Cincinnati Divorce Attorney Zachary Smith



How to Address the Division of Marital Property

The Division of Marital Property

Methods of dividing property

There are three ways property can be divided during a divorce case:

  • The parties can agree to the division of property;
  • The attorneys for the parties can negotiate a settlement; or
  • A judge can decide which property is granted to each party to the divorce.

Identifying marital and non-marital property

The first step to dividing marital property is identifying which property is “marital property.” As a general rule, marital property is property acquired during the marriage. So, for example, if one party enters the marriage with full ownership rights to their great-grandmothers china, the china is considered non-marital property and remains with the original owner. If the parties purchase a home during the course of the marriage, this is likely considered marital property. Of course, there are legal exceptions.

As a starting point, make a list of all property, indicating whether you believe it is marital or non-marital. The list includes everything you both own, including the following:

  • The family home;
  • Any vacation homes (don’t forget the timeshare!);
  • Stocks;
  • Bonds;
  • Retirement accounts;
  • Savings accounts;
  • Money market accounts;
  • Cars; and
  • household items.

It is a good idea to maintain a list, some couples prefer a spreadsheet, identifying all household items and other items of property.

Dividing the small stuff

As almost overwhelming as it may feel, start in a single room. Identify every object in the room including the artwork, furniture, items in drawers, etc. At the completion of the house, the list will include such mundane items as dishes, towels, and sheets, etc. as well as valuable art, rugs, and family photos. Each item must be identified and divided between the divorcing couple. Even if you find you can’t agree on everything, it is a good idea to start by agreeing on the things that make the most sense to you as a couple. For example, if one party is going to stay in the family home, it might make sense for the party to also retain the lion share of furniture. On the other hand, the party may wish to start fresh and would prefer new furniture for their new life.

There’s no right way to divide marital property. Some couples preferred to divide marital property using a round-robin system where each party takes a turn claiming various pieces of property. Other parties preferred to attempt an equal distribution of property by assigning a monetary value to each item and then “going shopping.” Still other couples find it is easy to identify and divide certain property, while finding other property more challenging to divide. In this situation, it is best to identify and divide as much property as possible – leaving the rest to the lawyers to attempt to negotiate. Any property which cannot be negotiated may be subject to a judicial determination.

Divorce lawyers generally agreed the worst approach to dividing property is to leave it to the courts. In no situation does each party get exactly what they want, however leaving the decisions to the judge can almost certainly guarantee a disastrous apportionment of property.

If you are considering divorce

If you are considering a divorce, contact the highly reputable and experienced divorce attorney in Cincinnati, Zachary D. Smith, LLC. Zachary D. Smith has the experience needed for a successful outcome. Contact us today to discuss your case at (513) 275-1164 or for further information please visit

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Divorce Planning: A Basic Checklist

Divorce Attorney in Cincinnati
If you are planning a divorce, your divorce attorney needs certain information to assist you in the process. While each case is different, the most common documents are briefly discussed below. These are documents your divorce attorney should have at or prior to your first meeting.

Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements, also referred to as premarital agreements, can dictate child custody arrangements, division of property, and other matters. Whether or not the prenuptial agreement is valid requires legal analysis. If you have a prenuptial agreement, or you think you might have something that constitutes a prenuptial agreement, be sure to provide a copy of this to your family law attorney as early as practicable.

Court Documents

If you or your spouse has filed for a civil protection order, a restraining order, a harassment order, or criminal charges have been filed, plan to provide a copy of any documents relating to this. This includes any temporary orders. These documents may be relevant regardless of whether the court granted the request. Consequently, your lawyer should be made aware of this part of your relationship.

A List of Assets

“Assets” are items of property that have value. Obviously, your home and your cars have value. Similarly, the contents of your home have value. From Great Grandma Esther’s china to the tools in the garage, each item has some financial value. Some may also have sentimental value, which your lawyer should also be aware of, but in listing assets, try to keep dollar amounts realistic.

Additional assets include your savings accounts, stocks, bonds, and any ownership interest you may have in a business. Also consider retirement accounts including deferred compensation accounts, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and IRAs.

