Columbus, Ohio Family Law Attorney

Family Law Overview

No matter your reason for contacting a family law attorney, understanding the law in relation to your particular circumstances and having confidence that you will be represented in a manner consistent with your expectations is my goal as your attorney. When we first meet I get to know your case from your perspective, identifying your priorities and setting realistic outcomes. No matter the complexity, it is paramount to identify your goals to ensure the best use of your resources. As compared to other areas of law, family law involves protecting your most valued and precious personal relationships. As such, it is important to identify short-term and long-term impacts of particular decisions made in the course of your legal proceeding. Below is an overview of common family law issues.

Dissolution or Divorce?

There are two ways to end a valid marriage – by dissolution of marriage and by divorce.

A dissolution of marriage proceeding is where the parties agree on all of the terms and conditions of ending their marriage. Once an agreement is reached it is reduced to writing (called a “Separation Agreement”), and filed with the Domestic Relations Court, along with other required documents. Should the dissolution also involve children, parental rights must be addressed also and filed with the Court for final approval. Thereafter, the parties attend a final hearing before a Judge. For these reasons, Winkler Legal Services, LLC offers an affordable flat fee dissolution as an alternative to a costly, time consuming divorce proceeding. Please call to learn how to dissolve your marriage without stepping foot in the Courthouse.

A divorce on the other hand, is a contested, adversarial proceeding where the parties sue one another and address the same issues of ending their marriage as with a dissolution; however, significant control over the outcome of the matter is deferred to the Court, and not the parties. Sometimes a contested proceeding is necessary when one or both of the parties simply cannot reach an agreement otherwise. Although adversarial, the parties are not prevented from negotiating a settlement any time before a divorce trial commences.

Division of Marital Assets:

allocating between the parties, assets acquired by the parties (individually or jointly) during the marriage, including the marital home, retirement and pension benefits, military benefits, savings and checking account balances, and business interests, to name a few.There are a number of exceptions so it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney to discuss your marital property rights.

Division of Marital Debts:

like marital assets, marital debts are liabilities incurred by the parties (jointly or individually) during the marriage, including credit card debt, mortgage(s), home equity line(s) of credit, loans against retirement assets, personal loans, delinquent taxes and automobile loans, to name a few. As with division of marital assets, there are exceptions and it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney to discuss your matter.

Spousal Support:

spousal support is not automatic when ending a marriage and it must be requested by a party. Spousal support paid is deductible from the obligor’s income and includable as taxable income to the recipient.The Court can retain continuing jurisdiction to modify the spousal support amount and duration. Also, there are specific Internal Revenue Code factors that must be considered when determining the frequency and manner of payment of spousal support, along with the tax ramifications that spousal support will have on both parties. As with all family law matters it is recommended that you consult with an experienced family law attorney to better understand your spousal support rights.

Child Custody:

when ending a marriage with children, the parties’ respective custodial rights must be determined.There are two types of custody arrangements, sole custody and shared parenting determinations.Both types of arrangements address the legal rights and responsibilities of the parents as it relates to the children, however, the best interests of the children should be paramount.In addition to custodial rights, the parenting time for the parents needs to be set forth in the final agreement. Parenting time includes regular weekly and weekend parenting time along with holiday, and vacation parenting times such as winter break and summer vacation.

Child Support:

regardless of the parenting arrangement, the financial support of the children must also be addressed.Everything from monthly child support, health insurance, payment of extracurricular activities, and allocating income tax dependency exemptions, must be clearly stated. Additionally, when determining the child support amount it is very important to accurately determine the parties’ incomes, along with important expenditures such as health insurance premiums and child care costs.Not all income is includable for purposes of calculating child support, and some income such as overtime, bonus and commission income are subject to averaging rules. It is possible for the parties to agree to decrease or increase the child support amount(called a deviation in child support), so long as the factors set forth under Ohio’s child support statutes are observed and the Court finds that the deviation is in the best interests of the children.

Unmarried Parents

In Ohio, when a child is born to unmarried parents, the mother is deemed the sole legal custodian of the child. What this means is that the father will need to establish paternity of the child (e.g. genetic testing) and establish his parental rights at Court. Additionally, it is wise for putative fathers (if you believe you may be the father) to register with the Ohio Putative Father Registry within thirty-days following the child’s birth.

You may register online by visiting, and follow the prompts. All parents have a duty to financially support their child, regardless of whether there is a court order establishing parental rights, child custody and child support.
When representing unwed mothers and fathers, I seek to understand the relationship of the parents with one another to help determine the child’s best interest.

It is very important to protect a parent’s respective rights while also addressing the child’s best interests.

Stepparent Adoption

Often, a stepparent is the party raising a child in place of a biological parent.
Under certain circumstances, Ohio law provides for stepparents to adopt the child. It is very important to thoroughly prepare your stepparent adoption case to provide the best possible outcome at Court. A Stepparent Adoption provides the adopted child stability and a nurturing relationship. When granted, the stepparent is granted legal parental rights as if the child was his or her natural child.

As with all matters dealing with legal custody of a child, the Court must find that the stepparent adoption is in the child’s best interest.

The consent of the natural parent is not necessary in certain circumstances, so it is important to determine how best to proceed before filing a Stepparent Petition for Adoption. I have represented both the adopting stepparent, and the biological parent (not in the same proceeding), and am experienced in protecting the rights of the parties and the best interests of the child.

When dealing with divorce, dissolution, child custody, child support, establishing parental rights, legal separation, spousal support, grandparent / companionship rights, stepparent adoptions and annulment of marriages it is important to understand Ohio law and its application to the facts of each case.
I limit my practice to legal issues facing Central Ohio families.