Monday, November 26, 2012

What’s a Guardian Ad Litem and Do You Need One?

Guardians ad litem are people that have been appointed by the court to represent “the best interests of the child” in court proceedings. In family court, guardians are appointed in contested custody and visitation cases, and cases where abuse or neglect has been alleged. Though guardians can be directly appointed by judges, in many contested custody and visitation cases the guardian is selected by the parties’ attorneys.

In these contentious custody cases the guardian is paid for by the parties. Though the guardian ad litem is typically an attorney, this is not always the case as anyone who meets the requirements can be a guardian in such cases (Ohio Superintendence Rule 48).

The guardian’s role is a bit of a mixture of investigator and advocate. Some guardians will tend towards one side and not the other; it depends on the circumstances of the case and the temperament of the individual guardian. Some are zealous advocates for the children while others act as reporters, documenting behavior and recording interactions between parents and child.

The guardian who acts as an investigator will try to develop a strong factual understanding of the life of the parents and child. Guardians are empowered to interview the parents and the children, observing them on multiple occasions and even conducting surprise home visits. The guardian can then present the court with information that a judge would want to know when making a decision concerning custody and visitation. The guardian who behaves more like an advocate can have more of a viewpoint, deciding which situation is a better fit for the child and attempting to influence the court to support this view.

Even the most balanced guardians can invariably influence judges in their final reports. A guardian whose final report that says the children are doing fabulously well with the mother or that the father is an alcoholic carries a lot of weight with judges and can ultimately be determinative. Such reports let the court know what’s going on so that they can make a recommendation as to custody.

As long as the guardian behaves appropriately, their view will typically carry great weight with the court. Given the influence they have with judges, a party in a custody or visitation dispute should be sure to cooperate with the guardian whenever possible. Make sure never to lie to the guardian and try to highlight the facts that you believe are important or that need to be investigated in the case.

If you find yourself facing the prospect of divorce, contact an experienced Ohio family law attorney who can help guide you through the difficult process. Count on the expertise of Twinsburg family law attorney Carol L. Gasper.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Can your husband or wife stop you from divorcing in Ohio?

Thankfully, many divorcing couples are on the same page about wanting to get a divorce. The fights or problems communicating have been obvious to both parties for a while and the decision to divorce was a long time coming. However, there are times when the parties aren’t in such perfect agreement.

Sometimes one spouse wants the divorce and the other spouse does not, other times one spouse is caught by surprise, unaware that there were ever any issues. In these situations, the spouse who does not want the divorce may stall or refuse to do anything to keep the divorce moving toward a resolution. This can be extremely frustrating for the person seeking the divorce because it means more time and money spent on the process.

In all Ohio divorces, the first step after filing the Complaint for Divorce is that the respondent must be formally served with a copy of the Complaint. In many amicable divorces, the person who files the Complaint (petitioner) can simply give their spouse (the respondent) a copy, allowing them to sign an Acknowledgment of Service as an alternative to being personally served with the divorce papers by a sheriff or private process server.

If the respondent refuses to cooperate, however, he or she will have to be personally served. If the respondent goes out of their way to evade service, the petitioner will likely have to use a private process server, who will request additional information about the respondent’s schedule and whereabouts before tracking them down. This option is more expensive than having the sheriff do the service, but has a better chance of success.

If your spouse desperately does not want the divorce they may refuse to attend mediation sessions or a settlement conference. If that’s the case, the petitioner will have to request a final hearing to obtain a Final Decree of Divorce. As long as the respondent is properly notified of the hearing date, the court can grant the divorce, even if the respondent chooses not to attend.

Unfortunately, an uncooperative spouse can slow the process down, which will result in more time and money spent by everyone involved. Though the process may be grueling, the good news is that your spouse will not be able to prevent a divorce from happening.

If you find yourself facing the prospect of divorce, contact an experienced Ohio family law attorney who can help guide you through the difficult process. Count on the expertise of Twinsburg family law attorney Carol L. Gasper.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

What if your spouse doesn’t follow the custody agreement?

