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.

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.

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.

Social Media and Divorce

Social media is a big part of almost everyone’s life today. We use social media sites to receive news, as a creative outlet, or as a place to catch up with friends. When it comes to sharing personal details from your life, however, you should think twice before splashing them all over the internet. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn enable individuals to connect on a common platform to share pictures, stories, and personal thoughts, but those individuals sometimes discover the hard way that everything written online is permissible in court.

Social media posts are frequently used in family law cases as a means to prove or disprove a point raised. Posts on social media, as well as emails and text messages are admissible as evidence in court proceedings and also may be subpoenaed in the event that they are not willingly provided or have since been taken down. For example, if the opposing party posted on social media about a vacation recently taken, a new job, or other sensitive information, a judge can look at any post as justification as to why alimony, custody, or even certain assets will not be granted to that party. If the party in a divorce proceeding posts to social media about a new romantic relationship, for example, it could lead the court to question whether he or she was cheating on his or her spouse.

Thus, anytime you find yourself in a family law proceeding such as a divorce or a child custody battle, keep sensitive information off of the internet and always watch what you are saying and to whom you are saying it. This pertains to dating websites, as well. Anything you put on the internet in any capacity is fair game. While you are still married and going through the divorce process, stay away from dating apps and websites, as any of your activities on those sites may be used against you in court. Conversely, this may work to your advantage in the event you have a former partner posting incriminating things to his or her social media accounts.

Divorce Question? Call Us Today

There are many factors to consider in a family law case. Divorce cases, especially, can become quite complex, and the last thing you need is your case to be ruined by a careless post on social media. Do not hesitate to call the legal team at Lawrence Law Office today at (614) 228 – 3664 for a consultation or email us at lawrence@lawrencelawoffice.com.

Alternative Dispute Resolution and Divorce Settlements

There are many methods a couple can use to settle their divorce without breaking the bank in the process. While some divorce settlements can be lengthy and complicated, hinging on small matters, utilizing alternative dispute resolution can help save the couple money when it comes to the attorney’s fees and the various costs associated with retaining a lawyer. Family law courts are frequently overbooked, and thus, obtaining a divorce decree can actually take much longer than needed when going through the traditional legal process.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a method of alternative dispute resolution in which a third party neutral decision maker is employed by the couple to make a legally binding decision. The third party neutral decision maker, referred to as an arbitrator, can either be elected by the spouses or if they cannot come to an understanding, it can be chosen for them. Many couples seek out arbitrators with experience in arbitrating divorces similar to theirs, focusing on certain issues that are in contest. The arbitrator hears both sides of the case, much like that presented in a traditional divorce proceeding, and makes a final, legally binding decision.

What is different about arbitration from traditional litigation is that it is private. All documents relating to the case are sealed, unlike documents submitted to a court during a proceeding. Additionally, arbitrations take place in a location of the couple’s choice, which can be beneficial for those spouses who are living separately, but either have a mutual location they both visit, such as offices, or for spouses who are separated and living in different states. Spouses also elect when the arbitration will occur, which is generally much quicker than a traditional proceeding and then also cuts down attorney’s fees.

The Federal Rules of Evidence are to be followed in all cases heard before a judge. With an arbitrator, the attorneys and arbitrator can discuss what they will submit for discovery and what procedures need to be followed, eliminating the strict rules. One downfall seen by some couples is that when the arbitrator makes a decision, it will be entered into court, and non-appealable, thus becoming legally binding. There are few exceptions for those cases in which the arbitrator clearly violated and abused their role by a showing of fraud, corruption or serious misconduct by the arbitrator.

Want to Finalize Your Divorce?

Coming to terms with your former spouse about how your marriage will dissolve does not have to be a painful process for either party. If you or someone you know is seeking to finalize the terms of 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. We will help you get the results you deserve.

