O’Brien Law offers legal representation embracing a broad scope of domestic issues. We listen to each client’s individual challenges, concerns, and ideal outcomes. When clients need additional time and guidance in internalizing potential results and making educated choices on how to proceed, O’Brien Law presents zealous, yet thoughtful representation. Determination, an unrivaled work ethic, and consistent communication ensures clients and their cases receive special attention and care throughout their experience with O’Brien Law from consult to conclusion. Providing ongoing case evaluations and responding to changes with ingenuity and calm determination advance the causes of clients and their families. Each client is afforded honest, fiscally mindful, competent, and thorough counseling. With its primary focus centered on client interests and needs, O’Brien Law delivers pragmatic advice and direct 24-hour availability.
We facilitate expedient, alternative methods to resolve disputes. Ideally, a mutually agreeable settlement, wherein everyone walks away satisfied, negotiated within a reasonable period of time constitutes the preferred route. However, when settling proves unrealistic, negotiations stall, or a party engages in obstructionist behavior, we know how and when to deploy tools available inside and outside the courtroom to make progress.
Divorce and Dissolution
During an initial consultation, we listen to a potential client’s story and begin a dialogue about the matter at hand. O’Brien Law takes the time to discuss the options involved in ending a marriage and answer questions. Equipped with knowledge and legal advice, our well-informed clients decide whether a divorce or dissolution qualifies as the best choice when moving forward in a case.
A dissolution is a “divorce” settlement absent sustained court oversight, with minimal court involvement. Essentially, a dissolution can be characterized as an agreed upon divorce. Nothing is filed with a court until the spouses reach a comprehensive agreement on all issues, thereby avoiding litigation. Some advantages include protecting private information from disclosure via the public record. A dissolution confines the court’s role to the end of the proceedings when it functions as a gatekeeper. At that point, the court decides whether to accept the dissolution agreement contingent upon finding the spouses made full disclosures to each other of all assets and debts. The court also determines whether the provisions of the dissolution agreement are fair and equitable and if the parenting plan or custody arrangement is in the children’s best interest. Similar to a divorce, the final hearing in a dissolution concludes with a court order terminating the marriage.
O’Brien Law uses several methods to complete low-cost, low-conflict dissolutions including, but not limited to
We conduct inventive and efficient negotiations on behalf of clients. Depending on the case and client, negotiations may transpire between attorneys and/or involve 4-way settlement conferences with the spouses and their lawyers. Most often, opposing attorneys collaborate with clients to prepare and exchange proposals and revisions of documents needed for the final dissolution agreement. Successful dissolutions that make financial sense require the cooperation of both spouses and their attorneys. All the key players need to efficiently compromise in good faith in order for dissolutions to make financial sense. When one party fails to negotiate in good faith or stalls, forcing the dissolution only churns and burns attorney fees - and that is not how we practice. In those cases, we consult with and counsel the client regarding how best proceed given the available options.
In some instances, the parties, themselves, are best equipped to compromise their case within a structured environment conducive to do so. That said, a mediator cannot give legal advice. O’Brien Law can serve various roles in the mediation process pursuant to our particular client’s needs. Accordingly, we possess extensive mediation experience across diverse practice areas, which lends itself to insightful strategies for superior results.
When a dissolution fails or circumstances demonstrate a dissolution would be impracticable from the outset, divorce presents another option to end a marriage. A divorce is a lawsuit commenced when one spouse files a complaint against the other. From that point, the case proceeds under court supervision. through the judicial system. Divorce can be an adversarial process, but a dissolution can also be adversarial. The spouses and their respective lawyers often set the tone in either situation. In a divorce, the court manages the course of proceedings, which is governed by applicable rules and laws. For example, the court sets pretrials, attorney conferences, discovery cut off dates, etc. O’Brien Law drafts exceptional pleadings and briefs supported by in depth research to assist the court in determining any issues in contention. Some benefits to a divorce include a party’s access to temporary support, parenting time orders, restraining orders, and subpoenas to obtain information.
Ohio law requires an equitable division of marital property upon divorce. Equitable division does not mean equal or the same. Instead, an equitable division allows a court to use its discretion to issue a fair distribution of marital property after taking relevant factors established under Ohio law into consideration.
The court takes the following factors into account when dividing marital property: duration of the marriage; earning potential of each spouse; debts of each spouse; assets of each spouse; tax implications for each spouse; terms of any separation or prenuptial agreement; whether the custodial parent should be permitted to reside in the marital home; liquidity of property subject to division; respective retirements; and separate property, not subject to division (such as property owned before a marriage, an inheritance, equity in separate property, personal injury settlements or awards, and gifts). Some prenuptial agreements may insulate certain property from division.
Retirement accounts, like pension plans, 401(k) accounts, and other retirement funds, qualify as property subject to division when those funds accrued during the marriage. The division of assets earned through a pension plan, 401(k), or retirement savings account is completed with a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) filed with the court and sent to the plan’s administrator. We counsel clients and work with retirement consultants to maneuver complicated retirement issues. We secure the financial future of our clients based on their particular case, family circumstances, and goals. Like other marital property, courts divide retirement accounts under the theory of equitable distribution. We advise our clients about their choices, risks, areas of potential negotiation, and make recommendations after valuing the marital portion of retirement funds subject to division.
Analogous to marital property, debt accumulated during the marriage is similarly distributed between the parties. When a spouse’s name is on a credit card, loan, or account, that spouse can be held financially responsible for that debt, even if those funds were never used by that particular spouse. It is of critical importance to be deliberate when deciding how marital debts will be discharged. We collaborate with clients to competently handle marital debt in light of the global picture of their family’s finances.
