will actively work to destroy the reputation of the other parent in order to hurt that parent. Actions associated with parental alienation include interfering with visitations, denying a parent the right to talk to the child, or moving without notice. There are also some parents who do not make any conscious choice to engage in alienation. In these cases, a parent might absent-mindedly criticize the other parent or make an observation about that parent in front of the child in passing that casts that parent in a negative light.

Protecting a Child

Over the years, instances of domestic abuse have been linked with parental alienation charges.  Parents who were found guilty of parental alienation initially kept their children away from a spouse because the former spouse was allegedly physically or sexually abusing the children. A parent who wants to keep his or her children safe may be unwilling to allow them to be alone with a parent or relative who they feel is abusive. Unfortunately, taking matters into your own hands and disregarding court orders comes with consequences that can result in your child spending more time with the parent from whom you were protecting them.

Penalties for Parental Alienation

A parent who is found guilty of parental alienation can expect to face tough penalties. One of the most common penalties for denying a parent access to the children is for that parent to receive additional visitation time. Additionally, the other parent can file a motion of contempt if court ordered visitation is being violated or the parent being accused of alienation is willfully violating part of the parenting plan. A parent found guilty of alienation can face fines, jail time, and more.

Contact an Attorney

If you or a loved one wants to protect a child without violating an existing parenting agreement, it is important to contact a skilled child custody attorney. The compassionate attorneys at Lawrence Law Office understand how strong the desire to protect your child from harm is. We are able to work with you to find a way to keep your children safe without risking alienation accusations. Contact us today at our conveniently located Columbus office to schedule a consultation.  

The Benefits of Divorce Mediation

The media often portrays divorce as an elaborate drama that largely takes place in front of a judge in a packed courtroom. While divorce hearings are still common, not every divorce requires multiple high stress court appearances. Though a divorce that involves disagreements over child custody, property division, or other issues takes longer than an uncontested divorce, it is possible to use mediation to resolve most issues. Mediation involves meeting with a neutral individual who is experienced with helping divorcing couples come to an agreement that satisfies both parties. Being aware of the benefits of divorce mediation can help you decide if the process is suitable for your situation.

Divorce Mediation Reduces Costs

Getting a divorce is often one of the most expensive legal processes that an adult goes through in his or her life. Quality attorneys who are able to dedicate their time to representing you are expensive, and it may be necessary to retain a divorce attorney for over a year if your contested divorce is not easily settled. Attending mediation is less expensive than typical divorce proceedings, saving both adults money. Most mediators charge an hourly rate that is dependent upon the experience of the mediator and the location. However, the cost associated with attending multiple mediation sessions is substantially lower than the expense of a prolonged court battle.

Keeps the Couple in Control

A couple who only disagrees about a few key issues could find themselves in a difficult situation if they place their fates in the hands of the court. While their attorneys will do their best to get their clients a satisfactory outcome, the judge hearing the case may impose or suggest something that one or both adults are not comfortable with. Using a mediator helps couples avoid being placed in a situation in which a third party makes decisions that they could be forced to live with indefinitely. During mediation, you and your spouse remain in control and will have an opportunity to discuss the situation in a constructive manner while working towards a solution that is acceptable for everyone.

Less Time Consuming

One of the most difficult parts of the divorce process is the time it takes to resolve all disputes and reach a settlement. After months of legal battles, both parties are often emotionally and financially drained. Mediation gives you an opportunity to reach a faster resolution by placing you with an experienced mediator who is able to suggest multiple ideas and provide neutral insight to your situation. A mediator helps couples understand how to initiate a healthy dialogue so that they can come to a resolution in less time.

Contact an Experienced Mediator

If you or a loved one is going through a prolonged divorce, consider contacting a qualified family law mediator. Lawrence Law Office has a certified specialist who is able to combine extensive knowledge of family law with the focused mediation needed to resolve complex disputes. We are able to work with you to resolve issues quickly in a way that establishes a healthy working relationship between co-parents and family members. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at our conveniently located Columbus office.

Preserving Your Grandparent Visitation Rights

When a couple with children decides to divorce, they often focus on the affects the dissolution will have on their relationships with their children. The rights of the grandparents are often overlooked or disregarded even though keeping the children from their extended family is painful for everyone involved. In the past, a grandparent’s ability to see the grandchildren was dependent upon the wishes of the custodial parent and the visitation schedule awarded to the non-custodial parent. Fortunately, the Ohio Supreme Court decided that third-party visitation statutes were constitutional and now grants visitation rights to grandparents. Though the law is straightforward, you may need to take steps to preserve your grandparent visitation rights.

