Voice of Steve Sleeper, Radio Host and
Susan Weaver, Divorce Attorney Lorain County and Cuyahogo County
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Welcome to “Ask the Expert,” with noted radio host, Steve Sleeper. Each week, Steve interviews entrepreneurs and professionals and shares their intriguing stories of success and service. Now, here’s radio veteran, Steve Sleeper.
And welcome to another addition of “Ask the Expert,” our guest today is Sue Weaver, with Susan M. Weaver, Attorney, in Cleveland, Ohio. Sue, how are you doing today? Oh, pretty good. Okay, good, good. Well, tell me a little bit about your firm and yourself, Sue. Well, I started in 1985, which seems like forever. I have always been on my own, except for one disastrous year when I was in a partnership arrangement. And I decided that being on my own is a much better thing to do. Absolutely. Recently, I have taken on what I call a “sidekick.” She has her own business, but she wanted to do more in the area of custody and visitation. So, I figured I wanted to slow down a little bit. So, we’ve sort of been working together and I hand her off all the stuff that I really don’t want to do anymore. Yeah, there you go, there you go. That’s a good idea.
Sue, what should we look for in a family lawyer? I think the most important thing is communication. You need to feel comfortable with the attorney. You need to feel that you can share information, that you will be respected, you will be listened to, and basically it’s your divorce, not the attorney’s. So, you need to be the one who is making the decisions. It also needs to be someone who knows something about domestic relations law. I think that I bring something extra to the table, in that I have a background in social work. So, I listen a little more carefully. And, I think I take people’s emotional issues more into consideration than some of my colleagues. But, I think it’s the communication piece that’s most important when looking for a divorce attorney. Yeah, absolutely.
Tell me, when folks come to you and they want to file for divorce, do you find that they’ve waited too long to do that? No, I don’t think that. Generally, I don’t think that people wait too long. I mean, on occasion, you’ll have somebody who has waited until the other party has spent all marital assets, and then they come in. then, it’s a little hard to divvy stuff up. But, usually, I mean, I take the very cautious approach. You don’t want somebody getting a divorce who then, you know, three months later, you know, what have I done, this could have been saved. So, I’m the one that usually is referring people to counseling, to go see a religious or spiritual advisor, whatever, to see if they really are truly at an impass where they have to terminate the marriage. Especially if there are children.
Yes, and what are grounds for divorce in Ohio? Well, there are about ten or eleven of them. But, the ones that are used most often, because Ohio is a no-fault state, we usually use incompatibility that is not objected to by the other side. So, basically if you just don’t get along anymore, that’s a grounds for divorce. We also use living separate and apart for more than one year. Or, the old stand-by gross neglect of duty, whatever that means. Whatever that means, yeah. I mean, there’s also habitually drunkenness, and you know, some other things that we just don’t really use. Right. Adultery.
Do you ever go to mediation? Well, I personally don’t go to mediation. My clients go to mediation. Right, right. That’s what I meant. Our court in Cuyahoga County, well, I practice in two counties, Cuyahoga, which is Cleveland, and Lorain. And both of those counties have mediation departments. There are also private mediators, and I use them extensively, when there are people who really can probably sit down and iron out their issues. And then all I need to do is put whatever they’ve agreed to into legalese. And then we can go get a hearing date. It’s a very easy process from there.
Kind of shifting gears, just a little bit, Sue. Is there alimony anymore? Yes, and it’s kind of interesting in Lorain County, there are 15 factors the court is supposed to take into consideration in determining alimony, which we call spousal support. But, the courts don’t do that kind of analysis. They have, what we call, rules of thumb. And in Lorain County, rule of thumb is equalize of income. One year for every five years of marriage. And they look at the slice of when you filed for divorce. So, if at that very moment, say the mother has been out of the workforce for ten years, and she just landed an awesome job making, say $65,000 per year. Whereas the husband has been always working, but making around $35,000 per year. She will end up paying the husband spousal support. Oh, I see, okay. In Cuyahoga County, they again don’t really take the factors into consideration that much. But, their rule of thumb is a lot more loose. It’s one year for every 3-5 years of marriage. Sometimes, they equalize income, sometimes they don’t. They take into consideration the duration of the marriage, and what the track record of employment has been over the years. So, it’s different from county to county then? Yes. Yeah, wow. And, you need to know what your county is.
Is child support, is that still prevalent? Oh yeah. And we have child support guidelines. Child support guidelines came in in the 80’s. It’s interesting, in Cuyahoga County, I developed child support guidelines before there were any because what we had been doing in Cuyahoga County was: it was $25 per week per kid, regardless of how much income there was. And, I was working for the court, and the judge who was the administrative judge at that time, said that that didn’t seem right to him. So, I hired the Ohio State University to help me figure out how to design child support guidelines, and they did. Based on incomes, based on number of kids in the family, and the ages of the children. And it was a very complex formula. And, shortly after we came out with that, which increased child support phenomenally, shortly after that, everybody started going with the guidelines. Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah.
Custody, is it joint, is it mom, what do you see on average? Well, in Ohio, we call it shared parenting. And that is becoming much more prevalent. And it’s sort of lost its… initially what it meant was shared decision-making and responsibility. It didn’t mean 50:50 time with the kid. Because parenting time is basically based on what your work schedule is. And the assumption is that everybody’s working these days. So, that is the prevalent model, if you will, unless there’s some reason why they shouldn’t share decision-making and responsibility. But, then again, you’ve got the same old-fashioned model of visitation, which is every other weekend, and Wednesday evening for dinner, but they call it shared parenting. Yeah, okay, yeah.
You know, we’ve talked about some of the differences in Ohio law, and even some of the differences between counties. Is there anything else unique about the divorce laws in Ohio? Well, I think clients have a hard time getting the idea that it’s a no fault state. Which means, it doesn’t really matter at all, what the reason for the divorce is. I get a lot of “well, he’s cheating on me,” or “she’s cheating on me.” And somehow they think that factors into the property division or custody, and it really doesn’t. And that’s upsetting. The other thing that people seem to really not understand, and I don’t think it’s unique, but I think there’s a basic misunderstanding, is that any pension or retirement assets that have been accumulated during the marriage are divided equally between the parties, regardless of who actually earned them. Because, the theory is that anything that was accumulated during the marriage is divided equally, unless there’s some good reason why it shouldn’t be. And, I suppose nobody’s ever happy about that. I guess, you know, but it is what it is.
What’s the most common you get, Sue? Well, other than “how much is it going to cost me,” the other question is “how long is it going to take.” And that’s a hard one because there’s really no good answer. In general, a divorce takes about, it can take anywhere from three months to one year. The Supreme Court cases involving custody of children should take no longer than one year to complete. It used to take a lot longer, but we’re keeping it down to one year now.
Well, Sue, this has been a lot of great information on family law and divorce laws in Ohio. And, I appreciate your being on “Ask the Expert” today.
How do we reach you? Well, the easiest way is to either call me at 216-373-2555 or by email, which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, your website is susanweaverlaw.com, if you want to meet Sue via the website fist, that’s always good. And our guest today has been Sue Weaver with Susan M. Weaver, Attorney at Law. In two locations in the Cleveland area. And, Sue, thanks very much for being on “Ask the Expert” today. Well, thank you.
Thanks for listening to “Ask the Expert” with Steve Sleeper. Join us next time as entrepreneurs and professionals share their intriguing stories of success and service.
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