Family Law

But Who Gets Rover

So you are getting divorced. Sorry to hear that, but join the crowd. We here at The Mark Bamberger Company are doing dozens of them these days.  It is often clear who is getting residential custody of the minor children.[1] If there is a debate, often a Guardian Ad Litem[2] is appointed by the court to investigate what is best for the child/ren. But what about the non-human animals? That is far more complex in the eyes of the court.

Until recently, animals have been considered as property to do with as you do with a TV or sofa. In the current court system, especially in more liberal-thinking states, animals are given roughly the same legal rights as children in a divorce.[3] Their best interest is considered. Often, one of the divorcing parties wants “custody” of the dog, cat, horse, frog, fish, snake, raccoon, cow, ferret, or other non-humans in question. In that case, unless there is a battle (which believes me happens), that party will get custody of the animal and the other visitation rights. No, I’m serious. At a recent Ohio State Bar Association presentation, some of my most passionate questions circled around the idea of visitation rights to see Rover (name changed to protect the innocent).

Judges in Southwestern Ohio are becoming more open to the idea of viewing non-human animals as more than just property and though we are still far away from debating “Should Trees having Standing”[4], there is more understanding that dogs, cats, etc. have feelings and that the divorcing parties really do care about the pet and what happens to him or her.


[1] Custody to one parent almost always includes visitation to the other parent; either unsupervised or supervised.

[2] A Guardian Ad Litem (“GAL”) is a court-appointed representative, usually a practicing attorney, who interviews the child/en, their teachers, relatives, etc. and speaks for the children to the court. In Ohio, as in most states, the age when children can “speak for themselves” is nebulous, but often around 11-13; depending on the maturity of the children in question; as determined by an “in camera “ (in chambers) interview with the judge.

[3] States including Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are giving more consideration to the “best Interest” of non-human animals.

[4] See the seminar environmental ethics essay “Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment 3rd Edition,  Christopher D. Stone, ISBN-13: 978-0199736072

The Cyclical Nature of the Practice of Law

I am often asked about the cyclical nature of the practice of law. Certainly there are ebbs and flows in new cases that come in the door at different times of the calendar year. In 2016, roughly 33% of our business involves some form of family law (dissolution, divorce, guardianships, custody, grandparent rights) 33% involve bankruptcy (Chapters 7 and 13), and the other 33% included a diverse collection of criminal defense, corporate law, civil litigation, employment law, animal law, etc.).

Often divorces tend to peak around tax refund time and early Fall. Each year we get a number of cases based on our clients telling us that “…they wanted to wait until after the holidays to file”. This is sad, but a fact of life. Likewise, bankruptcies often peak around tax time since people have the money to file. A large caveat to this is that folks can file a bankruptcy anytime since, as long as they stop paying on their unsecured debt (e.g., credit cards, medical bills, payday loans, etc.), they can accumulate the funds to pay an attorney to file and begin the case for them.

As for the other areas, employment law cases can arise anytime but often peak in the late Summer to early Fall when businesses start setting their next fiscal year budgets; and in doing so look for sleazy ways to trim their payroll on the backs of their employees. Criminal work often follows economic downturns since people get desperate about job loss, mounting bills, or a generally poor economy.

Learning the lesson of the Irish Potato Famine, I have tried to keep this practice of law diversified. Not only is that smarter economics, but it also means our job is NEVER boring. Each day is challenging and engaging…just as we like it!

The Zen of Divorce

The Zen of DivorceTo divorce or not to divorce; that is not only the question, but often the life choice. The painful and agonizing decision to separate one’s life from another that they once loved, if not cherished, can be the worst of the worst of times.  Even in today’s challenged economy, the decision to get a dissolution or divorce is often the hardest decision someone has to make in their entire lives. 

Our parents used to say that we “stayed together for the kids”.  However, our culture came to realize that two functional homesteads were often better for the kids than one dysfunctional one.  Although separation is a traumatic and very complex condition, there are additional legal considerations that make it even more complex.  It is my job as their legal “counselor” to help them weigh all the options.  The word “counselor” is apt since in those trying times I seem to be more emotional support mechanism than attorney.