Grounds for Divorce

Divorce occurs for a number of reasons, but when filing for divorce, a couple must file for either a fault or a no fault divorce. In a no fault divorce, the couple has differences that are not reconcilable and they are not able to mend their marriage. Fault divorces, on the other hand, are filed when one spouse is blaming the dissolution of the marriage on the other for a specific reason. Reasons for fault divorces include adultery, abandonment over a certain period of time, emotional or physical abuse, and fraud, among others. While not all states require the same elements or have the same grounds for fault divorce, these are the most common.

Among these reasons, fraud can be the most controversial. The impact of fraud on the relationship can vary depending on when it occurred and to what extent the marriage was entered into because of it. Fraud can be grounds for an annulment when the spouse grossly misrepresented issues, events, or wealth to a spouse who would not have entered into the marriage had he or she known the truth. If one spouse uses this as a grounds to file divorce, he or she must show the court the wrongdoing through evidence, which the opposing spouse has the opportunity to rebut.

Fraud includes misrepresenting wealth, either by overstating or understating it to induce the marriage or as a way to pay less spousal support during divorce proceedings, or lying about previous marriages or children. In the case of a same sex couple in the United Kingdom, where one partner misrepresented her wealth to the court as a way to have her former spouse accept a lower settlement, the case is being reopened. The couple was together for 18 years and when their marriage dissolved, she accepted a settlement based on the court’s assessment of wealth and what was fair, but after her former partner passed, she was later informed that the former spouse’s estate was worth much more than she had known.

The Court of Appeal will be listening to her right to set aside the original settlement and argue for a new settlement amount. While these instances are rare, they do occur when the court finds a great disparity such as the one presented. Critics worry that cases like these have the potential to open up this area of divorce to jam the court system and further stifle the divorce process.

Need to Settle Your Divorce?

Settling your divorce should be a quick and fair process. If you or someone you know settled with a spouse due to misrepresentation, we can help you get the settlement they deserved in the first place. 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. We will help you get the results you deserve.

Grandparents’ Visitation Rights

Grandparents can play a very important role in a child’s development. Today, many parents still rely on their parents to help raise their children or to delegate some caretaking responsibility, in order to maintain full time employment and to maintain prior commitments. When a divorce proceeding begins, many couples begin to reassess who will be caring for the child, when, where and how often. Sometimes, unfortunately, a grandparent who played a critical part of the child’s life up until that point may have his or her time taken away or reduced due to custody battles. However, grandparents should know that they also have rights to see their grandchildren when a divorce occurs.

Grandparents’ Visitation Rights in Ohio

Visitation rights vary state to state, but in Ohio, grandparents have a right to file for visitation if they have an interest in the welfare of the child and it is in the child’s best interests to maintain this relationship. Grandparents can file a Motion for Visitation in divorce proceedings while the divorce decree is being entered or even after the divorce is granted to include grandparents in the custody and visitation proceedings.

Under state statute, visitation rights will be granted in a limited number of situations. The law grants visitation rights if the parents terminate their marriage or legally separate, if the parent of a child in question is deceased, and also when the child is born to parents who are not married. Additionally, the court will still assess whether this is in the child’s best interests. Courts will also weigh the parents wishes when determining whether the award for visitation is appropriate.

Visitation rights for grandparents, just like parents, can be terminated or amended by the court under certain terms. If one parent of the child can show the court that there has been a change of circumstances, affecting the best interests of the child, it will impact the previously granted visitation orders for the child. Remarriage of the parent will not affect the parenting time and visitation rights granted to a grandparent by the court. Courts are generally understanding about a grandparent’s desire to continue being part of a grandchild’s life, especially when the relationship is previously established.

Entitled to Visitation Rights?

If you or someone you know is considering filing for visitation rights, call the experienced legal team at Lawrence Law Office today at (614) 228 – 3664 for a consultation or email us using our website or lawrence@lawrencelawoffice.com.

