What Do You Have to Do to Get Ready for a Divorce in Ohio?

It can be a bit daunting to decide to call a divorce attorney to talk about how to end your marriage.  At first, you probably just want to know what you need to do to prepare for a divorce and a bit about what the divorce process is like.  The first consultation with a divorce attorney is an opportunity to get all of your questions answered about the specific things that have to be done in order to get a divorce and about the process for what the court system is like for getting a divorce and how long it takes.  The attorneys at Harris & Engler help individuals in Central Ohio end their marriage and have heard it all when it comes to divorce.  Here are some general answers to some of the most common questions asked by people thinking about getting a divorce.

Answers to the Most Common Questions You Will Ask Your Divorce Attorney

1.  Do we have to live separately before we can get a divorce?

It depends.  In Central Ohio, it depends on what county you live in  The divorce attorneys at Harris & Engler only handle divorce cases in Central Ohio; and in Franklin County, a couple must have lived separate and apart (in different houses) at least 30 days prior to the final hearing of the divorce.  (This requirement is listed in Franklin County Domestic Relations Local rule 5).  However, if you have an attorney, then you may be able to get the 30 day requirement in Franklin County waived.  In Delaware County, on the other hand, there is no specific requirement that you live separate and apart for at least 30 days before the final divorce hearing.

Additionally, there are different "grounds" or "causes of action" by which you can file for divorce from your spouse.  One of those grounds in Ohio is that you have lived separate and apart for at least 1 year.  If you use this cause of action of living separate and apart as the basis of your divorce then you obviously have to actually live separate and apart.  However, you can simply list a different cause of action as the basis of your divorce if you are still living together, such as incompatibility.

Lastly, if you are wanting a divorce, then you are going to have to figure out how to live separately at some point (if you are not already living separately).  If you are worried about the finances of living on your own then some of those questions may be answered by reading further below.  If you can afford it, then it is usually a better idea to live separately while the divorce is ongoing for at least a few reasons: (1) you will have actual knowledge of your new monthly living expenses as a single person, which can be used to help with the financial aspects of your divorce; (2) you will not have to deal with your spouse on a daily basis and at home while you go through the difficult legal process of a divorce.  Despite the preference by attorneys that you be living separately from your spouse while the divorce is ongoing, it is usually best to hold off on purchasing a separate home until after the divorce is final.  Accordingly, if you are financially able, then the most ideal situation would be to be able to move into a rental while the divorce proceedings are ongoing.

The additional cost of living separately usually begs the next question asked to a divorce attorney, which is:

2.  How will I be able to afford living on my own after a divorce?

One of the first questions a person thinking about getting a divorce will ask a divorce attorney is whether or not they are eligible for spousal support (also known as alimony).  Spousal Support is available in Ohio if it is "appropriate and reasonable" under the circumstances.  Generally, if you had a short marriage (under 10 years) and you had roughly equal income as your spouse, then most of the time you would not be eligible for Spousal Support in Ohio.  If your marriage was over 10 years and your income was much different than your spouse's income, then you might be eligible for Spousal Support.  So you will want to talk to a divorce attorney about your relative chances of being able to get Spousal Support awarded as part of your divorce proceedings and about how long those Spousal Support payments might last.  (you can read more about Spousal Support by clicking here). 

As part of your divorce you might be dividing up retirement and savings accounts which might help you with expenses (you can read more about what kind of assets get divided up in a divorce by reading below).  Otherwise, you will simply have to live within your means and plan appropriately in selecting a place to live in order to be able to live within your means after a divorce. 