 

In many cases, the other party in the divorce is represented by counsel, which makes my job a lot easier. It is usually far easier and more efficient to deal with another professional and clear-thinking attorney to get a divorce completed.  In some nightmarish scenarios, the other side represents themselves “pro-se” (by themselves).  This can be painful since the other side is often too arrogant, too prideful, and/or too poor to retain counsel. There’s a reason we go to law school and have to pass a 20-hour bar exam!

 

So many times, we at The Mark Bamberger Co., LLC deal with divorce affiliated with bankruptcy, or civil litigation, or even criminal defense.  We try to counsel those retaining us for their divorce representation that all these other myriad issues may also come into play.  Often, filing a bankruptcy is the best way to get out from under staggering debt that could haunt each of the divorcing parties and their progeny for a generation to come.  We tell our clients that if they file bankruptcy on joint debts (those held jointly between both spouses), the creditors will visit their harassment and court actions on the other soon-to-be-ex spouse.  Not all of our clients are upset at that prospect.  In many situations, bankruptcy (especially under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code) allows a “new start”.

 

Some of our clients favor a dissolution; where both parties sit down and decide issues like parental custody, parental visitation, child and/or spousal support, and personal and real property separation.  This can be a civil, reasonably fast, and inexpensive way to divorce in Ohio and most other jurisdictions.  Others will attempt a non-contested divorce, where my staff prepares the documents and terms for our client.  Here, we file the necessary materials with the court and perfect service to the Defendant (other spouse) to make sure they received the documents.  The Defendant then has 28 days (in reality much more) to either do nothing, agree, or contest the terms.  If they contest, it becomes a contested divorce, which needless to say is the most expensive, time-consuming, and often painful option.  We have had many cases that began non-contested or a dissolution, then became contested (read “ugly”).  Not often do they go the other way, but it can happen,

The bottom line is this; divorce is complicated; emotionally, financially, and legally.  We at The Mark Bamberger Co., LLC try to counsel our clients about the inter-disciplinary aspects of divorce and help them navigate through some of the most traumatic and painful months of their lives.  It is never easy, but usually the sun does shine after the rainfall of tears has stopped.

Until Death (or Dissolution or Divorce) Do We Part

Mark J. Bamberger, Esq., Owner/Attorney at Law
The Mark Bamberger Co., LLC
Offices in Tipp City, West Chester, Enon, and Spring Valley, Ohio


Clients come into the offices of The Mark Bamberger Company for different reasons.  Some need to discuss a potential bankruptcy filing, some need criminal defense, some have an employer who they may need to sue, and others want to discuss some environmental or animal law litigation issue.  Yet, in many cases, the most disturbing discussions relate to a potential dissolution or divorce.  In some cases, we deal with 20- to 25-year marriages that are ending.  In some cases, after one year, someone is ready to “move on”.  All cases are sad, but having gone through the process myself, I know that the pain gets worse and then fades with time.  Time does in fact “heal all wounds”.

 

When counseling divorce clients, I do far more than simply discuss their legal options; be it dissolution, non-contested divorce, or contested divorce.  I also talk to them about non-legal ramifications like financial concerns and the best interest of any children.  Although they do not offer psychology classes in law school, they should.  To be honest, a surprisingly high percentage of my job is non-legal.  I need to know the law, to be sure, but I also need to be empathetic to the client’s plight, their emotional state, their personal safety situation, their financial situation, and the best interest of any minor children involved.  I keep a stocked box of tissues in my office at all times.

 

It is not uncommon for a separation to also implicate a potential bankruptcy.  In some cases, bankruptcy is a smart way to allow the client/s to “move on”.  In some cases, the married couple’s debts are so intermingled that it makes sense for them to remain together long enough to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in order to clear those joint unsecured debts; then finalize the divorce. In fact, legally a bankruptcy filing puts an “automatic stay” on any and all other legal proceedings, so either the bankruptcy case has to be closed before the divorce is finalized or else relief from that stay must be recommended by the trustee and ordered by the bankruptcy court.

