Attorneys: Robert J. Behal, Jeffrey A. Eyerman, DeAnna J. Duvall
The Behal Law Group has been named by Columbus CEO Magazine as one of Central Ohio’s Top Family Law Firms for the past two years. Our lawyers have handled hundreds of cases throughout Central Ohio and surrounding areas. Our firm has the experience and capability of handling the most complex divorce cases involving valuations of business interests, division of complex investments and retirement assets, tracing of separate and premarital property, and determination of appropriate spousal support including tax effect. We have also handled and litigated numerous cases involving child custody disputes, shared parenting agreements, child support, relocation of parents, and other matters involving children of divorcing parents. Our goal is to utilize the many years of experience in our court systems to provide counsel and negotiated results that will keep our clients out of court whenever possible, but with the ability and courtroom advocacy to achieve our clients’ objectives through litigation when necessary.
Divorce affects approximately 50% of all families in the United States, and chances are that you or a member of your family has experienced the uncertainty and stress that comes with the end of a marriage. Our mission at The Behal Law Group is to guide our clients through the legal process of divorce, and obtain results that will allow them to move forward with their lives with minimal financial impact.
In the State of Ohio, the divorce process begins with one party filing a Complaint in the Domestic Relations Division of Common Pleas Court. Once the Complaint is served on the other party, the divorce case proceeds through the court system rather slowly, depending on the particular court. In Franklin County, divorce cases without children are typically required to be completed within 12 months, and cases with children are to be completed within 18 months (with some exceptions). Often, we will need to obtain discovery from the opposing party to determine their income, assets, liabilities and other matters necessary to gain information to settle or try the case. In cases involving custody or parental rights in which the parties cannot agree, often the court appoints a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to investigate and represent the interests of the children. Throughout the process, we make all reasonable efforts to resolve the issues in the case with the opposing party and their counsel, in which case the divorce can be concluded with an uncontested hearing before a judge. In cases which cannot be resolved by agreement, a final contested hearing will be set before the judge. Both sides can call witnesses, present documentary evidence and expert testimony, and at the conclusion of the case the judge will determine the outcome.
Our lawyers at The Behal Law Group have years of experience in this process. We have learned that rarely does it make sense – financial or otherwise – for a divorce case to proceed to trial. In most cases, once we have all of the necessary information through the discovery process, we are able to determine an appropriate outcome for a client and obtain a settlement based upon that outcome. This saves the client thousands of dollars, and eliminates the uncertainty of a judicial determination that will impact the rest of their lives. However, in some cases a settlement is not possible, perhaps due to the unwillingness of the other party to be reasonable. In such cases, we have a proven track record of obtaining successful outcomes for our clients in the courtroom. We have tried numerous divorce cases in Franklin County, Delaware County, Licking County, Fairfield County, Union County and other surrounding counties. Our lawyers have the trial experience and know-how to get our clients the outcome they and their children deserve.
Termination of marriage by Dissolution has become the preferred methodology in the world of family law, and the lawyers at The Behal Law Group have provided counsel in hundreds of dissolutions. Dissolution requires that each party complete financial disclosure affidavits so that all income, assets and liabilities are known to both parties. A Separation Agreement is prepared, which contains all terms related to the division of assets and liabilities, tax matters, disposition of real estate and personal property, spousal support and other matters incident to the termination of marriage. In cases with minor children, there must be an agreement as to whether one party will have full legal custody of the children, or whether the parties will have shared parental rights and responsibilities. In shared parenting cases, a Shared Parenting Plan must be prepared containing all terms relating to the care and custody of the children, including school placement, parenting schedule, child support, health insurance, medical issues, extracurricular activities and other items regarding the children.
In some cases, Dissolution can be filed very quickly if the parties have reached an agreement on all issues. In other cases it may require a lengthy negotiation process. Once the Petition for Dissolution and all other documents are filed with the appropriate court, a 30-day waiting period is required before a final hearing is conducted, granting the Dissolution and making the terms of the Separation Agreement a binding court order.
The domestic relations lawyers at The Behal Law Group can advise clients as to whether Dissolution is the best option in their case, and steer them through the process to obtain a successful result with a minimum of time and expense.