3.  How will I pay for a divorce attorney?

If you are worried about your ability to make do while the divorce is ongoing, then you can talk to a divorce attorney about the possibility of obtaining "temporary orders" that would award spousal support or other payments to begin taking place while the divorce is ongoing.  However, even if you are ultimately successful in getting a monetary award from your spouse in the court issued temporary orders, you still have to be able to get the money together to pay for an attorney and the filing fees to start the divorce case.  Some people are in the unfortunate situation where the other spouse is the breadwinner and that spouse has kept control of all of the finances.  This essentially leaves one spouse "locked out" of the finances leading up to the divorce.  In this situation, you should know that all assets acquired during the marriage (including income) are marital property; that is, property of both spouses.  There are exceptions to this rule for things like gifts and inheritances.  So even if a bank account is only in one spouse's name, the law would consider it to be both spouses property.  With that said, if you are unable to afford an attorney, then you may be able to use a credit card and then have your divorce attorney gain access to your spouse's finances once the divorce complaint is filed by asking the court for "temporary orders" or financial payment to the dispossessed spouse while the divorce is ongoing.  You can also request money for attorney fees in the temporary orders which are filed after the divorce lawsuit process is started.  You may also choose to discuss how to manage the legal fees of a divorce with your spouse before proceeding with a divorce.  Usually each person will need their own attorney. Otherwise, you may have to borrow money from friends or family.  If neither you nor your spouse have the money to obtain a divorce and you are otherwise unable to borrow the money and you qualify within the poverty guidelines, then you may be able to get assistance in gaining a divorce by contacting the Legal Aid Society of Columbus by calling (614) 224-8374 or the Legal Aid Society of Delaware Ohio by calling (740) 369-3059.

4.  How long will my divorce take?

This depends on whether you are able to accomplish things as a dissolution or if you have to do it as a divorce and it also depends on what county in Ohio you file in.  You are only eligible for a dissolution if you and your spouse can agree on every single aspect of the separation, including property division and child issues.  If you can do this, then with a dissolution all the paperwork is signed and agreed to before filing things with the court.  Then, once you file things with the court, a hearing is scheduled usually about 45 days after you file, and then depending on whether you file in Delaware County, Franklin County, or elsewhere, you could be done between 45 and 90 days after you file.

If you file for a divorce instead of a dissolution, then the timeline really depends on how contentious the divorce is.  If you and your spouse cannot agree on anything relating to the divorce then it could ultimately end up taking a couple years in the court process before getting things resolved.  If there are only a few relatively minor disagreements then the divorce could be completed anywhere in the ballpark of 3 months to 1 year after filing.

5.  How much will my divorce cost?

The filing fees are different in every county in Ohio and the filing fees are usually different depending on whether you file for a divorce or dissolution.  In Franklin County, the filing fee for a divorce is $250 and $200 for a dissolution.  In Delaware County, the filing fees range between $485 for a divorce with children down to $355 for a dissolution without children.  In Union County, the filing fees range between $560 for a divorce with minor children to $400 for a dissolution without children  In addition to court costs there will be expenses for attorney fees.  There are possible other expenses depending on how complicated the divorce case is, such as deposition and other discovery related expenses. 

6.  What do I have to do to get a divorce?

In order to file any divorce or dissolution action in Ohio, both you and your spouse will have to fill out affidavits that disclose your income, expenses, property holdings, and debts.  If you have minor children, then you will have to fill out additional affidavits about your health insurance and a parenting proceedings affidavit.  If you have minor children then you will both have to take a parenting class before you can obtain a divorce.  If you are filing in Delaware County, then you will have to also prepare a supplemental affidavit disclosing your education history.  Most people find the affidavits to be a complicated task.  Other than the affidavits, your attorney will take care of most of the details.  In order to get a divorce, there has to be a complaint that is filed against your spouse and then they usually file an answer.  If your spouse does not participate in the divorce process, then you may be able to obtain an unconstested divorce.  However, every divorce is different and it is not fair to compare your divorce to your friend's divorce, because each one is based on the unique circumstances presented by the two people actually involved in the divorce.

