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Attorney Matthew Weisenburger
Cline, Cook, and Weisenburger Co., L.P.A.
300 Madison Ave. Suite 1100
Toledo, Ohio 43604
In Ohio, adoptions fall into three categories:
- Public Service Agency adoptions, where the birth parent has surrendered the child voluntarily, or parental rights have been terminated in a child abuse, neglect or dependency court proceeding.
- Adoption placements can be arranged by private child placement agencies or attorneys, or individuals may already be caring for the adopted child through probate court or foster-parent scenarios.
- Adoptions can be filed by stepparents, grandparents or other relatives. International adoptions must also respect the adoption laws of the child's native country.
The birth parents' consent is required in adoption cases, unless the parent has failed to communicate with the child or failed to provide for the child for a period of at least one year. In these cases, the burden of proof is on the adoptive parents. Also, the birth parents' consent is not required in instances where parental rights have been revoked, i.e. neglect or abuse cases.
Along with divorce or dissolution (essentially a joint divorce filing), Ohio law also allows for annulment, which is often preferable on religious grounds. Rather than ending a marriage the way that divorce works, an annulment makes a marriage legally null and void from the inception. Grounds for annulment can include bigamy, underage marriage, consent obtained through fraud or force, or mental incapacity.
CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT
Ohio's Public Children Services Agency (PCSA) is very aware of child abuse and neglect situations and encourages the public to report any suspected cases of abuse or neglect. The agency has a wide range of approaches, and offers support and counseling in a more family-friendly way than the traditional, aggressive law-enforcement measures (depending on the situation).
In instances where a parent is awarded custody of a child in a divorce, the other parent is usually entitled to visitation rights (or the Ohio legal term, "parenting time"). Each county in Ohio sets up a "standard parenting time schedule," which is a common starting point in setting the schedules when he case is in question. Visitation can ONLY be determined by the court. The court may also put certain conditions on visitation, such as pickup and drop off at a preset time and place, or the other parent not consuming alcohol during parenting time. In the case of abuse or neglect, the abusive parent may be sent to parenting classes as a condition. The court may also appoint a Guardian
Ad litem to help protect the rights of the minor during legal proceedings.
Ohio has strong and aggressive child support laws, as well as a proactive Child Support Enforcement Agency. Collection from deadbeat parents can include:
- garnishing wages
- criminal penalties
- week-work orders
- seizure of income tax refunds
- contempt actions
- reporting delinquencies to credit bureaus
- seizure of driver's license or occupational licenses
LEGAL SEPARATION, DIVORCE AND DISSOLUTION
Legal separation is an option for those who want a spouse to remain responsible for health insurance and finances, or in cases where a couple has not met the six-month Ohio residency requirement for divorce. Divorces are granted through the common pleas court. The plaintiff must prove at least one of the following on the other spouse's part:
- absence from the home for at least one year
- extreme cruelty
- fraudulent marriage contract
- habitual drunkenness
- incompatibility (no-fault divorce)
- separate living for at least one year (another no-fault divorce
The less well-off spouse may seek spousal support in a divorce case. Though there are no set guidelines, the court can consider the following factors:
- the spouse's prior standard of living
- incomes and educations
- earning abilities
- duration of the marriage.
In most cases, the spouse sends a check to the state child support office, which then sends a check to the other spouse, although the court may allow the money to change hands without going through the state's offices. Delinquent spouses can see their wages garnished. The court is more likely to call for spousal support if the marriage has lasted many years, the other spouse is in poor health, there's a great deal of difference in their incomes or one spouse worked while the other raised children or went to college.
Ohio allows for a change in surname after a divorce, or simply through a petition to the court. The state also allows a person to "assume" a new name, even though that name might not be legally binding. Name changes (and changes of social security numbers) are often done in domestic abuse cases. The courts will thoroughly investigate to make sure the name change isn't an alias used to dodge creditors or tax collectors.