Family Law

Family Law

Columbus Family Law Attorney


Karen Poling Law provides strong and confidant guidance through the toughest situations faced by today’s families in Central Ohio cities from Columbus to Hilliard, Dublin, Westerville, and beyond.

From divorce, spousal support, child custody, third-party custody and visitation for extended family, to uncontested dissolutions, Karen Poling Law offers compassionate legal counseling and effective representation.

“My belief in her was not misplaced. Her comprehensive knowledge of the law and, more specifically, family law helped me avoid legal pitfalls that would have been likely had I gone with another lawyer.”  Read More

We are committed to advocating for the most advantageous outcome for clients.

In addition to legal representation, we work with experts in almost every field so that we can refer you to trusted advisers when you need additional professional help. Whether you need an accountant, appraiser, estate planning, or others, we recommend professionals that we rely on for the best support.

We believe that there are many situations that can be resolved between the parties without actually proceeding to divorce. Divorce proceedings, particularly if they are hotly contested, can be very lengthy and expensive. They may end up satisfying neither party.

We will be happy to conduct a consultation to review proposals from one spouse to another to assist in the resolution of your case.

When individuals attempt to represent themselves in family law matters, court personnel cannot provide legal advice. In most instances, people do not understand their rights and as a result, many people who represent themselves waive their rights to spousal support, child support, and assets. Others wrongly assume debts that may cause devastating financial consequences.

While dissolutions allow the parties to reach an agreement without having a judge decide in favor of one party or the other and seem less expensive and faster than contested divorces, representation by an experienced attorney is critical to avoiding later issues that we may not be able to remedy.

In contested divorces, very complex issues and technical legal procedures in court can make the process difficult and painful for both parties and their children, especially if there are financial and personal issues that cannot be agreed between both parties. In those cases, clients need the advice of counsel, which is provided as determined representation by our firm.

The following definitions are provided to help distinguish some of the areas of employment law that we routinely represent.

We are always available to respond to your legal needs and welcome the opportunity to assist you.

An annulment is a rarely used court proceeding by which a party seeks to have a judge declare that a marriage should not be recognized because it was either void from the beginning or should now be declared void.

Adoption is when an individual who is not the birth parent of a child becomes the legal parent of that child. In order to adopt a child, the birth parent or birth parents of the child must surrender his/her rights to that child.

When parties divorce, a court must decide each parent’s rights to the children. The court must determine custody and parenting time. When it determines these, it is allocating parental rights.

Child support is when one parent pays the other monthly financial support to assist in raising the children. Child support is established by a formula, which is defined in a statute. It is a calculation based on the parties’ incomes and certain expenses incurred for the children.

A person may be in contempt of court when he/she fails to follow the court’s orders.

A dissolution is when the couple agrees how to separate their assets and debts and how to handle the custody and parenting time of their children. The judge adopts their agreement as his order. In contrast, a divorce is when the parties cannot agree, and a judge decides all the issues for them.

Divorce is the most common method of terminating a marriage. It starts with one spouse filing a lawsuit against the other in which the court is asked to end the marriage and make orders regarding custody, support, and the division of all assets and debts. Although rarely an element of dispute and with only a couple of exceptions, proven grounds for divorce are still required.

Many substantial-asset divorce cases can involve an intricate combination of joint property and separate property. We will employ accountants, forensic accountants, business valuation experts, and real estate experts to help us determine the value of assets, when they were acquired, and whether they are part of the marital estate. Our divorce attorneys routinely deal with a host of asset allocation issues associated with high-asset divorce disputes:

  • 401K, pensions, and other retirement accounts
  • Business valuations
  • Commingled assets
  • Debt allocation
  • Division of personal property (including the allocation of vehicles and water craft)
  • Division of property orders
  • Division of pension and retirement benefits
  • Divorce tax planning
  • Film, book, and music royalties
  • Investment accounts and investment portfolios
  • Professional practice valuations
  • Real property
  • Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Trusts

We understand that regardless of the financial situation of the people involved, divorce is always difficult. We work with you to understand the totality of your situation and help get a dissolution agreement that protects your long and short-term interests.

Often, people are confused about the difference between a divorce, dissolution of a marriage, and a separation.

Essentially, a divorce is the termination of a marriage. Marriage dissolution is the termination of a marriage by mutual agreement, so essentially divorce and dissolution is the same thing. The spouses separate and a court rules on the division of property, alimony (spousal support), child support, custody and visitation.

There are also other arrangements or types of separation that exist and fall short of an actual divorce:

Trial separation: When a couple tries living apart for a test period before either getting back together or divorcing, it’s called a trial separation. Even if you don’t get back together, the assets they accumulate and debts they incur during the trial period are usually considered jointly owned.

Living apart: Spouses who no longer reside in the same housing unit are “living apart.”  Living apart may change property rights. For example, the court may consider property and debt accumulated between living apart and divorce to be the separate property or debt of the specific person who accumulated or incurred it.