7.  Will I have to give up half of everything I own?

Generally, yes.  Most people have a very hard time with this aspect of divorce.  In Ohio, all assets acquired during the marriage are to be divided "equitably."  "Equitably" does not necessarily mean equally or 50/50, but it means "fair."  So if one person keeps one asset of value, then the other spouse will have to be allocated something else of roughly equivalent value.  Assets of the marriage include anything that was acquired or gained value during the marriage.  Assets acquired before marriage do not count.  Assets acquired through inheritance or certain gifts do not count.  Things like retirement accounts are usually divided 50/50 for the marital period (for example, if the retirement account already had $10,000 before the parties got married, then that portion (the pre-marital portion) is excluded from division)).  Equity in a home is usually divided 50/50.  This usually means that one spouse refinances the home in their sole name in an amount sufficient to buy out the others' equity stake, or the home is sold.  Additionally, debts acquired during the marriage are usually divded 50/50, regardless of who incurred the debt.

8.  Can I still get a divorce even if my spouse does not participate or if I don't know where they live?

Yes.  If you know where your spouse lives and you serve them with divorce papers, but they choose not to participate in the process, then you can obtain an uncontested divorce in Ohio.  If you don't know where your spouse lives then it can get a bit more complicated.  In that case, you have to basically put a notice in the local legal newspaper for a certain number of weeks before you can get a divorce.

Still have questions or want to talk further with a divorce attorney?

You can call a divorce lawyer at Harris & Engler by calling (614) 610-9988.  The divorce lawyers at Harris & Engler handle divorces in Columbus, Delaware, and greater Central Ohio.

2018 Tax Changes Effect on Divorce

The new Tax Reform and Job Act of 2018 contains a number of provisions that will affect those individuals getting a divorce or dissolution in 2018 and thereafter.  In Ohio, if you've been in a marriage for 10 years or longer and there is a significant difference in the income of the spouses, then usually alimony will come into play (in Ohio alimony is called "spousal support").  

Section 11051 of the Tax Reform and Jobs Act of 2018 eliminates the deduction for alimony payments and repeals the inclusion of alimony payments as gross income for the receiving ex-spouse (the payee spouse).  This section takes effect on all divorce or separation instruments executed after December 31, 2018.  

Until December 31, 2018, and as it has been prior to the new tax act, whenever one spouse was required to make spousal support payments pursuant to a separation agreement (the person making the payment is called the "payor" spouse), the payor spouse was able to deduct the amount of the payments from their gross income.  The payee ex-spouse had to include the spousal support payments in their gross income.  Now the payor ex-spouse will have to pay income tax on their full income even though they will be under a court order to pay over part of their income as spousal support.  Additionally, the spouse receiving spousal support payments will essentially be getting tax free money.

New Tax Bill Creates Incentive to Get Divorced in 2018

The new tax provisions on alimony do not take effect on divorce decrees and separation agreemetns until 2019.  This creates an incentive for those couples desiring a divorce or dissolution to get everything finalized in 2018.  This way the payor ex-spouse can have their income reduced by the amount of the spousal support payments, and the payee ex-spouse will pay tax on it.

Can You Negotiate Who Pays the Tax on Alimony Payments After 2019?

This gets a little bit complicated.  According to the 2018 tax act you can make the new tax provisions for alimony payments apply early, if the separation agreement specifically references the new tax provisions contained in Section 11051.  It is theoretically possible to negotiate who pays the tax on spousal support payments for separation agreements finalized in 2019 and after, but by dictating who pays the tax it essentially creates additional income inbalances in the amount of what that tax payment would be.  

After 2019, you may want your divorce attorney to include a provision in your separation agreement that whoever receives the spousal support payment has to pay income taxes on it.  However, this creates an additional tax problem.  First, no matter what you agree to contractually (and the separation agreement is a contract that once approved by the court becomes a court order), the IRS will require the payor spouse to pay income tax on all income received regardless of the provisions in the separation agreement.  

For example, if the payor spouse earns $100,000 per year in income, and the separation agreement requires them to pay $20,000 per year in spousal support payments, you may want to include a provision in 2019 and later separation agreements that the payee ex-spouse pays the tax on the $20,000 in spousal support payments.  Assuming that the tax rate is 25%, this would result in a $5,000 tax obligation on the $20,000 in spousal support payments.  If the payee spouse paid the tax on spousal support, then they would essentially have to give back $5,000 to the payor spouse around tax time each year.  This in turn would result in $5,000 in additional income for the payor spouse, income which the IRS will require the payment of income taxes on. 

