October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a month-long observance intended to draw attention to the problem of domestic violence in the United States and raise awareness concerning the individuals and resources combating abuse against women and children.

Cleveland Domestic Violence Statistics

According to the Ohio Attorney General, in 2012 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) there were a total of 2,668 domestic violence incidents, including nearly 1,000 incidents to which the Cleveland Police Department responded. Nationally, there are over 900,000 domestic violence incidents every year committed against nearly 3 million women. Although our society and culture tend to view women as the victims of domestic violence, in 2010 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 40% of victims of severe physical abuse were men.

Ohio Domestic Violence Laws

In Ohio, an individual can be found guilty of domestic violence if that person:

  • Knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical harm to a family or household member;
  • Recklessly causes serious physical harm to a family or household member; or
  • By threat of force, knowingly causes a family or household member to believe that the offender will cause imminent physical harm to the family or household member.

It does not matter if the aggressor makes actual physical contact with the victim; even placing the victim in fear that he or she will be immediately struck or abused can result in a conviction for domestic violence.

The key to a domestic violence conviction involves showing that the victim was a "family or household member" to the aggressor. This means that the victim must be:

  • Someone who resided or is residing with the offender, including a spouse, former spouse, someone living with the offender as a spouse, a parent, a foster parent, a child, etc.; or
  • The natural parent of a child of whom the offender is the other natural or putative parent.

Unlike some states, Ohio's domestic violence statute does not explicitly protect individuals in a dating relationship. But if those individuals are living together or have a child in common, then the victim would be considered a "family or household member" under the domestic violence statute and the offender could be prosecuted for domestic violence.

Depending on the number of prior convictions for domestic violence as well as whether any actual physical contact occurred, domestic violence can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. If there are previous convictions, or if the victim was pregnant at the time the violence domestic violence occurred, then the penalties will be more severe.

Help for Ohio Domestic Violence Victims

Victims of domestic violence need to know that there are laws in place to protect them from an abusive situation. In addition to criminal laws and penalties, there are protective orders that can order the offender to stay away from you and not to harass you or your children. In some cases, these protective orders can also require the offender to move out of the house until the court issues further orders. If you or a loved one is suffering from domestic violence, contact us at 440-462-1882. We can help you protect yourself from the abuse of an intimate partner.

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Are Unvested Military Retirement Benefits Considered Marital Property?

/in Divorce /

The divorce process can be combative and contentious for a couple. A divorce can become even more heated when the parties fight over the division of marital property, which often is the case. The spouse with more property wants to keep as much as property as possible. Naturally, the spouse with less property wants to get as much from the other side.

This can create a situation where parties fight over what marital property must legally be included or excluded from the division of property in a divorce. Sometimes, courts even disagree as to what constitutes marital property, as evidenced by a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision.

Dispute Over Unvested Retirement Benefits

Recently, the Ohio Supreme Court had to determine whether unvested military retirement benefits count as assets to be considered in a divorce property division. In the divorce proceeding at issue, Daniel v. Daniel, the husband and wife were married from 1995 until their divorce decree in 2011. The marriage produced three children.

Prior to the marriage, the husband enlisted in the National Guard, and by the time of the divorce, the husband had been enlisted for 16 years. Prior to the divorce, the husband reenlisted for an additional six years, which means that he will be able to accumulate retirement benefits after 20 years of service. The wife wanted the retirement benefits to be included in the division of property.

A magistrate judge presided over the couple's divorce hearing to determine the division of property and debt. In regards to the husband's retirement benefits, which the husband could not receive until at least 20 years of service, the court held that, "Ohio law does not permit the court to divide a non-vested pension benefit." The wife, however argued the she was entitled to half of the retirement benefits because that husband had already contractually committed himself to remain in the military through vesting age.

The trial court disagreed and adopted the magistrate's opinion. The trial court found that the non-vested retirement benefit constituted a "mere expectancy" and there were no retirement benefits to divide. On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court's decision.

Unvested Retirement Benefits Are Marital Property

The dispute went all the way to Ohio's Supreme Court. The Supreme Court disagreed with lower court decisions and held that the husband's unvested military pension was a divisible asset. It did not matter that the benefits had not vested nor did it matter that the exact amount could not be calculated until the husband completed the required 20 years of service. Instead, the court focused on the fact "the percentage of ownership of the benefits on the date of divorce can readily be discerned."