Marital Assets vs. Non-Marital Assets

While making the list, take the time to note how and when items were acquired. The difference between marital and non-marital assets is the basis for an article of its own in the coming weeks. Suffice it to say, whether property is legally subject to the divorce is based in large part on whether the property was acquired as marital property or non-marital property.

Documentation in Support of Child Support or Alimony Payments

To determine the appropriate amount of child support or alimony, the following documents are helpful:

  • Personal tax returns;
  • Business tax returns;
  • 1099s;
  • Pay stubs;
  • W-2s; and
  • Bank statements.

The family budget can also provide your lawyer with insight about regular expenses.

A List of All Debts

Finally, all debts should be detailed. This includes debts in the names of both parties, as well as debts in the name of either party individually.
Divorce requires considerable planning. Having an experienced and highly reputable divorce attorney in Cincinnati can assist you by navigating successfully through a divorce. To schedule a consultation please contact the law office of Zachary D. Smith, LLC at (513)275-1164 or visit for further information.

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Developing a Long-Distance Parenting Plan

Family Law Attorney Cincinnati

Parenting is one of the most rewarding, and toughest jobs. Long distance parenting presents additional challenges. Developing a long-distance parenting plan is critical to maintaining a relationship with your children when one parent lives far away. Sometimes, the distance is anticipated in the divorce decree. Other times, a change in circumstances, such as a new job or family demands, leads to a move after the divorce.

Essentials to Long Distance Parenting Plans

Anticipating Variables

There are several keys to a successful parenting plan when distance separates families. First, parenting plans should be as detailed as possible. Misunderstandings are minimized when contingencies and alternate circumstances are anticipated and dealt with in advance. While many parents maneuver the challenges of long distance parenting without ever relying on the details of the written parenting plan, having the written plan in place is additional insurance which provides guidance and helps avoid conflict.

Monthly Visitation Options

In this day and age, creative parenting plans can account for distances in ways prior generations never considered. Monthly visits may occur at the child’s location, the parent’s location, a mutually agreed upon neutral location between the two, or at another agreed upon location, such as at a grandparent’s house. Additional time between parent and child, including video conferencing, email contact, and text messaging, in addition to a schedule of phone calls should be a regular part of a child’s visitation.

Travel Plans

In all cases, but particularly for families visiting over long distances, travel plans are an essential part of any parenting plan. Topics include the following:

  • Which parent is responsible for making travel arrangements;
  • Whether the child is old enough to travel alone;
  • Appropriate options for travel – including train, bus, and air, as well as by car;
  • What are acceptable “arrival locations” (for example, if the child is traveling to Southern California, are San Diego, Santa Ana, and Los Angeles all acceptable? Two of the three? Only one?)
  • The party paying for the travel; and
  • Contingency plans should weather impact travel.

If you need a long-distance parenting plan, either as part of your divorce planning, or post-divorce, Zachary D. Smith, LLC, leading divorce attorney in Cincinnati offers insight and experience to serve you and your family for a successful outcome. To schedule a consultation please contact Zachary D. Smith, LLC at (513)275-1164 or visit for further information.

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Understanding Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements (sometimes referred to as a “prenup” or a premarital agreement) may be one of the most misunderstood concepts in family law. A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract between two parties—entered into before a marriage—defining the intentions of the parties regarding division of property, debts, and responsibilities in the event of divorce or death of one of the parties.

Prenuptial Agreements and Divorce

Many people think discussing and planning for the possibility of a divorce before marriage is bound to doom the marriage. However, discussing assets and debts before the marriage may actually strengthen the relationship. This discussion forces couples to consider both their own views, and their partner’s views about money, property, and other tangible assets. Additionally, prenuptial agreements address what happens in the event of the death of one of the parties. Any marriage which doesn’t end in divorce will, eventually, end in death. Prenuptial agreements protect the parties and their wishes.

Who Needs a Prenuptial Agreement

Some people think prenuptial agreements are only for the very wealthy. While it is a good idea for very wealthy people to have prenuptial agreements, many others would also benefit from such agreements. People who should consider a prenuptial agreement include:

  • Business owners;
  • Property owners;
  • People with more than $50,000 in assets;
  • People who have retirement benefits, stock options, profit sharing, and/or deferred compensation accounts from their employer;
  • Those who make (or who are expected to make) over $70,000 per year;
  • Those who wish to pass on certain property or assets, such as a treasured family heirloom, to someone other than their spouse.

