Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Columbus Divorce Lawyer

The end of a marriage is an emotional time. You may be considering taking this step – or already searching for someone you can trust to guide you through the process. Choosing the right law firm to represent your interests is vital. Babbitt & Dahlberg provides more than 45 years of combined experience supporting clients through divorce and dissolution, and helping them assure confidence in their new future.

As you consider your next step, the following questions and answers may help you plan to work through what may be a difficult process.

questions to ask a divorce lawyer

1. I’m thinking of divorcing my spouse. How should I prepare for that step?

Beyond the emotional reasons for seeking to end your marriage, there are practical considerations for your financial future. If you have the opportunity, we recommend that you take several steps to protect your interests. First, document your finances, and check your account balances regularly. Avoid taking on any debt – long-term or even short-term. If you brought property with you to the marriage that you consider “yours”, check out these suggestions for making sure you keep what was yours. Above all, avoid sharing too much information with friends, and be wary of what you post on social media. Remember that those embarrassing pictures with friends at parties – really anything that is regularly shared on sites like Facebook and Instagram – may be used in court. We cover this subject more here.

2. What should I take with me to my first meeting with a divorce attorney?

Generally, people preparing for divorce should bring their list of questions to a first meeting. Babbitt & Dahlberg provides an information form for new clients so that we can begin to understand your specific circumstances and so that you can begin to gather the documentation you need. Prenuptial agreements, account balances, vehicle titles, and the mortgage information for your home will give us an understanding of your financial position. If you and your spouse own a business or additional properties, we can discuss that documentation separately. If you have already been served with a complaint for divorce or other motions, we will want to review those. If you have paperwork or documentation that demonstrates inappropriate behavior on the part of your spouse, bring that as well. Other suggestions can be found here.

3. How long does an Ohio divorce take?

A divorce can take anywhere from several months to more than a year from the time the Complaint for Divorce is filed until the final judgment grants the end of the marriage. Ultimately, the length of time depends on the number of issues that need to be worked out and whether you and your spouse are willing to compromise. A time-efficient divorce case requires willingness to communicate and cooperate. The faster you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement, the sooner you can move on. Read more about the length of an Ohio divorce here.

4. What’s the difference between divorce and dissolution?

A dissolution of marriage is available for spouses that can communicate well and are able to reach an agreement on every aspect of their settlement before either commences litigation. Dissolution is a very common method of ending a marriage in Ohio, and requires both parties to agree on all issues before any paperwork is filed with the court. The terms of the agreement must include details of spousal support, parental rights and responsibilities, child support and the division of assets and liabilities. Once the spouses reach an agreement and file it with the clerk of courts, the court must hold a final hearing within 30 to 90 days from the date of filing.

If agreeing on the terms of a dissolution is not possible, a marriage can also be terminated through divorce – essentially, contested litigation over one or more issues. You can file for divorce in Ohio if you have been a resident of the state for at least six months. Should you need further information, more details are available here.

5. How much does divorce cost?

The cost of divorce varies widely depending on each couple’s situation, including the division of property and other assets, child custody, and child and spousal support. The more time these arrangements take, or the more complicated the issues, the more the divorce will ultimately cost. Willingness to compromise will save time and money. More considerations for further reading are available here.

6. What issues are considered when determining custody of minor children?

Child custody issues are weighed on a case-by-case basis and custody is determined by a number of factors, including the child’s wishes and relationships with parents and siblings. Other factors can include prior agreements between the parents, developmental and emotional needs of the child(ren), any history of domestic abuse, parental communication with each other, either parent’s failure to make past support payments, and considerations such as child availability for vacations and holidays for a non-custodial parent. Shared parenting — often referred to as joint custody — may consider numerous other factors. More information on child custody is available here.

7. How will the child custody arrangements work?

Ohio family law encompasses everything from sole custody to shared parenting schedules. While your situation will depend on a variety of unique factors, generally Ohio’s domestic relations courts have some established guidelines that can assist in developing the parenting arrangements. A list of valuable resources that might be applicable to your situation is available here.

8. Who gets the dog? (Or cat? Or other pet?)

Ohio courts have generally considered pets in divorce in the same manner as other marital property. Before you decide to pursue “custody” of your dog or cat, you should consider why you want to move forward with that course of action. Some judges won’t consider taking that issue to trial. If they will consider the issue, they will likely consider factors such as who owned the dog or cat originally, or if the pet joined the couple after the relationship started, who wanted the animal. The judge may also consider where the pet sleeps and who feeds it. To find out more about how one Franklin County judge resolved the pet disagreement, read more here.

9. How will our assets be divided?

Ohio is what’s known as an “equitable distribution” state — meaning that all of the marital assets will be divided equally, unless an equal division would somehow be inequitable. The court will determine what property in your marriage is “marital” – acquired during the marriage — and what is “separate.” If you have proof of ownership from items that you owned prior to marriage, those will help you take your separate belongings with you from the marriage. To find out what you stand to lose, it’s important to find a reliable Columbus high asset attorney. More details are available here.

10. Do I really need a lawyer if we are planning dissolution?

In Ohio courts, people who appear “pro se” – sometimes called “self-represented” – are held to the same standards as litigants who are represented by a lawyer. Those words should alarm anyone considering the prospect of handling their family law matter without an attorney. The court expects everyone to know the rules and to play by them. Litigants representing themselves need to know when to raise arguments, when to file motions, how to present admissible evidence, and what burdens and standards they must meet to get what they’re asking for. Sometimes those things are easy and obvious, and sometimes they’re not. Read on for an example of a real case that should make you reconsider representing yourself.  

Have any further questions for a Columbus divorce attorney?

Get in touch with us today. At Babbitt & Dahlberg, we’re here to help.

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