10 Tips on Preparing For Trial For Your Ohio Divorce Case
Divorce is one of the most challenging and stressful legal events in anyone’s life. If you are facing a divorce, then you must prepare. You will get a better result and avoid feeling shafted after it is over.
1. Don’t go rogue!
Don't come up with your ideas on how to settle your divorce case without talking to your attorney first.
This is a common mistake that many people make. They think that they can be their lawyers and do everything themselves.
While they may have a great idea, working with your divorce attorney is like being on a team. For a team to be successful, the team members must work together.
Communicate throughout the divorce case. You will get the best result if your attorney understands the context of your divorce.
Whatever you do, do NOT testify in divorce court without first preparing with your attorney! No matter how great your case may be, you must always be prepared. See factor 3 below.
2. DO ask your attorney to explain Ohio law on child custody and parental rights.
Custody of children is one of the most contested aspects of a divorce. Ohio law requires the court to weigh certain factors. The goal is to determine what is in the child(ren's) best interests.
Here are some of the factors and the questions a judge may ask the parents in a divorce case:
Factor: The wishes of the child's parents about the child(ren)'s care.
Q: Mr. Jones, what child custody arrangement do you wish the court to order? And why?
Factor: The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
Q. Mr. Jones, how has the child adjusted to school since he moved into your new school district?
Factor: The child's interaction and interrelationship with parents and siblings. As well as any other person who may factor into the child's best interests;
Q: Ms. Smith, tell the court how Emma gets along with your parents. And what do they do together?
Factor: The parent more likely to honor and facilitate court orders. Including matters such as parental visitation and child support.
Q: Mr. Jones, describe to the court how you helped honor the Mother’s parenting time? When was that? How often have you done that?
Factor: Whether either parent has failed to make all child support payments.
Q. Mr. Jones, is your wife behind in her child support payments? By how much?
Factor: Whether either parent has established a residence outside the state. Or if either parent is planning to move out of state.
Q. Mr. Jones, do you plan on moving out of state after the divorce?
Factor: The ability of the parents to work together.
Q. Mr. Jones, please tell the court an example of how you and your wife have worked together. How do you make joint decisions about your children?
Factor: Will each parent engage in positive co-parenting? Fostering a positive relationship between the child(ren) and the other parent.
Q. Mr. Jones, how did you handle your soon to be ex-wife’s birthday as it relates to your son.
Factor: A history of abuse, domestic violence, or kidnapping. In addition to past instances, any sign similar misconduct is likely in the future.
Q. Mr. Jones, are you concerned about any potential of domestic violence in this case?
3. Work with your divorce attorney at least 2-3 times before your final court hearing
You and your attorney should spend substantial time together before your final court hearing. We have found that meeting three times over 7 to 10 days works well.
The first meeting is usually one to two hours and you cover the overview of the divorce case.
The second meeting usually goes into more detail. We may do some role-playing and go over questions and answers. You should go into more detail and fine-tune your strategy.
The third meeting is usually 2 to 3 days before the trial. We go back over our strategies, goals, and interests. We also anticipate what the other side will present and argue.
Overall, you need to look carefully at the property and child-related issues. If spousal support is at issue, then we'll look at that is well.
Keep a list of all the questions that you want to make sure I brought out in the family law court. These are questions for both you and any other witnesses in the divorce case, including your spouse.
About the property, your attorney will be working on a trial notebook. He or she will need your help and figuring out what documents to present to the court to prove your case.
Also if you are going to have other individuals testify on your behalf. make sure that your attorney has their contact information. It's important to reach out to them well in advance of the court date.
4. Understand the balance sheet and how it works
The balance sheet is one of the most important documents in a divorce.
The balance sheet is a financial accounting document. This document helps you and your partner divide your assets according to the laws in the state of Ohio.
The attorney will include your balance sheet as an exhibit in your trial notebook. Each item on the balance sheet, whether an asset or liability, should have an exhibit.
All important documents become exhibits in your trial notebook. Be prepared to have one original trial notebook and at least three copies. One for the family court, one for the other side, and one for your side. You may need additional copies for testifying witnesses.
5. Know the Ohio law on spousal support factors and how they each apply to your case
Many factors will impact court-ordered spousal support and you need to be aware of these.
Ohio law requires that the magistrate or judge consider several key factors. These factors are as follows.
a. The income of the parties to the divorce. From all sources. Includes, but is not limited to, income derived from property divided, disbursed or distributed under section 3105.171 of the Ohio 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 to seek employment outside the home. Because that party will be the custodian of a minor child or children.
g. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.
h. The relative extent of education of the parties.
The judge or magistrate needs to know if the case will involve spousal support. Key factors include the length of the marriage and income disparity.
In many Ohio counties, if the marriage spanned less than 10 years, spousal support is less likely.
For a marriage of 10-20 years, the judge or magistrate will often use a rule of threes. For example, if you've been married 21 years it is often ordered that one spouse pay the other for the next 7 years.
For marriages of 20+ years, divorce courts will consider permanent spousal support awards. Permanent means as long as the person paying is working full-time. There are specific rules on when that person can stop paying spousal support.
6. Be prepared for trial and negotiation - BOTH
When you go into a divorce hearing, you do not know if it will proceed to a trial. It may be that you can negotiate a divorce or dissolution settlement instead.
You need to be prepared for each possible scenario. If you are only prepared for one of these situations, then you may get a result that leaves you disappointed.
7. Know what your spouse wants from the divorce case
If you know what your spouse wants, then it gives you greater negotiating leverage. You will have a better chance of negotiating a divorce or dissolution settlement instead of having to take your case to court. You should try to satisfy the other side's interests when possible. Especially when your interests are not harmed by some compromise.
Work hard with your attorney to understand your interests and your spouse's interests. Remember that the judge or magistrate will be looking to balance those interests. And when it comes to the children, their interests will also be important.
8. Know how far to go or not to go
Your attorney can help you to determine how far you want to go with your efforts. Should you keep negotiating or go to trial?
You don't want to make a mistake and deprive yourself of the best outcome. Your attorney needs to help you anticipate what the judge or magistrate is likely to do.
The problem with going to trial is uncertainty. With a negotiated divorce or dissolution settlement, it is clear what each side will get. With divorce court, you won't know what each party will get until the case is decided.
It is very difficult to predict what a judge or magistrate will do based on the evidence presented. It is also very difficult to predict how people are going to react in divorce court. How they're going to testify, and exactly what the judge or magistrate will hear.
Peace of mind should always be a consideration when you're deciding your next move.
9. Stay strong
While you are going through a divorce, you need to be strong. Get support from your friends and family members, and consider seeing a therapist. Try to find a therapist who specializes in family matters, including divorce.
with your strength, courage, and the help of your attorney, you will get you through this process. Remember you and your divorce attorney are the A-Team.
Present a unified front. You should both be on the same page. Make sure you're confident in your preparation and know where you want to go.
10. Don't fold
Sometimes, the best way to get a great result in a divorce case is to hang on and not fold under pressure.
Your spouse will most likely seriously pressure you. But don’t give in! You must stay strong and confident, and above all, be well prepared.
Is your trial notebook ready? Are your witnesses ready? Are you working with an experienced attorney? If so you have prepared well. There should be no hesitation if you need to go to trial.