Prenuptial Agreements and Adult Children

More people are marrying for a second time. Many of those couples have adult children. A prenuptial agreement allows couples to identify and agree upon property and assets which will go to the adult children. Without a prenuptial agreement, and in the absence of a will, ordinary rights of inheritance may result in the property going to the spouse, rather than the adult children.

Prenuptial Agreements and Family Businesses

When a family owns a business, a prenuptial agreement can clearly delineate what will happen to the business in the event of divorce or death of the party. A prenuptial agreement provides families peace of mind, because it can remove the family business from divorce negotiations, should the parties later divorce. Additionally, in the case of death, the prenuptial agreement can dictate such terms as whether the spouse becomes part owner of the business, the adult children of the deceased become owners of the shares, whether the family business simply belongs to the remaining family members, or some other scenario.

Reasons to Discuss a Prenuptial Agreement

If you are getting married, it is a good idea to meet with a qualified family law attorney in Cincinnati to discuss your prenuptial agreement needs. Zachary D. Smith dedicates his practice to family law issues. A problem solver who thinks outside the box and will help you set the legal foundation of your marriage the right way. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact Zachary D. Smith, LLC at (513) 275-1164 or visit

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Stepparent Adoption: Hamilton County, Ohio Rules

Stepparent Adoption in Hamilton County, Ohio


Stepparent adoption in the State of Ohio is an easy, yet time consuming process. Adoption by a stepparent is governed under statute 3107.03 of the Ohio Revised Code. Under 3107.03, the following persons may adopt:

  1. A husband and wife together, at least one of whom is an adult;
  2. An unmarried adult;
  3. The unmarried minor parent of the person to be adopted;
  4. A married adult without the other spouse joining as a petitioner if any of the following apply:
    1. The other spouse is a parent of the person to be adopted and supports the adoption;
    2. The petition and the other spouse are separated […];
    3. The failure of the other spouse to join in the petition or to support the adoption is found by the court to be by reason of prolonged unexplained absence, unavailability, incapacity, or circumstances that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult to obtain either the spouse or refusal of the other spouse.

In the case In re Adoption of Deems, the court held when it is in the best interest of the child, an adoption by a stepparent will be granted. (Ohio App. 3 Dist., 11-12-1993) 91 Ohio App.3d 552. This means that when seeking a step-parent adoption, you will want to ensure you put forward all information to help the magistrate find you as the most suitable parent for your stepchild.

The court will use evidence of a loving and stable environment to make a best interest determination. Id. The children in Deems expressed to the court that parenting time with the father was confusing and disconcerting, while further expressing a desire to terminate their relationship with their natural father in order to be raised by their stepfather. Id. The court in In re Adoption of Cline, held that the child’s best interest was not against manifest weight of the evidence. (Trumball 1993) 89 Ohio App.3d 450. The court in Cline used evidence that the child considered the stepfather to be her father and the stepfather’s interactions with the child provided a healthy, stable home. Id.

The court may grant the termination of the natural parent’s rights and adoption by the stepparent if evidence exists that the child views the stepparent as a parent. Likewise, the court may grant adoption to a stepparent where it is in the best interest of the child by proof that the stepparent provides a healthy, stable home which the child lacks from the natural parent.

In proceeding with a stepparent adoption, the moving party must find the rules in their county to ensure all steps have been adequately achieved. We will look specifically at the rules for Hamilton County.

In order to begin an adoption proceeding, a Petition for Adoption and a certified copy of the stepchild’s birth certificate must be filed with the Hamilton County Probate Court. The petition is used to identify the proposed parent, the child to be adopted, and to explain the circumstances surrounding the relationship between the parties. The state requires that the child must be in the home for six months prior to the finalization of the adoption. Generally, the six-month period begins on the date of the stepparent’s marriage to the natural parent.