Permanent separation: When a couple decides to split up, it’s often called a permanent separation. It may follow a trial separation, or may begin immediately when the couple starts living apart. In most states, all assets received and most debts incurred after permanent separation are the separate property or responsibility of the spouse incurring them.

Legal separation: A legal separation results when the parties separate and a court rules on the division of property, alimony, child support, custody, and visitation — but does not grant a divorce. The money awarded for support of the spouse and children under these circumstances is often called separate maintenance (as opposed to alimony and child support).

Division of assets: Should two parties decide to divorce, a full and accurate determination of their assets must be made. Once the assets are determined, then those assets are divided. This division is not always a 50/50 split due to each spouse’s income history, pre-marital assets and other factors related to the care of any children. There is no standard to the division of property because it is whatever the parties determine. For example, consideration must be given to 401k plans, which are in the name of one spouse, but was accumulated during the course of the marriage. When the divorce is finalized, a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) would be issued to transfer qualified retirement plans on a tax-free basis. Spousal support should be gender neutral as well as appropriate and reasonable. The allocation of child support however, is based on a state formula. Our law office would assist you in determining who pays what, to whom.

Grandparents may obtain visitation rights with their grandchildren if it is within the best interest of the children and other factors are met.

A guardian ad litem is an attorney hired to represent the children in custody cases. A guardian ad litem does an investigation by visiting the homes of the children, interviewing the parents and other individuals involved in the children’s lives, and doing all that is necessary to make a recommendation to the court as to whom should have custody. They can also recommend parenting time schedules that are in the best interest of the children.

When a child is born and his/her parents are not married, the case is a juvenile case, not a domestic case. As a result, the juvenile court has jurisdiction.

Mediation allows both parties to be heard and provides the opportunity to negotiate a resolution that is custom-tailored to your situation.

When a child is born during a marriage, the husband is considered to be the father and paternity does not need to be established unless the husband denies it. When a child is born and his/her parents are not married, the court must establish paternity. Paternity can be established by the father acknowledging paternity or by taking a paternity test.

Parenting plans, or shared parenting plans, are an agreement between the parents regarding their obligations with respect to the children.  It includes parameters for communication; specific parenting and holiday time; allocation of expenses, including unpaid medical expenses and extracurricular activities; child support; and the allocation of the tax deduction.  The goal is to achieve consistency for the children and avoid conflict for the parents and the children.

When parties end their marriage, the court will sign orders, requiring them to divide their assets and debts, to pay child support and/or spousal support, and to follow the custody/parenting time for their children. If one party does not follow the orders, the other can force them to follow the orders by filing a Motion for Contempt of Court or other appropriate motion. This is considered to be a post-decree matter.

Prenuptial agreements are agreements entered into between two people who are about to get married. To be enforceable, the prenuptial agreement must be signed prior to the marriage. In these agreements, the parties agree what assets will remain separate and what assets will be considered marital if the parties eventually decide to end their marriage or if the parties pass away while married. The parties can also agree on how to handle spousal support.

In marriages, there are two types of property – marital assets and separate assets. Separate assets are those owned by one of the parties before the marriage; gifts specifically given to that individual during the marriage; or inherited property. Marital assets are those assets acquired with marital funds during the marriage or gifts given to both parties during the marriage.

Separation agreements are the agreements that are signed when couples end their marriages. The agreements divide the marital assets and debts. Judges will adopt the separation agreements as their orders.

Spousal support is otherwise known as alimony. Spousal support is appropriate in long-term marriages where one spouse earned a much higher income than the other. Whether spousal support is for a term of years or permanent depends on how many years the couple has been married. The monthly amount of the spousal support depends on the needs of the spouse receiving support to meet his/her monthly living expenses and the ability to pay of the spouse who owes the support.

When a couple with children decides to end their marriage, they must decide custody and visitation for their children. Custody and visitation are two, separate issues. Custody is who has the power to make decisions for the children. Visitation, otherwise known as parenting time, is the time that each parent has with the children each week. There are two types of custody – shared parenting and sole custody. Shared parenting is when both parents are the residential and custodial parents of the children, and the parents must consult with each other to jointly make decisions for the children. On the other hand, sole custody is when one parent is the custodial and residential parent and he/she makes all the decisions for the children. When the parents settle their cases, they decide what custody arrangement is within the best interest of their children. When the case does not settle, a judge decides.

Parents must also decide the parenting time for the children. When parents agree, they decide the schedule. If they do not agree, a judge decides. Couples choose all different kinds of schedules. The best schedules are those that are best for the children, which typically are consistent schedules that are not too disruptive to the busy lives of the children.

The information and definitions above have been prepared by Karen Poling Law, for information purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained on this site is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client or business relationship between the sender and receiver. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

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