Friday, February 28, 2014

Access to A Child’s Records After Divorce

Except when a court specifically denies a parent access to particular records through a court order, both parents have access to “any record, document, file or other material containing information directly related to a child.”  This applies to any kind of parenting arrangement – shared parenting or otherwise, even if the non-residential parent sees his or her child on an extremely limited basis.

A parent’s “right of access” to their child’s records applies to both public and private entities that are obligated to give the parent access, including doctor’s offices, hospitals, dentist’s offices, psychologists, schools, school counselors, child care facilities/day care centers, and even most state agencies.

Unless the entity has been presented with a court order that states a parent does not have the right to access to the child’s records, the entity is required by law to give both parents the exact same access to their child’s records. 

The most frequent incidence of a parent requesting access to their child’s records is in the case of academic records and report cards.  The Ohio “records access law” applies to both public and non-public schools.  A school cannot restrict a parent’s right to access most records of their child; only a court can do so.  When considering whether to restrict a parent’s access to their child’s records, a court must make a specific finding as to why a parent’s right of access should be limited and the circumstances under which the parent can obtain access stating with specificity the reasons and the restrictions.  Only with a copy of that court order can a school, doctor’s office, or other entity legally restrict a parent’s access to any of their child’s records.

For more information on this topic or assistance with any of your Family Law issues contact Joseph Stafford at 216-241-1074, or e-mail

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dissolution of Marriage

Dissolution of Marriage

            Created by statute (R.C. 3015.61-.65), a dissolution is a procedure which can eliminate some of the expense and length of the divorce process.  The end result is the same as in a divorce; your marriage contract with your spouse will be terminated and dissolved.  The main difference from a divorce is that the grounds are not contested, and you and your spouse are able to reach a global agreement on all issues which need to be addressed. 

For instance, if there are children involved, you and your spouse are able to agree upon the following issues relating to the child(ren): designation of a residential parent/legal custodian, where the child(ren) will reside and attend school, parenting time with the children (i.e. a schedule outlining where the children will be and when), child support, tax dependency exemption(s), health insurance coverage, and the payment of expenses for the child(ren). 

Regardless of whether child(ren) were born of your marriage, you and your spouse must also be able to agree upon any terms relating to spousal support (amount and length of time), division of property (real estate, personal property, automobiles, etc.), payment of debts, payment of attorney fees, and payment of any court costs associated with the proceedings.

You and your spouse will memorialize the terms of your agreement in a document known as a “separation agreement”.  This document is attached to a “petition for dissolution” and begins the process with the court.  The separation agreement, when approved by the court, becomes an order of the court, through a document known as the judgment entry of dissolution.

In Ohio you will need to appear before the court to provide basic testimony as to your marriage, its termination, and your agreement.  A court will set a date for this hearing not less than 30 days and not more than 90 days after you file a petition for dissolution with the court.

There is also the possibility of converting to a dissolution process, even if a complaint for divorce has first been filed.  R.C. 3105.08 allows this to occur upon the filing of a motion which contains a petition for dissolution and separation agreement.

For more information regarding these issues, and the process involved, please contact Joseph Stafford at Stafford Law Co., L.P.A. (216) 241-1074; or

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Various reasons to change your name under Ohio law.

There are various reasons to change your name under Ohio law, most often it is events such as marriage or divorce.  The choice to change your name at the time of divorce can signify the moving forward in one’s life.
In a divorce case, the wife may request to be restored to her maiden name, and the court may then include the name change in the final divorce decree.   This process is cost effective and convenient when included as part of a divorce action.
Otherwise, a person can file a probate court action for a formal name change by filing an application requesting a name change in the local probate court, getting a hearing date for a hearing on your petition for a name change, and publishing notice of your petition and hearing date in a local newspaper of general circulation once at least 30 days before the hearing on the application.  The name change applicant will have to testify at the court hearing as to their reasons for requesting the name change.  A person cannot request and obtain a name change for the purpose of avoiding creditors, evading criminal prosecution or investigation, or for other fraudulent purposes.
If a parent seeks to apply for a name change for their children, the parent will have to serve a copy of the petition and notice of the hearing date on the other parent or file the other parent’s written consent to the name change.  Courts will consider the reasons for requesting the name change and may grant the petition upon a showing of good cause.

For help with a name change or any of your domestic relations needs contact us at 216-241-1074, or e-mail

Monday, February 17, 2014

Juvenile Civil Protection Order or Juvenile Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order

Juvenile Civil Protection Order or Juvenile Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order
The Supreme Court continues its movement to standardize numerous forms for actions filed in either juvenile or domestic relations courts.  On March 1, 2011, the Supreme Court of Ohio adopted a standard forms for requesting a Juvenile Civil Protection Order or Juvenile Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order.  This enables an individual who seeks the protection available under R.C. 2151.34 and/or R.C. 3113.31, to file the request for relief in the juvenile court located in their county; or in the county in which the Petitioner and protected persons is/are located.  The request is appropriate only in the circumstance that the Respondent is less than 18 years of age.  R.C. 2151.34 specifically provides: “(6) ‘Respondent’ means a person who is under eighteen years of age and against whom a petition is filed under this section.”  If the Respondent is 18 years or older, the request must be filed in the county domestic relations court.  The Supreme Court of Ohio adopted the standard juvenile civil protection order forms under the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio, specifically, Sup. R. 10.05. 
The forms are available in either Word or PDF format on the Supreme Court of Ohio’s website: .  The forms may be updated in 2014.
            Although it is not necessary, it is always recommended that you seek legal counsel in regard to the filing of any request for relief with a court.  Please contact Stafford Law Co., L.P.A. at (216) 241-1704 to learn more about these issues.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It's Tax Season, Many Clients Are Wondering..... Are My Legal Expenses Deductible

There are certain circumstances under which a divorcing individual may be able to deduct a portion of divorce legal expenses.  When the legal fees are allocable to tax advice in connection with a divorce or separation, as well as for legal fees to obtain taxable spousal support, they may be tax deductible.  Here are some guidelines in regard to this issue:
The portion of legal fees specifically paid (usually by the wife) to obtain an award of taxable spousal support can be included with the spousal support recipient’s other itemized deductibles on Schedule A of Form 1040 on the "other expenses" line.  An individual may deduct the legal fees incurred to obtain an award of taxable spousal support in the original divorce proceeding, as well as any subsequent proceeding to increase the spousal support award or to collect any spousal support arrearages.
Legal fees, as with most other miscellaneous deductions are allowable only to the extent that their total in any one year exceeds two percent of the tax payers adjusted gross income (AGI).
For example, when a taxpayer with an AGI of $100,000 has miscellaneous deductions of $10,000, the two percent floor shrinks the deduction to just $8,000—which is the amount left after the $10,000 is offset by $2,000, which is two percent of $100,000.
Legal fees incurred for child support modification and/or collection actions cannot be tax deductible nor are legal fees incurred to obtain and/or enforce property division settlements. 
A taxpayer may deduct legal fees incurred for tax research and advice on such items as property transfers and dependency exemptions for the children, subject to the two percent benchmark for miscellaneous expenses.  The legal fee bill must specify in a reasonable way how much of the attorney fees incurred were for tax counseling.  The deduction is allowed only for advice on your own tax problems, not for payment of your spouse’s or ex-spouse’s attorney fees.
Always remind your attorney to prepare a bill that breaks down deductible and nondeductible charges so that you can substantiate your deduction in the event of an audit.   
Questions regarding this article? Or other legal needs, please contact us at 216-241-1074 or e-mail