In order for the court to approve a petition, a home study must be completed at the moving party’s expense. The Hamilton County Probate Court has a list of approved agencies who can complete an adoption home study. The petitioner is free to choose the agency they wish, as long as they are on the list provided by the court.  The home study is used to determine the suitability of the home and includes psychological, social, criminal, medical, and financial assessments. The findings of the home study will be provided to the court by the agency once the full investigation is complete. The court can only make a determination in the case after they have received the findings from the home study. Since the home study can take up to 90 days to complete, it is best to start the process as soon as possible.

The state of Ohio requires any child over the age of 12 to consent to the adoption by signing a consent to adopt form which can be found in the adoption petition. Once all of the forms in the Petition for Adoption have been completed, the petition should present them to the magistrate’s assistant at the information desk on the 9th Floor of the Probate Court. At that time, a magistrate will be assigned to the case. The forms will be taken to an available magistrate for review and to set a hearing date.

Once a hearing date is set, the petition will be instructed to take the forms to the cashier for payment of fees and to receive a case number. The cashier will stamp the forms with the appropriate case number and return any forms that will be needed at the hearing. On the day of the hearing, both the adult seeking to adopt and the child to be adopted must appear before the assigned magistrate. The magistrate will then conduct the hearing and, if they determine the petition should be granted, will enter an order of adoption.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the clerk will complete a Vital Statistics – Certificate of Adoption and send it to the Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics. The petitioner should then request a new birth certificate (in writing) with the required payment 30 days from the date of finalization of the adoption. The child’s new birth certificate should arrive within four months.

Zachary D. Smith, LLC, leading family law attorney in Cincinnati can assist you in obtaining a stepparent adoption in Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information or to schedule a consultation please contact the law office of Zachary D. Smith, LLC at (513) 275-1164 or visit

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Computing High Income Child Support

high income child supportIn order to determine the amount of child support one parent must pay to another, Ohio courts utilize a formula to ensure both parents are providing for any minor children. The formula computes a worksheet for child support and the court merely applies the computed results to the individual case. However, not all earners are covered by the worksheet, those parents whose combined earnings are less than $6,600 per year or more than $150,000 per year must utilize other methods to find an equitable support amount.

The legislature enacted Ohio Revised Code §3119.04 to deal with this very issue. The statute provides that the courts must review the child support amount on a case-by-case basis when the combined income falls outside of the worksheet amounts. This means the court does not have to follow the guidelines of the child support worksheet exactly. Instead, the court will consider the needs and standard of living for the children and for each parent and use that information to determine the appropriate amount of monetary support the child or children require.

In considering the standard of living for the child or children, the court may look to a number of factors, including: any special health care or related services; physical and emotional needs of the child; educational and extracurricular needs of the child; the lifestyle the child was accustomed to during the marriage or relationship of the parties; and any other factor the court determines to be relevant. The court must ensure that the amount is not inappropriately low. To make this determination, the court should not award an obligation lower than that of the $150,000 level. However, if the court finds that the amount should be lower, it must explain to the parties in the final decision why the obligation was set below the guideline. Likewise, a court should put forth reasoning behind a large support amount.

To see R.C. 3119.04 in action, we turn to Lanham v. Mierzwiak:

{¶ 14} In his first assignment of error, Mierzwiak contends:

{¶ 15} “It was reversible error for the trial court to utilize the extrapolation method to calculate child support, without considering the qualitative needs and standard of living of the child and parents.”

{¶ 16} A trial court is vested with broad discretion in deciding child-support matters and will be reversed only upon a finding that the trial court abused its discretion. Dunbar v. Dunbar (1994), 68 Ohio St.3d 369, 371, 627 N.E.2d 532, citing Booth v. Booth (1989), 44 Ohio St.3d 142, 144, 541 N.E.2d 1028; Kendall v. Kendall, 6th Dist. No. OT–04–004, 2005-Ohio-1777, 2005 WL 859447, ¶ 8. An abuse of discretion connotes that the court’s attitude is “unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable and not merely an error of law or judgment.” Kunkle v. Kunkle (1990), 51 Ohio St.3d 64, 67, 554 N.E.2d 83, citing Blakemore v. Blakemore (1983), 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219, 450 N.E.2d 1140. “Where a judgment is supported by some competent, credible evidence, there is no abuse of discretion.” Barone v. Barone, 6th Dist. No. L–07–1336, 2008-Ohio-5793, 2008 WL 4823343, ¶ 15, citing Van Vorce v. Van Vorce, 3d Dist. No. 2–04–11, 2004-Ohio-5646, 2004 WL 2377839, ¶ 15.

