Monday, August 3, 2015

What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Naming Your Child When You Aren’t Married

In Ohio, unmarried mothers are automatically granted full custody of a child born out of wedlock under Revised Code Section 3109.0942 until the father of that child files an action in Juvenile Court and actually obtains an Order from the Court granting him parenting time.  
This means that as an unmarried, pregnant woman you have sole legal authority and decision making power over your unborn child.   One of the first major decisions you will make for your child happens before you even leave the hospital-- the name.   Naming your baby goes beyond your favorite names in the baby book, you need to choose a last name for your baby as well.  
When faced with the question of whether to give your baby your own last name or the father’s surname, you should ask yourself one simple question:  Why give your child the father’s last name when he hasn’t given you his?
That’s right.  Don’t do it.  
It is tempting to give your child the father’s last name for all types of reasons.  You’re emotional.  You feel that it is the “right thing to do”.  It’s tradition.  Maybe you will end up together and there are wedding bells in your future.  I sincerely hope that is the case.  But if the man hasn’t married you, don’t name your baby for him.  
It is much more difficult to change your child’s last name later on with a father who protests the change than it is to change your child’s last name from yours to his once you marry.

To find out how the experience attorneys at Stafford Law Co. can help you make the best decisions for your baby both before and after the birth, and to discuss birth costs and child support, please contact us as 216.241.1074 to schedule an appointment.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Divorce Over 50


If you thought that divorce was most popular among young couples, think again.  Americans over age 50 are now more likely to be divorced than to be widowed.  More than 1 in 4 of all divorcees are over age 50.  While divorce rates overall have remained constant, the divorce rate among those 50 and older has doubled since 1990.  

Why is this happening?
1. Children 
Raising children can be one of the most rewarding (and difficult) tasks in a marriage and is sometimes the tie that binds the marriage together.  However, once children leave home, many couples are left to confront their life together, facing issues that may have gone unaddressed.  With the children out of the home, many couples can feel as if they too have grown up and grown apart. 

2. Increasing social acceptance of divorce
Most of us today know many people who have gone through a divorce.  Divorce has become more acceptable in part because more people have gone through it and experienced an enjoyable life as a divorcee.  Even protestant Christians now have the same rate of divorce as the national average, perhaps due to increased social acceptance.  

3. Extension of life
With advances in health care and medical technology, Americans overall are living longer and enjoying more active lifestyles during what used to be called the “twilight years.”  Whether an increase in the number of years ahead means more time to golf, plan for retirement, focus on the career, or something else, more people are willing to get out of a bad relationship later in life. 

What problems can arise during mid-life divorces?

Divorce can be a difficult process at any age.  However, mid-life divorces can be especially difficult personally as well as legally complex.  A late divorce can mean more marital assets and complex investments.  A couple will likely have to confront how they will divide their retirement assets.  Take on any debt to help put the kids through college?  Which spouse will assume that debt?  The most important key to a successful mid-life divorce is having an experienced attorney who can help plan for the many years to come. 

To find out how the experienced attorneys at Stafford Law Co. can help you through a mid-life divorce or to schedule an appointment, please contact Joseph G. Stafford at 216.241.1074, or visit

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What you need to know about a Guardian ad Litem:

A Guardian ad Litem may be an attorney, psychologist or social worker who has been appointed by the Domestic Relations or Juvenile Court to represent a child who is involved in a legal proceeding and/or to advise the Court as to what they believe is in the child’s best interests. Individuals who serve as a Guardian ad Litem typically have training and experience involving interviewing children, identifying domestic violence and dealing with substance abuse. There are requirements which individuals must meet in order to serve as a Guardian ad Litem.

The Guardian ad Litem, or GAL, role in the Domestic Relations court is to  specifically  protect the interests of a minor child. They do so by maintaining objectivity regarding all parties involved. GALs are to appear and/or participate in all hearings. They will also ask the court, submitted in writing, to resolve conflicts.  The Guardian may request psychological evaluations or substance abuse assessments when necessary. A Guardian ad Litem is also required to avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest that may arise from any relationship or activity.

A GAL will make reasonable efforts to become informed about the facts of the case they do so by meeting with and interviewing the child and observing the child with each parent, foster parent, guardian or physical custodian and conducting at least one interview with the child where none of these individuals is present.

The Guardian ad Litem may visit the child at his or her residence in accordance with any court-established standards, and will ascertain the child’s wishes. Further the GAL will meet with and interview the parties, foster parents and other individuals who may have relevant knowledge of the case’s issues. Including interviewing school personnel, medical and mental health providers, child protective services workers and relevant court personnel.

