Cleveland Divorce FAQs

How much does a collaborative divorce cost?

Collaborative divorces do not have a set fee. Instead, the time is billed hourly for each attorney and professional. Some parties may need more time reviewing and agreeing to a parenting plan, while others may need a business valuation. No two collaborative divorces are the same.

What do you want your collaborative divorce lawyer to be like?

It would be best if you were comfortable with your collaborative counsel. You should be able to feel confident in their abilities and be able to communicate with them.  

When a couple divorces, do each of them get a lawyer?

Yes, each person must get their own attorney. However, you are not permitted by law to share a divorce attorney, as the interests of individuals do not always align, and there could be conflicts.

What sets a great divorce lawyer apart from the rest?

Many traits set a great divorce lawyer apart from others: good communication skills, thinking outside the box, and compassion

What makes divorce expensive?

The primary item that makes divorce expensive is the inability of the parties to communicate. They will not agree on parenting, division of assets and debts, and support issues if they cannot communicate. Also, not having realistic expectations. Divorce counsel should give realistic expectations to their clients; when they do not, divorce becomes expensive.

Can you divorce and not pay child support?

Yes. The parties can creatively develop other avenues to support their children besides paying child support.

What if my wife doesn’t want child support?

Divorcing parties are not required to accept child support if they do not want it.

How is child support determined if one of the parties doesn’t work?

The court will impute income to the non-working parent and use that income to run child support guidelines.

Is it wise to use the same lawyer in a divorce?

You cannot use the same lawyer for a divorce.

What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce is a divorce where the parties ultimately agree on the division of debts, assets, parenting issues, and support. This type of divorce does not go to trial but ends with both parties agreeing on all aspects of their divorce.

What do you do when you get divorce papers?

If you are served a divorce complaint, you will need to hire an attorney so that they may respond to the court with an Answer to that Complaint.

Are divorce attorneys worth it?

Since the domestic relations court is not easy to navigate, an attorney who can assist is almost always necessary and worthwhile.

How do divorce attorneys charge for your services?

Domestic relations attorneys charge hourly for their time.

Will there be additional costs in the case independent of your fees?

There are often additional costs, such as filing, court reporter, research, and expert witness fees, but these are usually requested separately.

Can you estimate the total cost of the case? Can you estimate the cost of the case for each phase of the case? 

Since every case is different, it is impossible to gauge how much each case will cost. However, clients get billed monthly, so they know how much time is spent per month. Additionally, clients are involved in going to court, so they see how much time is being spent in court, and as they are cc’d on communications, they can see how often their attorney is working on their matter. 

If we need to retain an expert to help us, what is an estimate for their fees?

Attorneys will give their clients an understanding of how much expert fees would be. For instance, a business valuation will be more expensive for a large business than a small business. Likewise, a psychiatric evaluation for parenting purposes will be different if there are multiple children. It is a good idea to ask the expert what the fees will be, as the client will be signing a contract with the expert.

If one spouse becomes responsible for another spouse’s fees, when will that payment become due?

It all depends on what the agreement the parties have made states.

How do I pay for your services?

Most attorneys work off a retainer where they bill monthly. If that retainer ever reaches a certain amount, the attorney usually requests the amount to be replenished to the original amount. 

How do I contact you?

Some attorneys prefer to be contacted via email, while others would instead be contacted via phone. I can be reached either way.

Do you have a direct line that I can reach? 

I have a direct line that I give to clients so that they can contact me.

How quickly should I expect a callback if I leave a message for you?

I usually call back within 24 hours.

What happens if I have an emergency, and you are unavailable?

Leave a detailed email, and I will get back to you quickly.

Will you be the lawyer always handling my case?

Yes

Who else will be assisting and supporting me in my case?

I have an assistant who works virtually.

What are different types of divorce options available to me?

The divorce options I offer are all mentioned on my website. Please review the pros and cons of each option.

What is an uncontested divorce, and am I eligible for one?

An uncontested divorce is where the parties agree on all aspects of the end of their marriage, and everyone is eligible.

What is collaborative divorce, and am I eligible for one?

Collaborative divorce is a way for couples to divorce in a non-adversarial environment. Unlike mediation, which employs a neutral party to help couples resolve differences and legally end their marriage, collaborative divorce involves four parties where an attorney represents each spouse. The parties also agree not to go to trial.

Should I file right away?

A conversation with your divorce attorney will assist you in deciding whether you should file for divorce and when.

Can we stop the divorce if we decide to reconcile? 

Yes, of course.

What is a legal separation, and is that an alternative for me? 

Can I get spousal support?  

During your divorce or separation, you may petition a judge for spousal support with the help of your attorney. The judge will consider certain factors before granting or denying a request for spousal support. In accordance with Ohio Revised Code section 3105.18, the courts commonly consider various components when awarding spousal support.

What is an annulment? Is it like a divorce?

You have to prove that the marriage was void from the beginning to get an annulment. In Ohio, an annulment is where the court mandates that the marriage never took place. Unlike a divorce, the annulment cannot be granted unless the reason for the termination falls under one of the qualifying grounds. Qualifying grounds for annulment are the outstanding circumstances used to determine if the marriage was never legally binding, was made under force, was made to commit fraud, or was never consummated.

I think my spouse will be hiding assets. What can I do? 

Try to determine where they might be hiding the assets, since it is unlikely that your attorney will find the assets if you can’t.