{¶ 17} In his first assignment of error, Mierzwiak argues that it was reversible error for the trial court to use the **1259 extrapolation method to calculate his modified child-support obligation under R.C. 3119.04(B), “without considering the qualitative needs and standard of living of the child and parents… {¶ 19} Our analysis of the trial court’s judgment that adopted the magistrate’s decision begins with R.C. 3119.04(B)[.]…

{¶ 21} We have construed this provision to mean that the trial court must “‘(1) set the child support amount based on the qualitative needs and standard of living of the children and parents; (2) ensure that the amount set is not less than the *431 $150,000–equivalent, unless awarding the $150,000–equivalent would be inappropriate (i.e. would be too much); and (3) if it decides the $150,000–equivalent is inappropriate or unjust (i.e. awards less), then journalize the justification for that decision.’” […]

{¶ 22} In fact, this court has specifically stated, “‘“Nothing in the new version of the statute, however, prohibits the court from using [extrapolation] to determine the amount of support due in high income cases; it merely no longer mandates that the court use this method. Moreover, the statute does not require any explanation of its decision unless it awards less than the **1260 amount awarded for combined incomes of $150,000. [A] trial court [does not err] therefore, if it used the extrapolation method to determine the amount of child support due.”’” […]

{¶ 23} Applying existing case law to Mierzwiak’s assignment of error, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in making the child-support award. Because the amount set is not less than the $150,000 equivalent, the trial court was not required to make any findings. […] Rather, the trial court was required only to “consider the needs and the standard of living of the children who are the subject of the child support order and of the parents.” R.C. 3119.04(B).

{¶ 24} Lanham is a registered nurse and massage therapist. She is currently employed by St. Vincent Medical Center, Mercy Home Care, and Northwest Ohio Emergency Services. In regard to her needs and standard of living, the court considered that Lanham must work 80 hours per week in order to maintain a level of income to provide for her daughter’s basic needs. […]

{¶ 37} The trial court also considered that Lanham had refinanced her home twice and that she wished to reduce her working hours but would not be able to provide the basic needs of her child if she reduced her hours. Lanham also testified that she has had to use the equity in her home to meet her monthly expenses.

{¶ 38} Mierzwiak is a physician employed by Omni Health Services Limited, a partnership, and Omni Administrative Service Corporation. Mierzwiak is paid an hourly wage by Omni Health Services and also received bonus payments from Omni Administrative Services. As to his needs and standard of living, Mierzwiak testified that his corporation took on additional partners so that he would not have to work more than 60 hours per week. Despite this, Mierzwiak’s annual income has increased from $315,000 in 2003 to $545,829 in 2009. Mierzwiak also testified that this **1261 new child-support payment causes a financial hardship. In support of this, Mierzwiak testified that he spends approximately $3,500 per month paying for the college educational expenses of his three older children. At the time of the hearing, however, Mierzwiak had paid all tuition due for the year for his older children, with $2,000 remaining in a college savings fund. Further, Mierzwiak testified that he took out education loans for his oldest child in the amount of $114,000. He argues on appeal that it was not necessary for Lanham to take out any educational loans. However, Mierzwiak took out the loans, not out of necessity, but rather with the intention of investing the proceeds in an education account earning a higher interest rate than the loan interest rate to “hopefully come out ahead.” We note that Mierzwiak went on to testify that “when the market tanked last year so did the fund, and that’s why I’m just leaving that money in that fund and that’s the money that I’m going to use to pay back the college loans.” Despite this, at the time of the hearing, Mierzwiak had managed to save $45,000 to repay the educational loan that would not be due until after December 2010. Mierzwiak also testified that he was able to contribute the maximum amount to his 401(k), approximately $46,000 in 2009. Evidence admitted in the trial court also shows that Mierzwiak contributed $9,730 into a health savings account in 2009.