Child support is one of the most misunderstood and uncertain aspect of domestic relations law, and is often at the heart of custody disputes. It is critical that our clients have a complete understanding of the variables involved in child support before reaching an agreement with the other parent. Child support is determined by a “guideline” calculation set forth in the Ohio Revised Code. However, a court may deviate, or adjust the amount from the guideline based upon certain factors such as the parenting time schedule, direct expenses incurred on behalf of the child, expense for long distance travel, and other factors. This often results in each party making arguments as to whether using the guideline amount is appropriate.
It is also important that both parties’ incomes are examined to determine the appropriate figures for the calculation of support. For example, if a parent is self-employed or receives bonuses or commissions, a thorough review of his earning statements and tax returns may be necessary to determine his or her true income for support purposes.
Another issue in child support is extrapolation. The Ohio Revised Code guidelines are “capped” at a combined income of $150,000 for both parties, meaning that only the first $150,000 is counted in calculating the amount of support. In cases in which a parent has substantially higher income, the court may “extrapolate” to determine a higher support amount than indicated by the guidelines.
It is a common practice to negotiate in the area of child support, and the guideline amount is sometimes just a starting point. The lawyers at The Behal Law Group can help clients determine whether you are paying or receiving their fair share, and craft the legal arguments to negotiate a fair result.
The vast majority of cases involving parental rights are resolved through a Shared Parenting Plan. In a shared parenting case, both parties are named legal custodians of the children, an a Shared Parenting Plan is drafted containing terms regarding school placement, child support, parenting schedule, medical treatment, educational matters, extracurricular activities, health insurance and other matters. There is specific language required in all Shared Parenting Plans, which must be carefully drafted to be in compliance with Ohio law. The lawyers at the Behal Law Group can assist clients in drafting an appropriate Shared Parenting Plan which will encompass all of the children’s needs following a divorce or dissolution, and meet the legal standards required under Ohio law.
In a divorce case, Ohio law requires that the court divide the parties’ marital property equally, or if it cannot be divided precisely equal, that it divide the property “equitably”. This gives the court a great deal of leeway in determining what is an equitable division of property. The lawyers at The Behal Law Group have expertise with determining an appropriate property division in cases involving the most complex assets.
For instance, one spouse may have several investment accounts and private retirement accounts, while the other spouse has a public pension such as PERS or STRS. The parties may also have a house or other properties with equity to divide. The lawyers of The Behal Law Group are experienced in reviewing these assets and the preparation of marital balance sheets to achieve an equal or equitable division of the assets. We also work with a variety of financial advisors and experts in obtaining business valuations, real estate appraisals and retirement/pension present value reports to determine the appropriate figures for our clients.
Finally, it is imperative that we determine if our clients have non-marital or “separate property” claims which would be protected from the division of marital assets. Separate property can include property, accounts or funds that were inherited, or owned by a party prior to the date of marriage, plus any passive appreciation of these assets. The lawyers of The Behal Law Group can assist clients in identifying and tracing their separate property, and protecting these assets from the other party in the division of marital property.
The Behal Law Group has represented some of Central Ohio’s top business owners, entrepreneurs and their spouses to determine an appropriate methodology for division of their business interests. We work with industry experts to obtain business valuations and advise our clients to achieve an equitable manner of dividing their interests, while protecting their business assets and cash flow and diminishing the impact on the company.
Perhaps no area in domestic relations is more difficult to predict than spousal support (often called alimony). Ohio law provides certain factors that a court may consider in whether to award spousal support, the amount of the award, and the length (term) of the award. These factors include duration of the marriage, ages and physical, mental and emotional health of the parties, relative incomes of the parties, relative earning abilities of the parties, relative assets and liabilities of the parties, retirement benefits of the parties, consideration of child custody and expenses, and various other factors including “any other factor the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable. The reality is that a court has almost unfettered discretion as to whether to award support, how much to award, and how long to award it. However, in our experience, there are certain tendencies and factors that are more important than others, and make predictability of outcome somewhat more certain. Our lawyers at The Behal Law Group have years of experience in Central Ohio’s domestic relations courts, and we have developed a strategy of putting our clients in the best possible position to achieve their objectives when it comes to spousal support. With a systematic approach to the numbers and years of experience of battling it out in court, we can provide our clients the best possible advice in the treacherous waters of spousal support.