Validity of Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements have been in existence for decades, but always seem to get the most attention from the outlandish clauses rumored to be in certain wealthy individuals’ agreements. From infidelity clauses to shopping budgets, to the more standard child support and asset distribution language, every prenuptial agreement differs. A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into by a couple, that becomes effective upon the event of marriage.

How to Make a Valid Prenuptial Agreement

While not every couple finds that they need to enter into a prenuptial agreement, there are many benefits to doing so. Not only are assets and debts put on the table to be discussed prior to entering into a legal contract that integrates a majority of the couple’s property, but the couple is able to sort out any differences or misunderstandings they may have about either debts of one party or assets of one party. Many couples who come into a marriage with rights to a family business or assets they seek to ensure, commonly at the direction of the family, that will not become either shared or sole ownership of the other spouse in the event of a dissolution of the marriage.

In Ohio, to have a valid prenuptial agreement, both parties must disclose all of the property they own prior to signing the agreement, in order to ensure both are fully informed. In addition to listing assets, both must list any debts they are bringing to the marriage. Although having an attorney draft or review the agreement is not legally mandatory, it gives the notion of separate and uninfluenced decision making by each party. If you and your spouse do decide to enlist the assistance of an attorney, make sure it is not the same attorney or any two that have a common interest. Once the contract’s terms have been agreed upon, each spouse must sign the agreement in the presence of the other, along with two witnesses.

Another way prenuptial agreements get a bad reputation is by one spouse presenting a contract to the other a week or even a day before the marriage, wanting them to sign it immediately. This kind of behavior can render the contract unenforceable in court. The more time that is given for the parties to discuss, amend, and come to agreement, the more likely the court is going to find the document to be enforceable.

Considering a Prenuptial Agreement?

Prenuptial agreements can be a useful tool for a couple and can help sort out a number of issues regarding assets and debt. If you or someone you know is considering signing a prenuptial agreement, call the experienced legal team at Lawrence Law Office today at (614) 228 – 3664 for a consultation or email us using our website or lawrence@lawrencelawoffice.com.

Divorce and Life Insurance Policies

When the decision is made to dissolve a marriage, many factors must be accounted for. You and your spouse will have to determine the rights to assets owned prior to marriage, assets bought together during marriage, support rights, child custody if children are under 18 years old, as well as different policies and accounts you planned for together. If you and your spouse named one another in life insurance policies or for retirement savings accounts for the benefit of the other, there are additional steps you will need to take after the divorce decree was entered in order to have that policy apply to other interested parties.

Divorce Decrees

Once a divorce decree is entered in court, each spouse legally now has separate assets and rights that the other spouse no longer has any vested interest in. However, there are certain assets that must be changed by the spouses after the divorce that do not automatically terminate upon the dissolution of the marriage, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts.

Life Insurance Policies

While your former spouse’s rights to your estate terminate upon the marriage ending, life insurance policies do not work the same way. When taking out a life insurance policy, it is common to name your spouse as the beneficiary and if you have children, your children in the event your spouse is also not alive. Once the divorce decree is final, it is important that you contact the provider of your life insurance policy in order to name a new beneficiary or your former spouse will be entitled to receiving your policy upon your death.

Some families who have minor children together will leave the former spouse as the beneficiary if the relationship is amicable, however, if it is not, you do not want the former spouse receiving proceeds after your death. Almost all life insurance policies are revocable, meaning you can alter them during your lifetime and change who will receive the policy in the event of your death. This is also an important consideration if you are entering into a second marriage. Amending the policy to name your new spouse is important because while a court will recognize your most recent marriage, they will not amend your life insurance policy in the event you failed to.

Considering a Divorce?

Divorce can be a highly stressful time and is something you should not go through alone. The experienced legal team at Lawrence Law Office will work with you to help you sort out what you deserve and make sure you get what you are entitled to. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us as (614) 228 – 3664 for a consultation or email us at lawrence@lawrencelawoffice.com.

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