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Columbus Family Law Blog

March brings increase in number of divorce filings

Among family law attorneys, March is known as a busy time of the year for the initiation of divorce filings. Some estimates place the percentage of divorce cases filed during the first three months of the year between 35 to 45 percent of the annual total. As springtime begins, it seems that many unhappy spouses in Ohio and elsewhere are looking for their own source of renewal, and are ready to gain a fresh start.

The timing makes sense when one considers the flow of events that lead up to a divorce. In many cases, unhappy spouses put off filing for divorce as the holidays approach, not wanting to add a layer of disruption to what can already be a hectic and stressful time of the year. New Year's brings a period of reflection, which leads many people to decide that this will be the year that they make a change in their lives. It takes time to research the divorce process and find an attorney; often, the month of February is spent making plans and preparing to file. That leaves March as the month in which definitive action is taken, which includes actually having the papers drawn up and filed.

How will divorce affect our family business?

It is estimated that 3.7 million businesses in the Ohio area and elsewhere in the United States are owned by married couples. With so many marriages failing, spouses may be concerned about the business-related consequences in the event of a divorce. How will it impact the business, the financial stability of each spouse and the children?

If couples are proactive, they can avoid situations necessitating the closure of their businesses upon divorce. Most business partners draw up business agreements that indicate what should happen if one partner decides to leave or sell his or her shares. Married couples often neglect to take these steps in times when things are going well and are then faced with the consequences when communication may have broken down.

Tips for men going through an Ohio divorce

Within American society, men and women often have very different ways of addressing stress and emotional turmoil. While there are certainly exceptions from the norm, in many cases women have far better support networks in place to help them transition through periods of stress, including divorce. Men, on the other hand, often lack the emotional support that is needed to help move beyond an Ohio divorce, and many choose unhealthy coping mechanisms as they try to regain a sense of normalcy.

One way that men can move forward after divorce is to take the time to make an assessment of who they are and what they want from the rest of their lives. This involves gaining a clear understanding about how one wants to structure their life as a single man, as well as their new role as a divorced parent. Without taking the time and effort to create the foundation for this new self-identity, men are at risk of pushing forward without a clear path, which can lead to poor decision-making.

The importance of making wise decisions during divorce

There is an aspect of divorce that is often not spoken about, but which impacts virtually every spouse who seeks to end his or her marriage. This is the fact that divorcing spouses are expected to make some of the most serious financial decisions of their lives, at the very point in time at which they are least equipped to do so. Most Ohio spouses are faced with an overwhelming volume of choices at the same time that they are processing their emotional response to the end of their marriage. Unfortunately, the outcome is often a less than ideal divorce settlement.

For example, many individuals who are in the early stages of divorce turn the bulk of their focus toward keeping the family home. In some cases a spouse will cede a greater share of retirement savings to the other party in exchange for the equity built up in the family home. This choice is often based on a deeply rooted fear of packing up and moving on, and the disruption that such a move inevitably brings. In reality, however, keeping the house is often a poor financial decision.

After divorce, ensure healthy habits for the kids

The end of a marriage can be a tumultuous time for an Ohio family. As with any significant life event, it is easy to fall into poor dietary habits during times of stress. A recent study looked at the eating habits of parents and children who were going through a separation or divorce, and compared their choices with those of intact families. The results suggest that divorce can lead to a significant increase in a child's consumption of sugary beverages.

Researchers believe that the increase may come as a result of children seeking stress relief. Sweetened drinks provide an almost instantaneous rush of pleasure to the brain, and kids may find that reaction comforting in times of stress. In addition, a child's daily routine is often disrupted by divorce, and transitioning between two households can sometimes mean easier access to sugary beverages.

Divorce risk rises for women diagnosed with disease

There are a number of things that can lead an Ohio couple to seek divorce. Many of those factors are the direct result of choices made by one or both spouses. There are other cases in which circumstances lead to a distancing between partners, the ultimate result of which is an end to the marriage. A recent study looks at the impact that a serious illness has on a marriage, and the risk of divorce that accompanies a serious medical condition.

Researchers looked at 2,701 married couples over a timespan of nearly 20 years. Only couples in which one spouse was 51 years of age or older were included. In addition, one spouse within each couple had received a diagnosis of heart disease, lung disease, cancer or stroke. What researchers discovered was a higher risk of divorce for couples in which the wife was ill, as opposed to the husband.

Child custody -- the best interests of the children controls

When Ohio parents file for divorce, the manner in which child custody rights will be shared is often their chief concern. This is understandable, as most parents dread the thought of losing daily contact with their children. When negotiating child custody matters, however, it is important to realize that striving for an equal division of parenting time may not be the best outcome for the children at the center of the issue. The best interests of the child should always trump the "rights" held by parents.

Equality in child custody is often interpreted as a scenario in which kids move from one household to another every few days. While this may provide equal time for the parents, it is often very disruptive to the children. Kids thrive with stability and structure, and shifting from one home to another every few days can be very unsettling.

For orthodox Jewish women, a legal divorce may not suffice

Ohio readers may be aware of a trial currently underway in which a Jewish rabbi is accused of serious criminal acts. The rabbi, along with four other men, is charged with attempted kidnapping. He is also alleged to have participated in acts of violence against Jewish men who refused to grant their wives a type of religious divorce. The case has raised awareness of the issue across the nation.

A woman can pursue a legal divorce in any state, even if her husband is reluctant to participate. However, Jewish law states that only a husband can grant a religious divorce, known as a "get." Without obtaining a get, an orthodox Jewish woman is unable to remarry or even date within her faith. This results in a scenario in which a woman can be controlled by her former husband for many years following the legal end of their marriage.

After divorce, the children should always come first

The process of transitioning from one household into two is always a challenge for Ohio parents. This is especially true for couples who have gone through a difficult or highly contentious divorce. Regardless of how each parent feels about the other, it is important to place the needs of the children above all else when shifting into roles as co-parents. Doing so will not only yield better results for the kids, but also gives both parents a new way to communicate and interact with one another, which can be helpful after a divorce.    

One of the best ways to ease into a two-household family structure is to ensure that the primary rules and routines for children are consistent between households. Issues such as bedtimes, curfews, homework and discipline should be handled the same way in both homes. This gives children a sense of structure and stability, at a time when it is most needed. In addition, being on the same page about these and other "big ticket" items makes it easier for both parents to uphold and enforce the rules, and to feel supported in their decision-making.

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.

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Paul R. Panico

Attorney at Law
2929 Kenny Road, Suite 160
Columbus, OH 43221

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