It’s essential that a divorce lawyer has experience handling the type of divorce that reflects your situation. Your chosen attorney should have experience with cases similar to yours and have expertise in the specific areas of focus in your divorce. Our partners at ConsumerAffairs researched the best divorce lawyers in Cleveland to find experienced advocates to protect your interests.
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According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the nation’s divorce rate continues to drop and is currently at 3.2 per 1,000 people. Ohio, with a 2.9 per 1,000 divorce rate, is slightly below the national average — but divorce is still common enough that many law firms specialize in representing people during the process. Choosing the correct attorney to represent you is vital.
Types of divorce in Cleveland
Ohio is a no-fault divorce state, which allows the party filing for divorce to cite incompatibility instead of assigning blame for the marriage’s breakdown. A divorcing couple may also file for a no-fault divorce if they have been living apart for at least one year.
It is possible to file divorce under fault-based grounds in Cleveland, though this option is rarely used. The grounds recognized by Ohio’s legal system include adultery, extreme cruelty and bigamy.
If a divorcing couple files for a no-fault divorce and agrees on all the terms of the divorce, including child custody, alimony and the division of property, they can file for a dissolution of marriage. Dissolution is an expedited and less expensive process that requires the final hearing to take place within 90 days of filing the original petition.
If the parties dispute the terms of the divorce, there are several methods to reach a compromise. Some of the most common in Cleveland are:
Collaborative divorce: The parties hire attorneys and enter a formal commitment to make a good faith effort to settle any disputed terms of the divorce. If they are unable to agree, their legal representation withdraws and the parties must hire new representation before litigating the issue.
Mediation: In mediation, the divorcing spouses hire an independent third party to assist with reaching a voluntary agreement. Ohio law allows for local courts to determine the scope of issues that may be mediated. In Cuyahoga County, mediation may only be used in cases involving minor children to help couples resolve disputes on parental rights and responsibilities.
Litigation: If the parties are unable to come to an agreement through negotiation, they may choose to litigate the divorce in court. The couple each presents their side to a judge, who makes a binding decision on any disputed issues.
The cost for a divorce lawyer in Cleveland
The cost of a divorce varies depending on the divorce process and how capable the divorcing parties are of resolving disputes amicably. Most attorneys in Cleveland charge hourly rates, so the cost increases the longer the divorce process lasts. The average hourly rate for a divorce lawyer in Cleveland is $240.
Divorcing couples who agree on all issues and file for a dissolution of marriage pay considerably less than those who end up in litigation to settle disputes. Divorce cases with child custody issues that go trial can easily exceed $20,000 in total costs, while those with alimony disputes may reach $30,000. Factors that increase the price of divorce include:
Child custody and support
Division of high-value assets
Most attorneys in Cleveland ask for a retainer, which is an upfront lump sum payment from which the attorney draws fees and expenses as the case proceeds. The amount of the retainer may be more substantial if your case is expected to be heavily disputed or enter litigation.
Questions to ask divorce attorneys in Cleveland
Before hiring an attorney, ask for an initial consultation to discuss your case, fees and other issues. Many attorneys in Cleveland do not charge for these meetings, and those who do may charge reduced rates from their regular hourly rates.
Ask the attorney if they have experience and expertise with specific issues in your case. If your divorce involves custody of a minor, you want an attorney who has tried similar cases and has experience drawing up child custody agreements. Ask about the expected process of divorce as well — if you’re planning an uncontested dissolution of marriage, you don’t need an attorney known for litigation.
Questions to ask an attorney during the initial consultation include:
What kind of divorce cases do you handle?
Are you trained in any specialties?
How many cases have you handled with issues similar to mine?
What is your strategy for my case?
How long do you take to return phone calls or emails?
What is your hourly rate?
What is your retainer fee?
What other costs may be involved?
May I have a list of references to contact?
Affordability is crucial when hiring a divorce attorney, but it shouldn’t be the primary deciding factor. Hire an attorney who is compatible with you and your goals. Having the right attorney on your side significantly helps reduce the stress of the process and increases your chances of a favorable outcome.
Urban & Pozzuto
Urban & Pozzuto is a family law firm located in downtown Cleveland. The firm is equipped to handle cases ranging from collaborative divorce to litigation. The firm promises quick responses and open communication with clients. Reviews from former clients are positive, with many people saying the firm’s attorneys are supportive and professional.
Nickolls Law Firm
Nickolls Law Firm practices all aspects of family law as well as in estate planning and trust law. The firm’s lawyers handle dissolutions, mediations and litigation. Online reviews from Cleveland clients recommend the firm and say the firm’s attorneys are highly compassionate and take the time to address the individual details involved in the case.
Laubacher & Co.
Laubacher & Co. offers comprehensive family law services to Cleveland residents. They emphasize their role as a child-centric law practice. The company explores all methods of resolving a divorce with a focus on protecting your rights. Former Cleveland clients say they appreciate the clearly explained fee structure as well as the firm’s honesty.
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