The GAL will review relevant court documents whether they be criminal, civil, educational and administrative records pertaining to the child and, if appropriate, to the child’s family or to other parties, and obtain copies of relevant records.  
Finally the Guardian ad Litem will provide the court with a written report of the activities listed above, and a recommendation based on their findings.  

For more information regarding this topic, or to schedule an appointment, contact Joseph Stafford at 216.241.1074    

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Prenuptial Agreements, What You Should Know Before Getting Married.

Getting married, thinking you may obtain a prenuptial agreement, but you are not really sure what they entail? The following information will shed some light on what a prenuptial agreement is, what you should know about prenups, and if they work.

Let's begin by setting forth the definition of a prenuptial agreement.

A prenuptial agreement, ante nuptial agreement, or premarital agreement, commonly abbreviated to prenup or prenupt, is a
contract entered into prior to marriage, by individuals intending to marry. The content of a prenuptial agreement can vary widely, but commonly includes provisions for division of property and spousal support in the event of divorce or separation.

Many couples find prenuptial agreements uncomfortable and upsetting, no one wants to consider the possibility that their upcoming marriage may not work .
However, it depicts a couple’s level of responsibility and confidence. With a prenup in place, the marriage can begin on a firm foundation with clear, agreed upon expectations that can serve to put their minds at ease in the event of a separation or divorce. It may act as a bit of a safety net allowing each partner to let go of various anxieties, knowing they are protected, enabling them to fully engage and invest in the marriage itself. 

What you should know about prenups:

Prenuptial agreements must be in writing, they must provide full disclosure of assets and/or liabilities. They must be executed voluntarily, by both parties in the presence of witnesses. Further they cannot give one party significantly more than the other, and should be in a recordable format.
Lastly, as their name suggests, they must be executed prior to the wedding.

Are prenuptial agreements effective?:
Prenuptial agreements are  effective, if they follow the laws and guidelines outlined for preparation and execution of the agreement.
The State of Ohio is an equitable distribution state, making the prenup a very useful tool to protect the financial security of both soon to be spouses.
 For more information, or assistance with the preparation of a Prenuptial Agreement, call Joseph Stafford at 216.241.1074 or visit

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Should You Date While Going Through a Divorce?

Although it may be tempting to begin a new relationship while you are going through
a divorce.  It would be best to hold off until your divorce is finalized for a myriad of reasons; such as the increase in cost and stress of the divorce.  Dating a new person during an already stress-filled tumultuous time, could cause more tension between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse; resulting in your spouse becoming angry and vindictive, lengthening the process and raising legal fees.
             In many cases the interaction and interrelationship of a child, with any person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests, is a determining factor that is considered in determining the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities of children.  If you have a new girlfriend or boyfriend so soon after separation, or during the pendency of your divorce proceedings, you may be seen as unstable and that your priorities are misaligned.  If you decide to introduce the significant other to your children before the divorce is over or very soon thereafter, you look self-centered and like you aren’t putting your children’s best interests first.  The way you are perceived by the court is very important.
            A domestic relations court, most likely, will not penalize someone who begins dating before the divorce is finalized; however, your new “friend” could be subject to deposition by opposing counsel as well as subpoenaed to testify at trial. This conduct could result in a lot of unnecessary aggravation and costs.  Further, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, as well as actions during the pendency of the case may be used to determine maintenance and awarding of attorney fees.

            For more information regarding this topic, or to schedule an appointment with Joseph Stafford, call 216-241-1074.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Who Is Responsible For Student Loan Debt When Couples Divorce?

            Many divorce couples today have a substantial amount of student loan debt that was incurred during their educational pursuits and lead them to their professional careers.  When these individuals divorce, courts must address who is responsible for the student loan debt.   
            When courts divide marital property, this also includes marital debt.  As student loans have exponentially increased in dollar amounts, so too have they grown in importance during property division.  The average student loan debt for students who graduated in 2012 is $29,000.  If advanced degrees were earned in medical school or law school, even more debt will be owed.  For domestic relations courts, the time period of when the debt was incurred is often dispositive of who ultimately has to pay the debt.  If the student loan debt was incurred before the marriage, it is almost always that individuals separate, non-marital responsibility.  When student loans are incurred during the marriage, the outcome will depend such factors as the length of the marriage, what the student loans were used for and the other factors set forth in R.C. 3105.171.
            It is important for courts to properly allocate the student loan debt when dividing the divorcing couple’s assets and liabilities.  Courts will also consider the allocation of the student loan debt when determining the support issues.  If you have substantial student loan debt, be sure to keep as much documentation in regard to when the debt was incurred, what the proceeds were used for, and don’t forget to tell your domestic relations practitioner about the debt so that your lawyer can properly advise you and protect your rights.  

For more information on this topic, or to schedule an appointment with Joseph Stafford, call 216.241.1074 or visit