Best Interest of the Child

One of the least pleasant aspects of a separation or divorce are the battles over custody in which parents often find themselves. Parents who are unable to agree over primary custody, child support, or other major issues may find themselves spending months, or years, fighting for a resolution. During this period of time, a child who was previously close to his or her grandparents may be unable to even speak to those grandparents. Separating a child from a grandparent who has been a major influence in  his or her life is painful and distressing.  However, family court does take the best interest of the child into account and is willing to recognize the fact that in some cases preventing a child from communicating with a grandparent can cause harm.

When is Visitation Granted

Once Ohio began authorizing grandparent visitation right,s the court decided that there are three circumstances under which a rights of access should be considered. These three circumstances are:

  • When married parents separate or dissolve their marriage;
  • When a child is born to an unmarried woman;
  • When one of the child’s parents is deceased.

The motion requesting visitation rights may be filed when divorce or other proceedings are still pending. In situations in which the child’s mother is unmarried and paternal grandparents want visitation rights, the father must first acknowledge the child or be found to be the child’s father through a parentage action. Regardless of the circumstances, the court must ultimately determine if visitation is in the child’s best interest.

Avoiding Disputes

Even though the situation preceding the separation of the parents may have been complicated and contentious, grandparent visitation rights do not have to be. It is possible for grandparents to receive visitation with their grandchild before the divorce is finalized or a custody order is in place. The best way to receive the visitation desired is to avoid disputes that could threaten a grandparent’s rights. Contacting a family law attorney with experience obtaining grandparent visitation rights without going to trial is a good way to initiate proceedings that will be resolved quickly.

Lawrence Law Office

If you or someone you know wants to pursue grandparent visitation rights, contact our conveniently located Columbus, Ohio location. Our grandparent visitation attorneys are committed to helping grandparents preserve their relationships with their grandchildren.  Through the use of mediators, we help parties come to a speedy resolution that is truly in the best interest of the child.

Consequences of Hiding Assets During a Divorce

Dividing assets is one of the most complicated aspects of the divorce process. No matter how amicable a couple plans to be at the beginning of their separation, the idea of sharing property and money can bring out the worst in the best of people. Though most adults depend on their attorneys to handle these negotiations, it is not unusual for one spouse to decide to take matters into his or her own hands. Even when warned about the potential consequences of hiding assets, a person who resents his or her spouse, or who feels he or she cannot afford a fair division may still attempt to conceal property or money. It is important to understand the consequences of attempting to hide assets during a divorce.

Damages Credibility

One of the worst consequences of attempting to hide assets is the loss of credibility. Divorce attorneys are aware of methods used to hide assets and are skilled at discovering any marital property that was previously undisclosed. Once your efforts to conceal property are discovered, they will be exposed to the judge hearing your case. After being caught hiding property, all future statements made regarding your financial status or needs will be scrutinized. For the remainder of your case, the judge will view you as a villain and your spouse’s attorney will constantly remind the judge of your past indiscretion and dishonesty.

Negatively Affects All Financial Areas of Your Case

In addition to damaging your credibility, an attempt to hide assets will negatively impact all finance-related negotiations in the future. Once you have lied under oath or in a sworn statement about your assets, a judge is less likely to believe you if you say that you cannot afford to pay a certain alimony amount. Also, if you and your spouse are disputing what you each contributed toward the marital property, the judge is more likely to believe the person who has not already told a lie. After trying to hide assets, it will be implied or assumed that every statement you make about your income or property is false.

Civil and Criminal Penalties

There are several penalties that a judge can impose on you if you are caught attempting to hide assets during a divorce. A person who purposefully makes a false statement under oath can be charged with perjury, which is a third degree felony in the state of Ohio. Depending on the situation, a person who lies about their assets during a divorce may face additional criminal charges for contempt of court. Contempt of court and perjury could both lead to incarceration.  Other penalties include making the guilty party pay for the spouse’s attorneys fees or awarding the guilty spouse a smaller share of the marital assets than he or she otherwise would have received.

Contact an Attorney

During a contentious divorce, a person under considerable stress may make a bad decision that could impact the entire process. If you are  accused of hiding assets, or suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, you should contact a qualified divorce attorney immediately. The attorneys at The Lawrence Law Office understand how stressful and difficult dividing assets during a divorce often is. Our attorneys can discuss your available options and help you prepare for future hearings. Contact us today at 614-228-3664 to schedule a consultation at our conveniently located Columbus, Ohio office.

