Michele A. Smith   Attorney at Law
Michele A. Smith Esquire

Phone 419 502 2002
FAX  419 502 2004

Email: msmithlawoffice

1604 E Perkins Avenue
Suite 202
Sandusky, Ohio  44870

Michele A. Smith Law Office, L.L.C.


Family 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 your interests.
  • 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.


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. 

Dissolutionment – this is not a real word – it is actually a dissolution.

 Annulment – this occurs in very limited and rare circumstances.   People can get an annulment when there is some basic fault in the marriage. 

A 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 disability)
  • 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.

Legal separation – 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.   

Custody – 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 issued.  

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. 

Child support – 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.