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Columbus Family Law Blog

After divorce, make appropriate estate-planning changes

One of the aspects of divorce that many spouses are unprepared for is the multitude of tasks that must be accomplished. There are documents that must be gathered, financial matters to negotiate, and a wide range of decisions made that will shape each spouse's life in the years to come. It is easy to overlook items on one's divorce to-do list, but Ohio spouses should make an effort to ensure that certain needs are addressed in a timely manner. Chief among these is a re evaluation of one's existing estate-planning choices.

Many couples create their estate plan together, often using the same attorney to draft wills, trusts and various forms of power of attorney. Spouses usually designate each other as the individual who will inherit the bulk of assets. Once a divorce has taken place, these provisions will need to be altered to reflect each party's current wishes.

Do Doctors face a higher risk of divorce?

When many Ohio residents consider the risk factors for divorce, a lack of connection between partners is often near the top of that list. Taking that line of thinking a step further, it might be assumed that spouses working within professions in which long work hours are required would experience higher rates of divorce. Physicians spend a great deal of time at work, which many might assume translates into a higher risk of divorce. A recent study, however, suggests that doctors actually have reduced rate of divorce, as compared with other medical professions and the general public.

The study looked at data collected from nearly 250,000 health care workers, including nurses, executives, pharmacists and physicians. In addition, data from nearly 60,000 lawyers and 6.3 million other non-medical workers was evaluated. What became clear was that instead of having an elevated risk of divorce, physicians were among the least likely to see their marriages end, second only to pharmacists.

Divorce does not have to be excessively expensive

When many Ohio spouses consider filing for divorce, the financial ramifications of that decision are among their chief concerns. This is understandable, as there are always financial shifts that accompany the end of a marriage. However, spouses can exert a great deal of control over the cost of their divorce in a number of ways. Taking steps to limit the legal fees that accompany divorce is a smart financial move for both spouses and can increase the amount of money that each will have to move forward.

At a very basic level, the best way for spouses to reduce the cost of divorce is to take a collaborative approach. This means working together to reach a mutually agreeable dissolution of the marriage and to avoid contention to the greatest degree possible. By reducing the amount of discord throughout the process, less money is spent on legal fees, leaving more wealth to be divided between spouses.

Counseling or divorce? How to know which path to choose

Many Ohio couples will go through difficult periods within their marriage. Some challenges are external to the relationship, such as financial troubles or an illness. Others exist within the union, and must be addressed by both spouses if the marriage is to remain strong. In many cases, it is difficult to know whether discord between spouses can be overcome through counseling or might lead to divorce.

Some marital problems offer a more clear path toward divorce, such as an act of infidelity or domestic violence. For most couples, however, the forces that drive partners apart are far more subtle. Often, it simply becomes clear after a period of time that spouses are no longer on the same path in life. At that point, an effort must be made to determine if moving forward as a married couple is the proper course of action.

Taking time to heal after a divorce

Going through a divorce is a process that many in Ohio look forward to. However, regardless of how much a divorce is sought, there is still a period of adjustment and healing that follows. All too often, individuals want to rush through that period, and fail to give themselves the time and space needed to regroup before moving on after a divorce.

This is not to say that spouses should focus solely on their failed relationship in the months following a divorce, but to suggest that a healthy period of reflection and healing is a beneficial to all involved. For example, the immediate timeframe after separation and divorce is often defined by setting up a new household. This can be both overwhelming and exhilarating at times, and newly divorced spouses often fail to take the chance to redefine their own passions and goals as they set up their new household. Often, going back to work accompanies the end of a marriage, and here too is an opportunity to restructure one's life.

Divorce and kids: Approaches for every age group

Most Ohio parents who are preparing to divorce are concerned about how the change will affect their children. While divorce will definitely have an impact on kids, there is no reason that the changes ahead cannot be positive ones. The manner in which parents approach divorce with their children is an important factor in how kids will handle the change.

Even very young children will notice that one parent is no longer living within the home, and   can feel abandoned. In addition, young children have a limited grasp of time, which can make the length of time between visits with the non-custodial parent seem far longer than they actually are. Parents can help young kids adjust to the divorce by working together to create and maintain routines between both households, which gives kids a sense of security.

Can a surrogate mother be forced to pay child support?

Virtually all Ohio court battles over the financial care of a child are waged between parents who are no longer together, and where the custodial parent is seeking support payments to assist in the costs of raising a shared child. There are child support cases, however, that do not conform to this mold, and where the parties are far removed from what we consider to be the "norm." Recent reports of the struggles between Sherri Shepherd and her soon-to-be ex husband provide an excellent example.

Shepherd and her husband, Lamar Sally, contracted with a surrogate to have a child together. The child was conceived using Sally's sperm and the egg of an unknown party. However, before that child was born the couple split, and are now moving toward divorce. The surrogate alleges that after the child's birth, Sally took the baby boy and is planning to raise him. However, he appears to have fallen into financial difficulty after the couple's separation, and has filed for Medicaid assistance.

Do you know your spouse's thoughts about divorce?

Ask most married people how their spouse feels about life without them and you might be surprised at how certain they are in their response. Many of us are sure that we understand how our significant others feel about these matters, but recent research suggests that many of us are wrong in those assumptions. For some in Ohio, this could lead to an inability to predict when one's partner is seriously considering filing for divorce.

The research uses data collected in the 1980s, at which time married couples were asked individually to rate how they believed that their personal happiness would change if their marriage ended. They were then asked to rate what they believe the happiness of their partner would be if the marriage were to end. The research team followed up with the respondents six years later to determine whether the couples were still married.

Don't let emotions influence divorce decision-making

When going through a difficult divorce, it is easy to get swept up in the emotional turmoil surrounding the matter. Many Ohio spouses find themselves reacting in ways that are surprising, even to themselves. Divorce can be a tumultuous process, but it is also a time during which a number of important financial decisions must be made. Savvy spouses work hard to avoid allowing their emotional response to the divorce have a negative impact on the bottom line.

One common reaction to a particularly emotionally fraught divorce is for one partner to use the legal process as a means of exacting revenge on the other spouse. The urge to "make them pay" is not one that many people are particularly proud of, but it is a reality for many couples. The angry spouse can go to great lengths to make the divorce as difficult and contentious as possible.

Divorce is not always what one expects it to be

Virtually everyone who has never gone through a divorce holds a set of preconceived notions about how the process will go, and what life will be like both during and after the matter is made final. Reality, however, rarely conforms to these ideas, and most people find that their divorce is far different from what they expected. In many cases, the realities of life after divorce are better than what either spouse imagined.

One way that divorce is often a surprise is in the lack of animosity between partners. Many Ohio spouses feel that they have to reach a point of hating their partner before divorce is the best path forward. In reality, a marriage can fail to function in a number of ways that do not lead to hatred between spouses. Once it is clear that the union is not meeting one's needs on a basic level, the choice to move forward with divorce is often the best available course of action.

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Paul R. Panico

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