In the state of Ohio, a marriage can be terminated either by divorce or dissolution. If the parties are unable to agree on the terms of their separation, including issues such as property and asset division, child custody/visitation, child or spousal support amounts, and division of debts, we advise that at least one party retain counsel and file a Complaint for Divorce in order to begin the litigation process. Alternatively, if the parties agree on all aspects of their separation, including, but not limited to the issues above, we advise that a party file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and a Separation Agreement.
Our goal is to negotiate with the other party or attorney representing the other party in an attempt to reach an agreement without the necessity of a trial. However, if we are forced to litigate a matter in court, we often use forensic accountants and other experts to testify regarding finances and other issues in court.
If an agreement is not reached by the parties during negotiations, or one party refuses to cooperate, the Judge will determine the division of assets and debts, as well as custody. Often in contested divorce matters which involve children, the parties can request or the court can appoint an attorney called a Guardian ad Litem, to represent the interest of the children. The Guardian ad Litem will interview and observe the children at home and sometimes at school to make a report and testify in court if shared parenting is appropriate or which parent should have primary custody of the children.
If an agreement is reached by the parties and a Petition of Dissolution of Marriage is filed, we often use the expertise of a private judge to hold a private hearing in our office at a time that is convenient for the parties and in a relaxed atmosphere.