Parental Rights and Responsibilities After Divorce

Are you considering a divorce, but unsure of the legal impact this action will have on your relationship with your child? Are you worried about losing your decision-making ability when it comes to issues regarding your child? Do you feel lost as you try to make sense of legalese related to parental rights and the responsibilities of divorced parents? The experienced legal team at the Lawrence Law Office can help you to maneuver through the challenge of a divorce, and all of the legal implications that it entails for you, the co-parent, and your child.

Parental Responsibilities in an Ohio Divorce

When a marriage dissolves, a family dissolves. Statistics show that many marriages end in divorce. In fact, the Huffington Post suggests that the divorce rate in Ohio was 9 per 1,000 population in 2013. In circumstances like these, who decides what school or church the child will attend? While both parents have a vested interest in the health and welfare of a child, Ohio’s laws regarding the best interests of the child take into consideration what both parents want for the child or children and may even ask the children about their wishes.  

Shared Parenting or Residential Parent

Chapter 3109 of Ohio laws and rules talks about how the courts should determine parental responsibility in these cases. Ohio courts like to do one of two things when it comes to splitting parental rights and responsibilities:

  • The court might decide to allocate the responsibilities of the child or children to a primary parent and designate that parent to be legal custodian, or “residential parent.” All other rights and responsibilities regarding the care of the children are divided between the two parents, including financial support and visitation.
  • The court may decide that it is best to allocate the parental rights and responsibilities of the child or children to both parents equally. This is called a “shared parenting” order (the equivalent of what other states call “joint custody.” Both parents are considered the “residential parents,” but they have to agree upon a court approved plan for the shared parenting situation and surrounding circumstances. This does not necessarily mean that time is split 50/50 between parents, but rather both parents have a say in the physical, financial, and legal care of the child or children.

Either way, the parents have to learn to work together for the best interest of the child or children.

How Does the Court Make its Determination?

The court has many considerations as it determines which parent will be allocated decision-making authority, all based on the best interests of the child. Besides the child’s wishes (depending on age and maturity), the court will examine issues of mental and physical health, the child’s needs, and transportation issues. Any relevant instances of violence, threats, or predatory behavior by either parent will also be considered. Finally, the level of cooperation and/or conflict between parents will impact any shared decision-making authority.

How Can I Better Understand Ohio’s Laws that Impact My Child?

Protecting you and your child during and after divorce is what we do best at the Lawrence Law Office. Contact our skilled Ohio family law attorneys today in Lawrence for competent help in understanding the Ohio laws regarding your rights and responsibilities in the event of a divorce involving a child.

Five Common Mistakes to Avoid During Divorce

When going through a painful divorce, it is important to remain objective, focus on your long-term needs, and hire an experienced divorce attorney. If you head into a divorce angry and looking for a fight, you are less likely to set yourself and your children up well for the future.

Five common mistakes to avoid are:

Ignoring Tax Implications

Your tax liability will change after a divorce and you need to be prepared. You liability as a single individual may increase or decrease. You may have more or fewer deductions depending on where your children live or if you pay child or spousal support. An experienced attorney will consider tax implications when negotiating a property and financial settlement so you are not hit with a huge bill.

Using Children as a Bargaining Chip

It can be easy to use time with the children as leverage for other issues in the divorce. But dragging your children into the divorce can ruin parent-child relationships and make the situation emotionally difficult for the kids. It is best to leave issues surrounding the children separate from other factors within the divorce.

Ignoring the Relevance of Social Media

What parents put on their social media is becoming more relevant to child responsibility and custody decisions. While the court will not look at factors that do not affect the parent-child relationship, the court can consider social media content like Facebook posts and tweets when determining who gets custody of the children. A parent’s social media posts regarding alcohol and drug use may reduce his or her chances of gaining parental responsibilities. On the other hand, these posts can also be used to support the presence of a parent-child relationship.

Not Reviewing Facts, Figures, and Documents

You should always be aware of what your divorce documents say or what a piece of paper states before you sign it. You should work closely with your attorney so that you can review documents before they are submitted to the court. You should also ask to review court documents before they are submitted. Attorneys and law clerks are people and they sometimes make mistakes. It is your job to ensure everyone involved has the correct information and that there are no mistakes leading up to your divorce decree.

Not Updating Your Will

Once your divorce is finalized, you should immediately draft a new will. Now that you are single, you need to decide who inherits your property instead of your ex-spouse. You may leave it all to your children or decide portions of the estate go to other family and friends.

Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney Today

If you are thinking of filing for divorce or your current divorce is not going well, call the legal team at Lawrence Law Office today at (614) 228 – 3664 for a consultation or email us using our website or lawrence@lawrencelawoffice.com. We want to protect your rights and ensure that you and your children have what you need following a divorce.

How Smoking Affects Custody

Anti-smoking campaigns have become a fixture in today’s society. We see them when we watch TV, when we take the bus, and even in the very stores that sell cigarettes. The health risks of smoking are well known, and we try to discourage people from starting and encourage those already smoking to quit. Recently, even the courts have joined this battle, using smoking as a factor in determining child custody.

Smoking and Custody Cases

The most important thing to know about custody is that the best interest of the child is the main factor the courts will consider. The courts will analyze the situation from many angles, but they will always keep that in mind. For example, each parent will be considered, and if one smokes around the child, this could hurt his or her chances of receiving custody. In some recent cases, in fact, the custodial parent has lost custody to a nonsmoking parent, as being in a home or car filled with secondhand smoke is dangerous for children. Sometimes it is not just the parent that is considered; if a close friend or relative who smokes frequently visits, that may be enough to put the child in danger.

Just because one parent smokes, however, does not mean that he or she will definitely lose custody. For example, if a parent stops smoking 48 hours prior to his or her time with the child, this may allow him or her to maintain partial custody. On the other hand, bringing up the fact that the other parent smokes may not help your case; it might even hurt you. This goes back to the best interest of the child, and whether your attack on the other spouse is an attempt to keep your child safe or to get sole custody. Overall, though, it is clear that smoking has become an important consideration when it comes to determining custody. Quitting is an option for those who do not wish to have this factor even come into play, but it may look suspicious to quit immediately after you have been accused of smoking. Courts have been looking more favorably on those who quit before the custody battle begins, as that tends to show a true desire to quit rather that quitting as a manipulation tool.

Hospitals are Joining the Movement

The effects of smoking on children are shocking. Over 6,000 children die every year because of their parents’ smoking habits, and many more with conditions like asthma or allergies become very ill. Because of this, hospitals are taking on more responsibility when it comes to educating people about the dangers of smoking. Smoking is now considered child abuse in some states and hospital employees are required to report cases they come across. So, if your child ends up in the hospital after an asthma attack caused by your smoking, this could negatively affect your chances at custody in court.

These new trends have the potential to affect many parents who are fighting for custody for their children. If you or someone you know is fighting for custody of your children, we want to hear from you today. Do not hesitate to call the legal team at Lawrence Law Office at (614) 228 – 3664 for a consultation or email us using our website or lawrence@lawrencelawoffice.com.

Who Gets What: Dividing the Little Things

Courts are well versed in assisting couples in dividing their marital assets. There is law and substantial case law that informs how the marital home, automobiles, 401k plans, pensions, retirement accounts, bank accounts, businesses or business interests, and brokerage accounts get divided among the divorcing spouses. While a difficult process, the outcome is a fair distribution of the marital assets.

When it comes to the little things, however, the divorcing couple is on their own. Many attorneys draft clauses in the settlement agreement that the parties will divide all personal property or the little things on their own. Courts too often refuse to make decisions on the division of small items because it is time-consuming and the items themselves have little monetary value and are more emotionally valuable to the divorcing spouses than anything else.   

Sweating the Small Stuff: A Guide to Division of the Little Things

Let’s pretend that you and your soon to be ex-spouse share the same birthday. On your birthday, you receive ten gifts. None of them are labeled so you do not know which gift goes to which person. How do you divide the gifts? The scene quickly descends to chaos. The main reason all hell breaks loose is uncertainty. No one likes uncertainty. When it comes time to divide the personal items you and your spouse collected during your marriage, refer to these guidelines often – particularly when the process becomes overwhelming.

  • Keep in mind that the little things are not simple or trivial but laden with emotions.
  • Items and personal effects have different meanings to different people. Just because you think it is trash does not mean your spouse does not treasure the item.
  • Conflict will happen but it can be managed.
  • Doing nothing is not an option.
  • Limit personal contact. Emotional trauma and spite should be left out of the process entirely.
  • Give and take.
  • Ask your spouse what he or she wants ahead of time.

Create a Division System

Prior to dividing the little things, the divorcing couple should set up some rules and parameters on how items are to be selected, or a division system. The idea behind this is that if you buy into the process, you are more likely to buy into the outcome, even if you do not get everything that you want. If you stick to a system you both create then you will not tear each other apart when you try to divide the assets.