As a practical matter, one way around this may be to calculate what the tax would be on the spousal support payment, and then reduce the spousal support payment by the amount of that tax.  Divorce attorneys can get creative, but the IRS will always require payment for income taxes when income taxes are due.  

Does the New Tax Act Affect My Existing Alimony Payments?

The short answer is no.  For all divorce decrees and separation agreements finalized before December 31, 2018, the old way of deducting alimony payments for the payor spouse and recognizing alimony payments as income to the payee spouse will still take effect throughout the lifetime of the alimony obligation.  The new tax act will not affect separation agreements and divorce decrees finalized before December 31, 2018.

Ohio Divorce Attorneys

The law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus, Ohio, and its attorneys help clients with their family law issues across Central Ohio.  If you would like to speak with a divorce attorney in Central Ohio, then please call (614) 610-9988.

Long Term Marriage Divorce in Ohio

Divorce of a long term marriage makes the divorce process a bit more complicated than for divorces of shorter term marriages.  Mainly, over the course of a long marriage there are many more shared assets, which makes asset division more complicated.  With shorter term marriages, couples have not had as long to comingle their assets. Furthermore, the longer a couple has been married, the longer they have been economically intertwined and issues of spousal support can arise.

If you've been married for over 20 years, then properly dividing your marital assets is a financial decision that will affect the rest of your life.  The attorneys at Harris & Engler are experienced counselors for clients going through a divorce of a long term marriage.  The law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus, Ohio, and serves clients in Delaware, Union County, and Fairfield County. 

The longer you've been married it potentially makes the stakes during a divorce even higher.  Often, with a long term marriage, one spouse has elected to leave the workplace in order to take care of the kids or take care of the house.  When there is a big income difference in a long term marriage, then it becomes more likely that spousal support would be awarded in the divorce.  Furthermore, if one party in a long term marriage has been the primary earner, then there are likely to be retirement accounts and other assets listed in the primary earner's name only.  You need an attorney experienced in divorces of long term marriages to make sure that you're on the best footing moving forward after the divorce is finalized.

Spousal Support

In Ohio, there is no such thing as "alimony."  In Ohio, alimony is called "spousal support."  Basically, spousal support requires one spouse to make regular payments to their former spouse for either a definite or indefinite amount of time after the divorce is finalized.  Spousal support typically comes into play when the parties have been married over 10 years.  Spousal support is designed to help get the spouse who is receiving the payment to get enough money and time to get their feet off their ground on their own after the marriage is over.  For instance, many households will have a stay-at-home parent who quits work to take care of the kids.  In that situation, spousal support might be instituted in order to give the former stay-at-home spouse enough time to make themselves marketable enough to re-enter the work place.  Spousal support is usually temporary, but for very long marriages (over 30 years) they may be permanent if the former spouse will be unable to re-enter the work place.  You can read more about spousal support here.  The attorneys at Harris & Engler are experienced in all aspects of long term marriage divorces.

Property Division

Ohio is an equitable property division state.  Equitable means "fair" and does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split.  However, many types of assets will actually be split 50/50 if doing so is the "fair" thing to do.  Some things, like assets accumulated during the marriage will be divided up equally during a divorce.  Other things, like retirement accounts and pension plans will be divided up equally during the marital time period.  This means if one spouse had a retirement account before getting married, they will be entitled to 100% of those pre-marital assets, but whatever amounts were accumulated during the marriage can be divided 50/50. 

An experienced divorce attorney can subpoena financial records to make sure there are no hidden assets.  If you have been married for a long time and are starting to go through the divorce process, then you want to make sure that you are setting yourself up for the best case scenario for life after divorce.

Divorce Attorneys for Long Term Marriage

The law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus, Ohio and is conveniently located for residents of Delaware County and Union County.  If you would like legal advice about getting a divorce then you can talk to an attorney today by calling (614) 610-9988. 