 

When considering divorce, people are usually wise to “…go with their gut”.  If they are in physical or emotional danger, they need to separate themselves and/or their children as soon as possible.  As I tell clients in that situation, “…the first call should be to ‘911’, the second to their county’s Children’s Services (if and where appropriate), and the final call should then be to me”.  All in all, people do survive divorce.  In most cases, it’s my experience that spouses (and their children) are happier after the legal filing is completed and the pain fades.

 

The Different Divorce Options in Ohio

The Different Divorce Options in OhioAs is common in many states, there are generally three ways to end a marriage in Ohio.  From easiest (and often least expensive) to often ugliest and most costly, they are: (1) non-contested divorce; (2) dissolution; and (3) contested divorce. 

In each case, the same legal forms are indicated and are determined by county.  One of the biggest reasons to retain legal counsel in any of these situations in Ohio is that each county is different and some counties are very different indeed.  The wrong forms or formats can add many months and many thousands of dollars to the end of a marriage.  Even with trained legal counsel, this process can be time-intensive and tricky.  Though people legally can “do it themselves” (termed “pro se”), it is often best to pay the money to get it done efficiently, completely, and with finality. This is especially true where minor children are involved.  Courts often have little patience for pro se litigants making mistakes and “ignorance is never an excuse under the law”.

Without children, in most Ohio counties the necessary documents include: (1) the complaint for divorce; and (2) the separation agreement.  With minor children, add on several additional forms and a shared parenting agreement.  Whether custody will be full, shared, or joint, there are details to be completed.

Non-Contested Divorce

A non-contested divorce is just that; not contested.  In this form, the represented Plaintiff fills out the preliminary paperwork and then serves the forms and prepared documents upon the Defendant. Once service is perfected, the Defendant has three options: (1) contest or fight the complaint; (2) sign off and not contest; or (3) do nothing.  In the latter two cases, the court will allow the allotted 28-day answer period; then schedule the case for a final, non-contested hearing.  In that case, the Defendant need not even appear at the final hearing.  The Plaintiff appears with a witness to testify and attest that: (1) they know the Plaintiff; (2) the Plaintiff has resided in Ohio at least 180 days; (3) the Plaintiff has resided in the subject county for at least 90 days; and (4) the Plaintiff and Defendant meet the cause of action claim used for the divorce (e.g., incompatibility, residing apart for at least one contiguous year, gross neglect, etc.).  Non-contested divorces can be the fastest and least expensive option for ending a marriage in Ohio; as long as they stay non-contested.

Dissolution

A dissolution happens when both Plaintiff and Defendant decide on everything and decide those terms together and in (relative) harmony.  One attorney handles the paperwork for both parties, but can only represent one of the parties.  The other party is dealt with honestly and openly, but must represent him- or her-self pro se.  Once the dissolution is approved by the court, both parties are responsible for what they signed; represented or not.  Dissolutions can be as fast and inexpensive as a non-contested divorce.  The concern with dissolutions is that if at any point there is divergence of wants and desires, the case can quickly become contested (and contentious).  At that point, it is the ethical obligation of the attorney to end negotiations, tell the unrepresented party that the case has become contested, and recommend he or she retain private legal counsel of their own.

Contested Divorce

Finally, a contested divorce is just what you would expect; a fight!  These can become ugly; with children used as pawns in a nasty chess game and the two sides fighting over the silverware.

These three pathways are not mutually exclusive.  In other words, a non-contested divorce or dissolution can become contested and, in rare cases, a contested situation can end quietly and equitably.  The bottom line is this: the best thing a divorce attorney can do is to evaluate the situation and help his or her client decide which path to take for maximum gain and minimum pain in a situation usually defined by pain and heartache.

