Deciding that you are ready to end your marriage is one of the most difficult decisions that you will ever have to make, but you’ve made the decision, so now what? Or maybe your spouse has made the decision for you. Where do you go from here?
In Ohio, there are two ways to dissolve your marriage. The first option is a divorce, which commences with one party filing a complaint for divorce with the court. Filing with the court does not preclude settlement. In fact, the majority of filed cases settle prior to a trial. However, if you cannot reach an agreement the court will make a decision after a trial. Whether you reach an agreement or go through a trial, if you file for divorce, the court will oversee the process. A dissolution occurs when you resolve all outstanding issues without involving the court and once all agreements have been made and signed by both sides, a petition for a dissolution is filed with the court, along with the signed agreements. You only have to appear for a final hearing in which the court grants your dissolution.
In Kentucky, the process is called a dissolution whether you file in the beginning and have the court assist in the process, or file for a dissolution once you have reached a complete resolution.
Regardless of how you proceed, there are some things to consider when dissolving your marriage. First, if there are minor children, you will need to consider both custody and a parenting time schedule, which will include holidays and extended (vacation) time. In Ohio, either one parent or the other can be designated as the residential parent and legal custodian or both parents can be designated the residential parent and legal custodian, which is called shared parenting. The custody designation deals with decision making about the children, such as school, religion, medical decisions, extracurricular activities, etc. Shared parenting is when the parents make joint decisions when it comes to their children. Similarly, in Kentucky either parent can be designated the sole custodian or the parents can share joint custody.
Another issue to consider when minor children are involved is child support. Both in Ohio and Kentucky, child support is a statutory calculation paid to one parent by the other to maintain the needs of the children. The guidelines vary by state but they are based in part on the parents’ income and expenses. The statues in both Ohio and Kentucky give the court discretion to deviate from the guidelines when calculating support. The court can consider certain factors, such as parenting time, incomes, childcare, and extraordinary expenses for the children when determining whether it is appropriate to deviate from the guideline child support calculation. Child support is always modifiable and will likely be modified as each child emancipates. Except for very rare exceptions, child support will terminate upon the youngest child’s emancipation.
In every divorce or dissolution, the court will identify and divide all marital assets and liabilities. This part of your divorce generally requires the most work. This process includes identifying all assets, valuing those assets, determining whether the asset is marital, non-marital or mixed, and lastly how to divide the property. Simply put, marital property is that property acquired or earned during the marriage. Non-marital property was acquired prior to the marriage, after the marriage, or was gifted or inherited during the marriage. Some assets can have marital and non-marital components. In order for a court to award non-marital property to the appropriate spouse, it has to be traced. It is key to ensure that you have a knowledge of your assets and maintain documentation regarding each. An attorney can assist in acquiring the documents that you do not have in the discovery process.
Lastly, it will need to be determined whether financial support over and above child support is appropriate; known as spousal support in Ohio and maintenance in Kentucky. Unlike child support, there is not a statutory formula to determine the amount or duration of this support. However, in each state there are statutory factors that are considered when determining whether the support is appropriate, and if so, the amount and duration of that support payment. Several factors that are considered are the duration of the marriage, the ages of the parties, the assets and debts of each party, and the relative earning abilities of the parties. However, each case is different and courts have a huge amount of discretion in determining the amount and duration of support.
If you are considering dissolving your marriage, it is important to get organized. An attorney can guide you through this process and assist you in determining the issues of your individual case and what you will need.
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