A. Smith Law Office, L.L.C.
law practice encompasses a wide variety of matters, including termination of
marriage whether by divorce or dissolution, child custody matters, visitation
rights, child support and spousal support payments, paternity issues,
property rights, and grandparent visitation issues. Our office can also prepare a Prenuptial Agreement, also
called Antinuptial Agreement, for you prior to marriage to ensure that your,
and your partner’s, property rights are protected.
When proceeding on a Family Law
matter, keep these simple rules in mind:
Hire a lawyer you can trust.
Remember, this person should make you feel comfortable and should look after
Gather copies of all your financial
records including tax returns, pay stubs, and investments. Keep these
documents together and make sure you keep copies for your own records.
Gather copies of any documents
relating to ownership of property and personal belongings including deeds and
titles for any houses, land, cars, boats, or other vehicles.
Discuss with your attorney the
timeline of what has to happen when and make sure you keep a running calendar
of important dates and documents or appearances that are required of you.
Open separate checking and credit
accounts. Separate your paychecks from your spouse's as soon as possible.
Work on making important decisions
regarding any children or other dependents as quickly as possible.
Communicate as efficiently as
possible and be selective in the matters that are important to you.
Frequently issues occur between parties which necessitate court intervention.
Family Law issues can be emotionally tolling on an individual and frequently our
clients are experiencing one of the most difficult times in their life. Our
office has handled hundreds of cases involving family law issues in Erie, Huron,
Ottawa, Sandusky, and Lorain Counties and your matter will be handled in a professional
manner while giving you the level of communication that you need to understand
your legal rights and the options available to you.
BASIC CONCEPTS IN FAMILY LAW
Termination of marriage -
Marriage can be terminated by either a
divorce or dissolution. A divorce can be either contested (no agreement) or
uncontested (agreement is reached). Dissolution must be agreed upon by the
parties and both parties need to appear at court for the dissolution to be
granted. In any of these proceedings the Court will ensure that there is a
fair and equitable distribution of the martial assets and debts and will ensure
that the children’s best interests are protected.
– this is not a real word – it is actually a dissolution.
– this occurs in very limited and
rare circumstances. People can get an annulment when there is some basic fault
in the marriage.
annulment is a legal procedure that dissolves a couple's marital status by
establishing that a valid marriage never existed. In effect, it nullifies the
marriage, returning the parties to their prior single status. It's a common
misconception that short marriages can be annulled, but the length of the
marriage is not a qualifying factor. Generally, for a marriage to be declared
invalid, one of the following grounds for annulment must be met:
One or both parties were not old enough to
enter the marriage contract;
There exists a close blood relationship
between the parties;
One party was still legally married when the
current marriage occurred;
One party was impotent and unable to
consummate the marriage;
One of the spouses didn't have the mental
capacity to enter into a marriage contract. (i.e. due to drunkenness or mental
One of the spouses entered into the marriage
under duress, threat, or force.
The marriage was entered into fraudulently.
This may be due to the concealment of impotence, criminal history, sexually
transmitted diseases, etc.
– when parties get a legal separation they go through the same type of
proceedings in court as a termination of marriage but at the conclusion of the
proceedings the individuals remain married however property rights, payment of
debts, custody rights, and spousal and child support is established. A
document will be issued by the Court, a Legal Separation Decree, however many
creditors will attempt to disregard the Decree and will not want to honor the
Decree by pursuing the party who is not required to pay the debt of the other.
If either party desires to have the marriage terminated they will need to file a
Complaint for Divorce with the Court to have the marriage terminated. Legal
separations are unusual these days and are typically done for religious purposes
or when one spouse is very ill and would have difficulty in obtaining health
insurance due to the illness.
– there is a common misperception that once a
child reaches a certain age, typically 13, they have a right to choose which
parent they want to reside with. Children do not have an automatic right to
determine which parent they want to live with, however the older the child, and
the more mature, the more their choice comes into play. The Court will look at
the child’s reasoning ability and their reasons for their choices in addition to
consideration of other factors such as the establishment of the parent-child
relationship, home environment, how well settled the child is in the community,
who has been the child’s care taker, and how recent prior court orders were
Grandparent visitation rights
– under certain circumstances grandparents have the right to petition, which is
to file a formal request, the Court for grandparent visitation rights of minor
children. Circumstances where grandparents may be granted visitation rights
include when one parent is deceased, incarcerated, unable to visit for physical
reasons, or in the military service. The Court will look at the best interest
factors in deciding the extent of visitation that the grandparents can receive.
– the Child Support Enforcement Agency, also called CSEA, can establish child
support in addition to the Courts. CSEA will establish paternity through
genetic testing and can issue child support, medical support requirements, and
can establish visitation rights. The person required to pay the child support is
called the “Obligor” while the person receiving the support is the “Obligee”.
If a child support order is established any funds that the Obligor gives
directly to the Obligee is considered a gift unless the Obligee signs an
Affidavit acknowledging the funds as a payment of child support.