 

The Zen of Divorce

 

Mark J. Bamberger, Esq., Owner and Attorney at Law

The Mark Bamberger Co., LLC

Offices in Tipp City (Dayton), West Chester, and Enon, Ohio

 

To divorce or not to divorce; that is not only the question, but often the life choice. The painful and agonizing decision to separate one’s life from another that they once loved, if not cherished, can be the worst of the worst of times. Even in today’s challenged economy, the decision to get a dissolution or divorce is often the hardest decision someone has to make in their entire lives.

 

Our parents used to say that we “stayed together for the kids”. However, our culture came to realize that two functional homesteads were often better for the kids than one dysfunctional one. Although separation is a traumatic and very complex condition, there are additional legal considerations that make it even more complex. It is my job as their legal “counselor” to help them weigh all the options. The word “counselor” is apt since in those trying times I seem to be more emotional support mechanism than attorney.

 

In many cases, the other party in the divorce is represented by counsel, which makes my job a lot easier. It is usually far easier and more efficient to deal with another professional and clear-thinking attorney to get a divorce completed. In some nightmarish scenarios, the other side represents themselves “pro-se” (by themselves). This can be painful since the other side is often too arrogant, too prideful, and/or too poor to retain counsel. There’s a reason we go to law school and have to pass a 20-hour bar exam!

 

So many times, we at The Mark Bamberger Co., LLC deal with divorce affiliated with bankruptcy, or civil litigation, or even criminal defense. We try to counsel those retaining us for their divorce representation that all these other myriad issues may also come into play. Often, filing a bankruptcy is the best way to get out from under staggering debt that could haunt each of the divorcing parties and their progeny for a generation to come. We tell our clients that if they file bankruptcy on joint debts (those held jointly between both spouses), the creditors will visit their harassment and court actions on the other soon-to-be-ex spouse. Not all of our clients are upset at that prospect. In many situations, bankruptcy (especially under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code) allows a “new start”.

 

Some of our clients favor a dissolution; where both parties sit down and decide issues like parental custody, parental visitation, child and/or spousal support, and personal and real property separation. This can be a civil, reasonably fast, and inexpensive way to divorce in Ohio and most other jurisdictions. Others will attempt a non-contested divorce, where my staff prepares the documents and terms for our client. Here, we file the necessary materials with the court and perfect service to the Defendant (other spouse) to make sure they received the documents. The Defendant then has 28 days (in reality much more) to either do nothing, agree, or contest the terms. If they contest, it becomes a contested divorce, which needless to say is the most expensive, time-consuming, and often painful option. We have had many cases that began non-contested or a dissolution, then became contested (read “ugly”). Not often do they go the other way, but it can happen,

The bottom line is this; divorce is complicated; emotionally, financially, and legally. We at The Mark Bamberger Co., LLC try to counsel our clients about the inter-disciplinary aspects of divorce and help them navigate through some of the most traumatic and painful months of their lives. It is never easy, but usually the sun does shine after the rainfall of tears has stopped.

 

MJB 4/11

Family Law

At The Mark Bamberger Law Co. LLC, we recognize that going through a divorce can be a difficult, emotional experience. Our family law focus strives to guide individuals and their families through this traumatic time with dignity, sensitivity and the utmost respect. We are committed to protecting clients’ rights while preserving relationships with the children involved. Call us at (877) 644-8181.

With our extensive business experience, we are able to handle even the most complex financial issues involved in a divorce.
Experienced Divorce, Child Custody, Adoption and Visitation Rights Lawyers

We have experience and represent clients in the following areas:

* Divorce (contested and uncontested)
* Asset Division
* Separation
* Annulments
* Alimony
* Child Custody
* Child Support
* Visitation
* Grandparents’ Rights
* Pre and Post-Nuptial Agreements
* Modifications
* Domestic Violence
* Restraining Orders
* Paternity
* Mediation
* Adoptions

For more information about divorce, child custody, adoption, or any other family issues, or to schedule a consultation, contact the firm experienced in Ohio family law, The Mark Bamberger Law Co. LLC by calling us at (877) 644-8181.