Do I need to start gathering documents? What documents?

It is always a good idea to have copies of all your assets and debts, such as wealth management accounts, checking and savings accounts, IRAs, 401Ks, credit card statements, and credit reports. Tax returns for the last three years are also essential to have available.

Will you go to the bank and subpoena documents for me, or do I need to get them?

Subpoenas can become costly to draft and file, and banks will charge to get the documents subpoenaed. If you are trying to keep your costs down, it makes sense to get the documents yourself instead of getting them through a subpoena. If you are unable to get your spouses’ information, then subpoenas may be necessary,

When are documents due for each party to turn over?

The court will provide a timeline for the parties to exchange information.

My spouse does not care about rules. What can we do when he refuses to turn documents over?

The documents can be subpoenaed, or your attorney can file a Motion to Compel your spouse to turn over the documents. 

What is a parenting coordinator, and how can one help me? 

Parenting coordinators educate the parties about the child’s needs, make recommendations to the parties, and, if parties cannot reach agreements regarding their dispute, make decisions within the scope of the court order of appointment.

Will I need to develop a custody arrangement until my child is 18, or can we do a partial and revisit later?

Parenting plans can always be modified, but the parties usually put a plan in place that anticipates the growth of their children. 

What if I want to move out of the area with my child later?

Parenting Plans usually have a provision in place if one of the parties must relocate, which is negotiated as part of the Parenting Plan.

Will all of our stuff be split 50/50?

Your assets may be divided equally, but more likely, they will be divided equitably.

What is the difference between a marital and non-marital asset?

A marital asset is an asset acquired during the marriage, and a non-marital asset is an asset acquired before the marriage. Non-marital assets may include traceable inheritances and gifts received during the marriage.

How do I keep my spouse from liquidating our Assets while the divorce is pending?

You can file a Restraining Order not to dissipate funds.

Can I keep the home? Will the court order us to sell the house?

If you and your spouse agree that you should keep the home, then you can keep the house. However, if you cannot agree, the court will decide for you, and it may just order a home sale. 

Do I have a legal interest in our home, even if it is only titled in my spouse’s name?

If the house was purchased during the marriage, it is considered marital property, even if it is only in your spouse’s name. Of course, there are exceptions, such as if the spouse paid for the house with separate premarital property or inherited funds,

How does the court split up retirement accounts?

The court will use a QDRO to divide retirement accounts.

What is a QDRO?

Qualified Domestic Relations Order, which is an order dividing restricted accounts such as a 401K.

How does the IRS handle child support and alimony payments?

Neither child support nor spousal support payments are considered a deduction or income. In other words, the parties paying the support do not get a deduction, and the parties receiving the support do not have to claim the support as income. 

Who will get the child care tax dependency exemptions?

The person who benefits the most from the dependency exemption will get them unless the parties agree otherwise.

Should I change my estate planning documentation before the divorce is final?

There may be some potential advantages to being the first to file for divorce that should be considered before taking that step. There should not be a rush to file first. Whoever initiates the divorce proceeding is not the “winner,” which should not be the motivating factor in deciding the right time to file. On the other hand, there may be some legitimate reasons to file first.

What experts can help in alimony cases?

A vocational expert can determine how much a spouse who is unemployed or underemployed should make if they work full time. 

How is child support determined? 

Child Support in Ohio is statutory and based on a formula. You can find the worksheet on most county domestic relations websites.

How do we handle uncovered healthcare, child care, and other expenses?

Usually, uncovered out-of-pocket medical expenses are divided according to income level. However, child care expenses are incorporated into the child support if the parties choose not to divide those expenses outside child support. Parties may agree on how they want to split the costs; if they cannot make those agreements, the judge will decide for them.

What happens if my spouse does not pay child support?

There will be an arrearage they owe, and a lien will be placed against their tax return refunds.

Can we order the child support to be taken directly from my spouse’s pay?

Yes, this is done via a Court Order through the child support enforcement agency.

How can we handle shared custody with a party who has physically abused me?

With care. Having a mental health professional and even a Guardian Ad Litem is critical in these matters.

When should I take copies of records from home?

I urge clients to ensure all the records they need are scanned or copied before leaving the marital home.

Do you have psychiatrists or clinical psychologists that you trust to help me?

Yes, most attorneys have referrals for their clients.

How do we decide on a mediator to help us resolve our case?

As a mediator, I encourage the parties to meet with me, and we can review my process of meditation, and they can decide if I am a good fit as a mediator for them.

Can we compel my spouse to submit to a mental health examination?

Yes, but this is usually done in a heavily litigated matter and will require much time and be expensive. 

What about insurance during the pending divorce?

The court usually requests that everything remain status quo until there is a final determination on the matter. So- no changes to insurance.

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Contact Anna M. Petronzio

Anna M. Petronzio, a Cleveland, Ohio collaborative and mediation divorce attorney, co-founded Petronzio Schneier Co., LPA in 1993 after graduating from Catholic University of America (B.A. 1990), Suffolk University Law School (J.D. 1993) and John Carroll University (M.A. 1999). Anna is a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar, the Geauga County Bar, the Justinian Form and she practices in Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake counties. Anna is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) and a founding member of the Cleveland Academy of Collaborative Professionals (CACP).

Call: 216-381-3400 x107
Email: apetronzio@ps-law.com
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