Friday, May 8, 2009

Trying to develop a less expensive divorce

In these tough economic times, almost every call from a prospective client starts with - what will you charge me to do a ______?   That is a difficult question for a lawyer, because each case presents a unique set of facts.  Have I ever had anyone tell me that the parties have agreed to everything, and they really did?  Yes, once or twice in twenty-eight years of practice.  Generally, there is some issue, and it is usually just because they didn't think of it.  They did not know that they could split the retirement account or that, at least in Ohio, you have to consider the Social Security Benefits as part of the overall property division.  They did not know that a shared parenting plan has to spell out so many things that they had not even talked about, like whether the parents agree to pay for college, or when do the children switch for Christmas Eve?  Or Fourth of July fireworks?  Not that these are insurmountable, but sometimes you get surprised by these issues, as does the client, and all of the sudden it is not such a simple divorce.  This is particularly true when both parties just assumed something and that assumption turns out to be incorrect (I assumed you would pay for it, it was your idea, after all.)

Well, I find that one area which takes up a lot of time, but does not need to be done by me, is the fact gathering part.  I mean not only getting together all of the bank statements and bills, but also thinking things through about the children, or where you will live, or what to do with the house since the children want to live there, but you are not sure whether you can afford it.  So I have spent a considerable number of hours developing an extensive workbook that I give to my clients and I let them be the fact gatherers and the fact organizers.  Organizing the paperwork so that it is meaningful to a lawyer can be a real time saver.  Which translates to a real money saver.  When a client puts a pile of bills or bank accounts on the desk in front of me, I still need to go through them to determine if the client thinks the bills are all legitimate, if any of the assets are separate property and how the client thinks these things should be divided.  Those are the kinds of facts that take time.

So what I have developed and what I am working with is a comprehensive workbook (and I mean comprehensive) that asks critical questions along with seeking paperwork from my client.  I am constantly retooling this idea, and I am now investigating providing the workbook in a folder along with other materials, such as books that I might recommend or a list of social service agencies that can help.  If my client wants to save money and is willing to spend what could be days to complete this workbook, then I am happy to receive a completed and well organized workbook with all of the paperwork that I need in order to properly advise and advocate for the client.  Any ideas or suggestions for improvement are always welcomed.

This is just an idea for a new way to do business in this new economy.  While I am not willing to freely share the workbook itself, since I consider it to be proprietary, particularly given all of the long hours I have put into it, I am happy to share the idea of it. 

Well back to actually practicing law.  My brother always says that he hopes someday after all of the practicing, I am able to actually do it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How is Spousal Support determined in Ohio, anyway?

Spousal support, or alimony, is often the most frustrating issue for clients.  While child support is determined in Ohio by going to a chart or computer program, spousal support is based on many different factors.  By the way, the child support calculation seems easy by going to the chart, but then there is the opportunity to have deviations (up or down) so that it better fits your situation.  However, more on that in another post!

So what are these factors.  They are found in 3105.18, which can be found at  I will list them in here:

(a) The income of the parties, from all sources, including, but not limited to, income derived from property divided, disbursed, or distributed under section 3105.171 of the Revised Code;

(b) The relative earning abilities of the parties;

(c) The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the parties;

(d) The retirement benefits of the parties;

(e) The duration of the marriage;

(f) The extent to which it would be inappropriate for a party, because that party will be custodian of a minor child of the marriage, to seek employment outside the home;

(g) The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;

(h) The relative extent of education of the parties;

(i) The relative assets and liabilities of the parties, including but not limited to any court-ordered payments by the parties;

(j) The contribution of each party to the education, training, or earning ability of the other party, including, but not limited to, any party’s contribution to the acquisition of a professional degree of the other party;

(k) The time and expense necessary for the spouse who is seeking spousal support to acquire education, training, or job experience so that the spouse will be qualified to obtain appropriate employment, provided the education, training, or job experience, and employment is, in fact, sought;

(l) The tax consequences, for each party, of an award of spousal support;

(m) The lost income production capacity of either party that resulted from that party’s marital responsibilities;

(n) Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.

As you can see, with the catchall at the end, almost anything can be a factor in determining spousal support.  In addition, some courts have rules of thumb although not official rules governing the amount and the duration.  Many people worry about the amount, but there is also a need to consider the duration and whether the support itself will be modifiable at a future time.  For that reason, it is probably necessary to consult with an attorney regarding your particular circumstances.

In addition, it should be noted that in Ohio there are attempts to set up a formula similar to the child support formula.  Whether the result of that is fair or workable will need to be determined later.  However at this time, these are the factors so when consulting with an attorney, keep these factors in mind so that you can share whatever relevant information you might have to make sure that your voice is clearly heard in the divorce process.

If you are interested in consulting with me, please feel free to call me a 614-564-6500.  The initial consultation is free!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ohio Putative Father Registry

There it is.  Here it is again:   This is the website that can give you information on how to register as a putative father.  And why should you do this?  If you are a man, and you know that someone is pregnant with your child (or at least suspect that you are the father), you need to register.  And you need to do it right away.  If you are registered before 30 days after the birth of the child, you will be notified if the mother attempts to have the child adopted.  Adoption is a form of permanently terminating the father's rights to that child.  In addition to registering, you must provide support to the mother and child in order for your consent to be required.  There are many other legal steps that need to be followed.  Therefore, if you are not married to the mother you might want to consult with a lawyer to make sure that you are following the legal steps necessary so that the child cannot be adopted without notice to you or without your consent.  There is a very limited window of opportunity, and I would urge anyone in this situation to register.  If you ultimately agree with the adoption (after you meet the prospective parents, for example), then you can always consent.  But if you don't register, you may never know.  So, if you know someone is pregnant with your child, register, and seek the advice of counsel so that you take all steps necessary to protect your future relationship with that child.