Ohio sets forth guidelines to establish child support based on each parent’s income, health insurance coverage, childcare expenses, parenting time, and other variables. We equip our clients with straight forward advice pertaining to paying and/or receiving child support. Well-seasoned in settling and litigating child support matters for the establishment, modification, and termination of child support, O’Brien Law furnishes dependable representation germane to contentious issues.
Child Support & High Income Families
Child support and spousal support are impacted by families earning “high incomes” under Ohio statutory law, which calls for thoughtful analysis and out-of-the-box solutions. When the parties’ combined incomes exceed $336,000 annually, child support is calculated based on the standard of living established during the marriage. We practice discretion and sensitivity in reviewing the family’s standard of living. We work with our clients to identify a potential range of results.
Child Requiring Additional Accomodations
We pay enhanced attention to children with atypical needs to protect those children during the family’s transition. Such children must be afforded continued care and financial support past the age of majority and/or graduation from high school when necessary. If called for, O’Brien Law takes legal action to protect children needing special care and extra resources in reliance on evidence and opinions from our client and the child’s physicians, therapists, educators, etc.
In Ohio, spousal support calibrates the financial interests of both spouses by preventing a substantial financial loss caused by the end of the marriage. When calculating spousal support, courts consider numerous factors such as the spouses’ incomes, living expenses, standard of living, age, employment history, education, earning abilities (including lost income due to marital duties), physical, mental, and emotional health issues, job and career rehabilitation needs, and the duration of the marriage.
We collect the relevant information to consider whether the law and evidence favor spousal support. We then supply our clients with advice concerning the potential amount, duration, causes for potential modification or termination, and modifiability of support given their case. When reaching a number, negotiation, compromise, software programs, and when necessary, experts contribute to the support amount.
O’Brien Law integrates support into big picture negotiations to achieve desired outcomes in other aspects of the case. Critical to note, we protect our clients and their assets beyond the conclusion of their case. We do so in part by engaging other professionals, financial planners, vocational experts, accountants, and consultants to ensure our clients are in the best financial position to meet their goals with peace of mind.
In certain cases, we evaluate and determine income when a parent is self-employed, unemployed, or underemployed, may be concealing income, or receives in-kind benefits through his or her employment, including non-traditional corporate compensation benefits. In those cases, vocational experts and forensic accountants calculate and/or trace income. These experts review employment histories, financial records, business ledgers, books, and other documents to impute income to parties or to determine an evasive party’s income.
Ohio excludes separate property from division in a divorce or dissolution proceeding. Separate property retains its designation even when commingled with other property when it can be traced back to its source. Examples of separate property include an inheritance received by a spouse; real estate, personal property, or an interest acquired in such property by a spouse before marriage; passive income earned from separate property; real or personal property classified as separate property pursuant to a valid prenuptial agreement; and gifts received by a spouse while married.
Shared Parenting Plan
Shared parenting plans constitute the most common parenting agreements wherein both parents possess custody of and decision-making capabilities for their minor children. The plans schedule parenting time; decide who and how education and medical decisions are made; and who and how child-related expenses are paid. Beyond that, parenting plans minimize conflict and reduce miscommunication to encourage amicable co-parenting. When drafting a plan, we work with our clients to set parenting time for holidays, vacations, and birthdays. We address transportation needs for the child aim to best; limits relocation of the parties’ residences and/or clarifies the procedure for relocation; provides access to medical records to both parents; deals with the right to make emergency medical decisions; establishes when holidays start and end; and yet allows for a certain degree of flexibility depending on the parties and that family’s needs.
We anticipate and thereby avert future conflict when assembling a client’s parenting plan. Parenting plans must contain clear, unambiguous provisions assigning the financial obligations of each parent. A parenting plan must indicate which parent can claim a child for tax purposes; identify who will be responsible for making life insurance payments; state who and how much will be contributed to a child’s education fund; ensure each parent’s life insurance policies accurately state the beneficiaries; name who is responsible for furnishing medical coverage of a child; and designate the parent responsible for payments for activities and uninsured medical costs.
We accommodate the needs of our clients and their children by developing detailed, customized parenting plans. After advising clients of all their potential choices, we fit every parenting plan to the needs and circumstances of our client and the family involved.
High Conflict Custody Disputes
Certain situations necessitate awarding sole custody to one parent. Those cases sometimes entail domestic violence, substance abuse, litigation, and/or the involvement of significant others, stepparents, and other children. We fight for our clients and their children to extricate them from abusive households and assist in their transition. Specifically, O’Brien Law, seasoned in custody disputes and domestic violence cases, enlists relief from a judicial arsenal of weapons to battle for the safety of our clients and their children.
Remedies include appointing a guardian ad litem, retaining forensic professionals (such as custody evaluators and other experts), arranging for mediation, and soliciting the input and involvement of child counselors. Another option is filing a motion to limit both parents’ communication to a secure online platform (google family wizard). Depending on the facts, sometimes it is advisable to compromise on permitting the opposing party supervised, limited visits and/or phone contact with the minor children. On the other hand, when a child’s safety and wellbeing is at stake, we aggressively seek sole custody through the most expedient methods possible. When an opposing party poses a grave, imminent danger to the child or client, then we take immediate measures (such as filing emergency motions for sole custody; revoking visitation; and/or petitioning the court for a domestic violence civil protection order). Safety and the wellbeing of children always remains O’Brien Law’s top priority. We practice law under the assumption our clients share our philosophy.