A Note on Spiteful Decisions

A woman in New York took two crystal chandelier fixtures when she moved out of the marital residence during her divorce proceedings. They were worth $300,000, and she sold them for $13,000. The judge in the matter was not happy with her behavior and ordered the value of the chandeliers to be deducted from the five million dollar lump sum payment she was owed under the prenuptial agreement. In the end, her spiteful actions only hurt her. If possible, leave emotional trauma and spite out of the distribution process entirely.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

If you or someone you know is struggling to divide assets with a soon-to-be ex spouse, we want to hear from you today. Do not hesitate to call the legal team at Lawrence Law Office at (614) 228 – 3664 for a consultation or email us using our website or lawrence@lawrencelawoffice.com.

Property Division and Divorce in Ohio

When it comes to divorce, every state’s laws regarding asset division are a little bit different. Property and assets are divided under what is either community property laws or marital property laws. Community property classifies property acquired by either spouse or both during the period of marriage to be jointly owned, with the same amount of interest between them. While the couple retains separate interest in the assets or property they held prior to the marriage, a court will view property acquired during marriage as a 50/50 division. Laws surrounding community property are following in nine states, including Arizona, California, Texas, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The other 41 states follow the laws of marital property, including Ohio. When dividing assets, an Ohio court would find that the assets are to be equally distributed, unless distribution would be inequitable. However, many states that follow marital property laws allow for a fair distribution, which may not always be completely equal, like those in community property states. Marital property is also real or personal property currently owned by a spouse or acquired during the marriage, as well as any income or appreciation made on property that was separately owned by one spouse, or any interest either have in personal property, as well as retirement and compensation benefit packages.

but separate property can be included when determining property division in some cases. Some examples of separate property are any inheritance or gift incurred by a spouse during the marriage, property acquired before the marriage, any property outlined in a prenuptial agreement as non-includable, property bought after a legal separation has been entered into court, as well as any passive income or appreciation on separate property throughout the marriage. Separate property can be considered marital when, after researching, cannot be separated on its face from marital property due to commingling of funds or interest. Ohio views professional degrees and licenses as separate asset not subject to division.

Divorce Question? Call Us Today!

Dividing assets can be a complicated process for both spouses. We want to make sure you get what you are entitled to under Ohio laws of marital property. If you or someone you know is struggling to divide their assets or property in their divorce, we can help. Do not hesitate to call the legal team at Lawrence Law Office today at (614) 228 – 3664 for a consultation or email us using our website or lawrence@lawrencelawoffice.com.

How Marital Property is Divided

For property to be fairly divided, the court must look at a number of different factors and make a determination on a case-by-case basis. Once a court makes a determination of what property is separate property and what is marital, then it must divide up the marital property based on state law. In Ohio, the court will divide the property based on what is fair, which may not always be equal to both spouses, according to the laws of community property states. The court will determine whether there needs to be a distributive award, meaning one spouse pays the other for the value of the asset or property, or whether an equitable division would be possible.

Many assets are relatively easy to evaluate to determine their worth, but for those assets that are unique, have sentimental value, or have been passed down over time to an individual, determining their value might be more difficult. If a couple has assets that are unique, they can seek the assistance of a qualified expert to determine the value. A qualified expert will evaluate the asset and give an estimated worth to the court to divide. Other assets such as pensions or ownership interest may need the assistance of a financial expert who can assess the history and provide a value.

When dividing the property, the court assesses factors such as the liabilities and debts of the spouses as well as their assets and entitlements, whether either spouse seeks to stay in the home as well as how easy it will be to sell depending on the market and what their estimated compensation may be, the cost of a sale as well as any property division voluntarily made in separation agreements. Additionally, the court will determine any significant financial misconduct impacting the couple, as well as significant losses resulting from gambling, illegal drug use, infidelity, or failure to disclose an asset during the divorce proceeding. It is also important to note that Ohio does not consider assets owned before the marriage, gifts made to one spouse, inheritance, or personal injury proceeds as includable in marital property.

Going Through a Divorce?

We want to make sure property division is fair and equitable for you and that you are able to get what you deserve. If you or someone you know is struggling to divide their assets or property in their divorce, we can help. Do not hesitate to call the legal team at Lawrence Law Office today at (614) 228 – 3664 for a consultation or email us using our website or lawrence@lawrencelawoffice.com. Dividing property does not have to be a painful process with us.

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