Although most judges consider it a priority to ensure that their court orders are enforced, parents need to realize that judges must be informed that there is a problem before they can take any action to remedy a problem. This comes up frequently in situations where parents don’t get along and they use a contentious custody schedule to further provoke each other.

If you’re a parent and your spouse (or former spouse) is denying you your court-ordered visitation there are steps you can take to remedy the problem. The first bit of advice that should be pointed out is that getting the police involved is absolutely NOT the right way to go. It is not their job to enforce orders from civil courts and you don’t want to make the matter worse by upsetting your kids.

By doing everything that the court order requires, such as by adhering, to the letter, to the written schedule, you can ensure that there are no excuses for your spouse to deny you your time. Also, if the order calls for advance notice of changes, be sure to follow to that as well. By remaining as compliant as possible, you will protect yourself from charges that you were to blame for the trouble.

If things go badly, start by informing your spouse, in a written document, that you will be enforcing your rights exactly as the court orders are written. If there is a response that shows their unwillingness to do so, keep it as evidence. Also, be sure you have a reliable witness if you try to pick up your kids and are denied access to them. Evidence is crucial to bring before a judge in cases like this to avoid the “he-said-she-said” problem that often affects these kinds of situations.

If the terms you worked hard to agree on relating to your children are not followed properly it’s good to know that there are channels to go through in order to ensure that the agreement is followed. Working with an experienced Ohio divorce attorney can be an excellent resource for people who are struggling with visitation issues similar to this one.

If you find yourself facing the prospect of divorce, contact an experienced Ohio family law attorney who can help guide you through the difficult process. Count on the expertise of Twinsburg family law attorney Carol L. Gasper.

Source: “Strict adherence to visitation order essential,” by Andrew Grossman, published at

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Monday, November 5, 2012

The Importance of Discovery in an Ohio Divorce

Many couples facing a divorce wonder why the time and expense associated with discovery is necessary. They figure that they know what the other spouse’s assets are; after all, you watched them buy the stuff in the first place. They think they understand the value of all the retirement and bank accounts because they’ve had conversations about them. Many people believe their spouse would not or could not hide any important information so why go through the trouble at all? The problem is, what you don’t know can hurt you in this instance, which is why the discovery process is so important.

Discovery is the legal process meant to extract information from the opposing party in a lawsuit. Gathering facts early on in litigation may actually help minimize costs in the long run by narrowing the issues that need to be addressed at trial or in settlement negotiations. Discovery involves numerous approaches, including: Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, depositions (both written and oral), physical and mental examinations, Requests for Admission, and others. The most important and most commonly used discovery methods are Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Requests for Admissions.

Interrogatories are questions posed to the opposing party. In Ohio, a party may send up to 40 Interrogatories to the opposing party. The opposing party is required to answer the Interrogatories under oath which is meant to increase the likelihood that the information provided will be truthful. If the party who receives the interrogatories refuses to answer, the court is able to impose sanctions.

Requests for Production of Documents (RPDs) are exactly what they sound like. An attorney makes formal requests for documents in the other party’s possession. If the party refuses to release requested documents that can also lead to sanctions by the court. Unlike interrogatories, there is no limit to the number of requests that can be made.

Admissions are statements presented to the other party. The opposing party is asked to admit or deny the truth of certain matters. Admissions are very powerful and help attorneys narrow down the number of issues that are really in contention between the parties. Another important bit of information about Admissions are that if the other party does not answer a request in a timely manner, the request can be deemed admitted.

As was mentioned above, discovery, when done properly, can help to uncover hidden assets. Many people may think they know what their spouse owns and yet discovery can still reveal some hidden assets. Unfortunately, it’s also possible that discovery works the other way, revealing that the couple has less money than they thought. Either way, the process has worked. It’s critical that before the divorce proceeds your Ohio family law attorney understands what is out there so he can properly craft a plan that is right for you.

If you find yourself facing the prospect of divorce, contact an experienced Ohio family law attorney who can help guide you through the difficult process. Count on the expertise of Twinsburg family law attorney Carol L. Gasper.

Source:Step by Step Explanation of The Discovery Process,” by Cathy Meyer, published at

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