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer published an article discussing the ruling. Justice Pfeifer discussed that Ohio law on marital property does not distinguish between vested and unvested benefits. In 1990, the Ohio Supreme Court held that vested benefits are included in marital property, but the Court never addressed the issue of unvested benefits until now.

Addressing the issue now, Justice Pfeifer said that the Court had all the information it needed to determine the wife's percentage share of her husband's unvested military benefits. Namely, the only information needed were the dates of the marriage, the dates of husband's military service, and the dates the two overlapped. All of this information existed, and therefore, the wife had a right to the unvested benefits.

Contact a Cleveland, Ohio Divorce Attorney

If you are going through the divorce process, Laubacher & Co.'s Cleveland divorce attorneys can help guide you through this process. It is important to have an experienced divorce attorney who will help fight for you to ensure that your rights and marital property are protected. Contact our divorce attorneys today for a free initial consultation.

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Fewer Ohio Parents Going To Jail For Not Paying Child Support

/in Divorce /

In Ohio, the calculation of child support payments and the enforcement of support orders are governed by state statute. Under Ohio law, child support payments are calculated by a court or child support enforcement agency according to a formula. The child support payment formula combines both the parents' gross income. Certain deductions to the gross income total are permitted, such as court-ordered child or spousal support payments, mandatory work-related deductions, and local income taxes paid.

Once the total is calculated, factoring in any adjustments, the parents' combined gross income total is applied to the predetermined formula. For example, if the combined annual gross income is $54,000 then the child support obligation for one child would be $7,431 per year. Furthermore, each parent's child support obligation is proportional to the parent's gross income. Therefore, if the mother's gross income is $18,000 (33.3%) and the father's income is $36,000 (66.6%) then the mother would be responsible for about $2,477 and the father would be responsible for $4,954.

Fewer Parents Being Sent To Jail For Missed Child Support Payments

According to a recent article in the Norwalk Reflector, fewer "deadbeat parents" in Ohio are being sent to prison for not making required child support payments. Over the past six years, the number of offenders going to jail has decreased from 781 in 2008 to 342 in 2014. For taxpayers, this means saving money in prison costs and collection efforts.

The decrease in offenders can be attributed to various Ohio agencies working together and instituting community efforts in targeted counties. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has been working with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to provide more information to parents about Ohio's child support program. These Ohio agencies increase awareness by visiting correctional facilities and meeting with inmates "to share information about fatherhood, child support and available job search assistance."

According to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's director Gary Mohr, "Ohio's recidivism rate is among the lowest in the nation, and partnerships [with other agencies] have helped to keep our recidivism rate low." Ohio has taken a progressive approach to help encourage non-paying parents comply with child support orders. In 2011, Ohio passed legislation that encourages judges to consider alternative punitive measures, such as sentencing offenders to probation or community service in lieu of prison.

Methods To Enforce Payment Of Child Support

If a parent fails to make payments as required under a child support order, there are various enforcement methods for the collection of ordered child support. According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, these include:

  • Income withholding, such as from personal earnings, pensions, unemployment compensation benefits, workers' compensation payments, disability or sick pay, and assets in a financial institution.
  • Tax offset, which allows the collection of past-due child support from federal or state tax refunds, or both.
  • Credit reporting.
  • Professional license suspension.
  • Increase in the amount of income withholding to pay arrears.
  • The Child Support Enforcement Agency can petition the court for an order requiring a parent to seek work (if the parent has no income or assets).
  • Contempt penalties, which include fines, jail time, or other remedies the court finds appropriate.
  • Criminal penalties, including fines or jail or prison sentence.

Generally, child support orders can be reviewed every 36 months to increase or decrease the obligations under a child support order. If you have questions regarding the calculation of a child support order or enforcement to compel a non-paying parent, an Ohio child support attorney can help answer your questions. Contact an Ohio family law attorney today for legal assistance.

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Laubacher & Co.
20525 Center Ridge Road
Suite 626
Rocky River, Ohio 44116

Phone: 440-462-1882
Phone: 440-356-5700
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