{¶ 39} Finally, in regard to the needs and standard of living of the remaining minor child, the magistrate plainly stated that he reviewed the “standard of living, educational costs, sports, and other enrichment activities for the minor child” as well as “the actual time share of the parents in conjunction with the parties’ responsibilities pursuant to their Shared Parenting Plan.” Testimony was elicited in the trial court that the minor child spends four days per week with Lanham and three days with Mierzwiak, but she spends some time each day at Lanham’s house eating and doing laundry. Testimony reveals that the minor child takes art classes and that Lanham’s work schedule made it difficult for the minor child to participate in travel volleyball. Thus, it is evident that the trial court considered the needs and lifestyle of the child, but also the needs and lifestyle of both parents when extrapolating the child-support payment.

{¶ 40} Therefore, because the trial court considered the needs and standard of living of both parties and the children as required by R.C. 3119.04(B), we cannot hold that the trial court erred.

Lanham v. Mierzwiak, 967 N.E.2d 1256, (Ohio Ct. App. Dec. 2, 2011).

If you feel your support amount is unreasonably high or unreasonably low, an attorney can review your information to determine if the determination was reached equitably. Zachary D. Smith, LLC, has experience in high income child support in Cincinnati and is available to talk more specifically about your case. To schedule an appointment please contact the office of Zachary D. Smith, LLC, at (513) 275-1164 or visit for further information.

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Factors That Determine Child Support in Ohio

Child support attorneys Cincinnati
Whether you are dissolving a marriage or simply separating from a partner with whom you share a child or children, an experienced and reputable family law attorney in Cincinnati can assist you with issues related to child support. You don’t want to be left facing financial hardship until your support payments begin. Zachary D. Smith, LLC is here to help you with child support issues, including securing an initial order of support.

What Factors Determine Child Support Amounts?

If you are entitled to child support, there are set guidelines under Ohio law that determines the amount of money you should receive to provide for your children.

The non-custodial parent will have to pay court-ordered support for the care of children, with the appropriate support amount determined by factors including:

  • The number of children being supported.
  • The amount of time the child spends under the care of each parent.
  • The income of each parent and the family’s combined income.
  • Other essential financial obligations, including existing support orders and amounts paid for mandatory deductions from wages, such as union dues.
  • Special needs of the child /children, including high costs of specialized care.

Generally, you will not be able to deviate from these guidelines without substantial grounds to modify the standard rules.

Because of the deference given to Ohio’s standard child support guidelines, the state may not permit any agreements you and your spouse make that allow for a different support amount than the guidelines dictated. For example, a waiver of child support in a prenuptial agreement or a negotiated agreement on support may not be upheld, even if both mother and father wish to adhere to the agreement.

Understanding Ohio Child Support Guidelines

To determine the amount of support due, parents must understand how the state of Ohio determines what metrics matter when using the standard support formula. Parents must understand, for example, what counts as income, which can include both W2 salaried income as well as income from rental properties and entrepreneurial activities.

Ohio Revised Code section 3119.01 explains some of the basic terms that are important when it comes to the calculation of support. Even with a careful reading of the statute, however, it can be difficult to determine exactly how much support will be required under these guidelines.

Support may be required even if a parent does not see the child, and even in circumstances where the paying parent has never been involved in the child’s life at all. As long as a mother or father’s parental rights have not been terminated, that parent is obliged to contribute financially to a child or children’s upbringing.

For further information and/or assistance in securing or modifying a support order, contact the law office of Zachary D. Smith, LLC today 513-275-1164 or visit

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Top 4 Mistakes in an Ohio Divorce

Divorce attorney Cincinnati
When you decide to end your marriage, you’re probably uncertain of what to do next. Some things are intuitive, like the need to divide property or to divide custody of minor children, but understanding the logistics of how you dissolve your union can be far more complicated.The first and most important thing you will need to do when you’ve decided to dissolve a marriage is to contact a divorce attorney. Getting legal help is imperative because your attorney can help you to avoid problems and pitfalls throughout the divorce process.

What happens with your divorce settlement agreement is going to have a major impact on your future. Any mistake during the process can potentially cost you money, property, or parenting time. Zachary D. Smith, LLC will help make certain your divorce goes as well as possible so you can make the best of difficult circumstances and be ready to move on with your life.