The Divorce Process in Ohio for Couples Who Do Not Have Children Born of the Marriage

Obtaining a divorce is often simpler when there are either no children that born from the marriage or when the children are grown.  Complications arise when one or more spouse has children from another relationship or the parties had children together before they were married.  However, the factor that usually contributes to having a long drawn out divorce is a highly contested custody battle.  In the absence of children, it is usually much quicker and easier to get a divorce, unless there are complicated or significant assets of the marriage. 

The attorneys at Harris & Engler try to make the divorce process simple for you, and you can talk to an attorney today by calling (614) 610-9988.  Depending on the assets and debts of the marriage and your ability to reach an agreement with your soon to be ex spouse, it may be possible to get a relatively quick and easy divorce.  The attorneys at Harris & Engler will help you obtain a quick divorce if possible and will be there to best look after your interests and help you navigate through the process if a quick divorce is not possible. The law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus, Ohio, and its attorneys help clients obtain divorces across Central Ohio.

Divorce or Dissolution?

The only reason to get a divorce instead of a dissolution when there are no children from the marriage is because the parties cannot agree on how to divide up the property that was acquired from the marriage.  You can read more about divorce v. dissolution here.  

Columbus Attorneys for Divorce With No Children

When you're going through a divorce, it helps to have an experienced divorce attorney on your side.  If you need a divorce attorney in the central Ohio area, then call (614) 610-9988.  

An Overview of the Divorce Process in Ohio for Couples with Children Born of the Marriage

A divorce with children, especially minor children, typically makes for a more difficult divorce process in Ohio.  The attorneys at Harris & Engler try to make your divorce with children as quick and easy as possible for you and your kids.  Otherwise, when the parties to a marriage cannot agree on who gets time with the children (and when), and who pays child support (and how much), then those issues must be submitted to a judge who will decide.

There is hardly a more important issue than the custody of your child or visitation rights with your child.  The law firm of Harris & Engler has attorneys experienced with all issues surrounding getting a divorce with children.  The law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus, Ohio, and its attorneys help clients successfully navigate all issues surrounding getting a divorce with children all over Central Ohio.

Parenting Issues in Divorce

Often there will be a spouse who during the marriage was otherwise an absent parent and then all of the sudden during divorce they want equal or full custody of the children. Sometimes the motivation for doing this is simply to have lower child support payments.  However, equally frequent is when a parent who was largely an absentee parent during the marriage will want to fight hard to ensure that they do not continue to be an absentee parent after the marriage is terminated by acquiring court ordered parenting time.  These issues can be resolved with the assistance of an attorney experienced with issues that frequently arise when getting a divorce with children in Columbus and greater Central Ohio.  Many issues regarding a dispute over child custody also require the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem.

The Guardian Ad Litem's Role in Ohio

A Guardian Ad Litem is a court appointed advocate for the children.  Each parent in a divorce usually has an attorney as their advocate, and a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is an advocate for the children.  It is usually recommended that a Guardian Ad Litem be appointed for contested custody divorces because the GAL will personally investigate the children's situation and interview the children in order to come to their own opinion of who should have child custody.  The appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem drives up the costs of a divorce because the parties have to pay the Guardian Ad Litem's fees as well as their own attorneys' fees.  You can read more about Guardian Ad Litem's here.  

What to Expect When Going Through a Divorce with Children in Ohio

When the parties to a marriage are both trying to get full custody of the children, then the Court will look at a number of factors in order to determine which parent is better suited for the role.  First and foremost, the Court will always make a determination as to what is in the best interest of the children.  

In order to determine which parent should be the child's sole custodian, the court will consider the relative incomes of each party, the support structure of each party (friends and family), the geographic location of each parent, the desires of the child, the personal history of each parent with the children (has the parent been absent/primary caretaker), and any other factor that could serve as an indication of what parent would be a better suited parent.  You can read more about child custody here.  
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Disclaimer:  Harris & Engler offers this website and the content on it for informational purposes only, as a service for our clients and friends.  The contents of this site are not considered legal advice for any purpose, and you should not consider them as such advice or as legal opinion on any matters. 

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