A Divorce Attorney in Cincinnati Helps You Avoid 4 Common Divorce Mistakes

Talking with an experienced attorney is essential to avoid a variety of errors that may arise during a divorce, but you should be aware of four of the most common mistakes made when ending a marriage.

  • Letting your anger dictate your divorce outcome: You may be tempted to drag out your divorce or to fight about everything to punish your ex, but that isn’t good for anyone involved, especially if you have children. This action also costs money that should be divided up among you and your ex. By setting aside anger and making clear headed decisions, you will likely have more financial security after the divorce has been finalized.
  • Going to court for everything: You can work with a divorce attorney to try to negotiate a parenting plan for your children and for child and spousal support. Likewise, a divorce attorney can assist you in creating a plan for property division. If you don’t go to court, but rather work collaboratively, you’re likely to end up with an agreement that satisfies all parties involved.
  • Failing to understand what your rights are: A lot of people make incorrect assumptions about their rights. You may assume your ex will get to keep more property if he earned more or that your former wife will get custody of the kids because she was their primary caretaker. Don’t assume anything without consulting with an attorney. Without first knowing your rights, you may be sacrificing what you are entitled to by law.
  • Not properly addressing marital debt: You need to determine which spouse is going to be responsible for paying back which debts you owe. It is also important to know that a creditor can still consider you responsible for debt you co-signed for—even if your divorce agreement says your ex is supposed to be paying it. To avoid this, you may want to ensure debt is refinanced so only the person obliged to pay has his or her name on the debt.

Divorce should provide a fresh start, and you do not want mistakes in the process to hinder your ability to move on and build a better future. Contact Zachary D. Smith, LLC, a leading divorce attorney in Cincinnati to successfully help you through such stressful times at 513-275-1164 or visit for further information.

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Family Law Disputes: Which alternative is right for you?

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The legal field provides a plethora of approaches to resolving disputes in the family law realm. While the family law dispute process can seem daunting and extremely difficult, you are not alone in this difficult time. Litigation can bring fear in even the most hardened individuals, so it is useful to examine multiple alternatives. Today, we will discuss both the collaborative approach and the mediation approach.

Collaborative Family Law is a client-centered approach to problem solving during the divorce process. The goal of collaborative family law is to allow all parties to dissolve a marriage with minimal interference from the court system. Conversely, the Mediation process consists of a neutral third party (acting as a mediator) who facilitates communication and negotiation between the parties. The goal of the mediator is—to name only a few—to find common ground, to reason, to suggest, to convey information, and to provide the skills necessary to find a resolution to the conflict. Below we’ve provided information on the processes of both the collaborative approach and mediation to help you decide which process fits your particular situation.

Collaborative Family Law

The Collaborative Process begins when all parties execute a Collaborative Participation Agreement. The Agreement binds the signors to the tenants of cooperation, honesty, integrity, and professionalism. There are no secrets in the Collaborative process, all parties agree to be forthright in all information regarding the marriage. The Agreement also requires the parties to agree that they will not seek Court intervention. This process is formal and requires both parties to have outside counsel.

Full disclosure of all relevant information is an important part of the Collaborative Process, if one party fails to fully disclose relevant information, then the process will be terminated. It is the job of counsel in the Collaborative Process to ensure that the client is being fully represented and informed of all requirements to reach a successful resolution. Each party may bring forth individuals with specialized knowledge to further the process, these individuals may be experts (such as appraisers, certified business valuators, etc.) or other any number of other professional specialists (such as child specialists, family relations specialists, financial specialists, etc.). The information provided by these experts or specialists can provide information to assist all parties in coming to an amicable, client-centered outcome.

If, however, the parties are unable to amicably resolve all disputes, or if one of the parties feels they are unable to proceed without Court intervention, each party must retain new legal counsel and must—with some limited exceptions—wait 30-days before going to Court.

Family Law Mediation

The mediation process works in stages:

  • Introduction
  • Fact Finding and Identifying Issues
  • Brainstorming Options
  • Negotiating Options
  • Preparing Terms of Agreement
  • Revision of Agreement by Attorneys and Submission to Court
  • All parties involved in the mediation process are able to provide input at each stage regarding the dispute and resolution. This involvement provides both parties with the power to create terms which are specifically tailored to the unique situation at hand.

    In mediation, there is no requirement of separate legal representation, as with the Collaborative Process. The mediation process is informal and does not require the parties to sign a no-court agreement. The process of mediation is highly flexible and allows all parties to have a high level of involvement in the dispute resolution process. The mediator does not decide the outcome of the process, rather they are charged with assisting both parties to resolve their problems and design an agreement which is most beneficial for each party.

    To ensure the informal nature of the process remains intact, mediation communications are confidential. Generally, no party to mediation may break confidentiality unless both the speaker and all those involved agree that the communication may be shared. A mediator may not share the content of a private communication with any person, including a judge presiding over the dispute except in the situation where the mediator is under a legal obligation to disclose the communication (for example a threat of harm, admission of a crime, or admission of abuse). Once a final agreement is reached, the mediator may inform the Court of the individuals who met for mediation and that a final agreement was reached—full stop.

    As with the Collaborative process, an agreement may not be reached during mediation. Any issue that is left unresolved will be settled by further negotiations or may have to be determined by a magistrate or judge.

    If you feel your dispute may be best reached by either the collaborate method or by mediation, contact Zachary D. Smith, LLC for representation. Zachary D. Smith is a member of the International Association of Collaborative processionals and Cincinnati Academy of Collaborative Professions. Likewise, Zachary has received extensive mediation training specifically concerning Family Law matters. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact Zachary D. Smith, LLC at (513) 275-1164 or visit to learn more about your rights and responsibilities.

    Posted in Family Law Tagged with: ,

    What You Need to Know About Divorce in Ohio

    Divorce attoney in Cincinnati

    If you are seeking to end your marriage in the state of Ohio, you need to be aware of the laws regarding divorce in the state. Ohio divorce law differs from that of many other states. One of the primary ways in which the laws of this state differ from that of other states is by giving those seeking to end a marriage the option of seeking a dissolution of marriage or a divorce. There are separate requirements that must be fulfilled for each option.

    Divorce vs. Dissolution of Marriage

    Dissolution of Marriage

    For couples who are seeking a way of terminating their marriage out-of-court in the state of Ohio, a dissolution of marriage is an option. To seek a dissolution of marriage in Ohio, at least one spouse must reside in Ohio for a minimum of 180 days. This type of marriage termination requires that both of the parties to the divorce agree on the stipulations of the divorce including, property division, alimony, child custody, child support, and other important issues. All of these terms must be set forth in an agreement which must be attached to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the petition must be signed by both spouses. From which, there will be a court hearing within 90 days of the filing of the petition.


    The spouse who files for divorce must reside in Ohio for 180 days prior to filing. Unlike with a dissolution of marriage, a divorce requires a finding of fault by the court. Some of the statutory bases for a finding of fault include: adultery, extreme cruelty, gross neglect of spousal duty, bigamy, willful abandonment by the non-filing spouse for a year or more, imprisonment of the non-filing spouse, constant drunkenness, or incompatibility. It is important to note that incompatibility cannot be used as a grounds if one of the parties believes that the couple is compatible. To prove that one of these bases exist for a divorce, either the party filing for the divorce and a corroborating witness must testify that the grounds exist or the non-filing spouse must admit to one of the grounds for divorce.

    Division of Property

    In Ohio, marital property must be divided by what is known as equitable distribution. This does not mean that property is divided equally between the spouses as is often the case in community property states. Instead, property must be divided fairly between the two members of the couple. This determination is often made by the court. If you are seeking to end your marriage in the Cincinnati area and you are concerned about how your marital property will be divided, contact Zachary D. Smith, LLC, a reputable family law attorney in Cincinnati, OH, for assistance.

    Family Counseling

    The court has the power to order the spouses who are seeking a dissolution of marriage or a divorce to seek family counseling if there are children involved. The length of time that is ordered to remain in counseling will be determined by the court.

    If you or anyone you know is seeking to terminate a marriage in Cincinnati, Ohio, Zachary D. Smith, LLC, is your source for a successful outcome. As one of the top divorce attorneys in Cincinnati, he will represent and guide you every step of the way. For further information or to schedule an appointment, please contact the law office of Zachary D. Smith, LLC at (513) 275-1164 or visit

    Posted in Divorce Law Tagged with: ,