Divorce can be a heart wrenching experience for families. Getting a handle on the legal process can help you keep a cool head as you make important decisions about how to end your marriage. To file for divorce in Ohio, at least one spouse must live in the state for six months or longer. At least one party must also reside in the county where the complaint will be filed for a minimum of 90 days.
Grounds for Divorce
Ohio permits both fault-based and no-fault divorce. Most couples choose no-fault divorce, as it doesn't require you to get into all the reasons why the marriage failed. Instead of delving into private details, couples simply choose one of two no-fault grounds, which include:
- Living apart for at least one year
- Incompatibility (as long both spouses agree)
Although seldom used, Ohio also permits several fault-based grounds, which include:
- If a spouse neglects his or her duty to the other spouse
- If a spouse was already married to someone else at the time of the marriage
- If one spouse leaves and is absent from the home for at least one year
- Extreme cruelty
- Fraudulent contract
- Habitual drunkenness
The Divorce Process
In Ohio, you can end your marriage in one of two ways. If you and your spouse reach an agreement right away, you can file a dissolution, which is a faster, less costly process. Otherwise, you must go with a regular divorce.
- The petitioning spouse must file a "complaint" for divorce and summons at the courthouse in his county.
- The petitioning spouse must serve the complaint on the responding spouse. In Ohio, you can serve your spouse via sheriff, private process server, or certified mail.
- The responding spouse then has 28 days to file a written response, or "answer", to the complaint. In some states, courts will grant a "default judgment" if the non-filing spouse fails to respond. Ohio law prohibits default judgments in divorce cases. Instead, the filing spouse must present evidence that shows he or she is entitled to a divorce under Ohio law. For example, the filing spouse must present a witness who can testify that the parties were married and lived together as husband and wife. If the petitioning spouse can prove all the elements necessary for a divorce, the court will rule without the other person being present.
- The final step in any Ohio divorce case is when the judge signs the Final Judgment Entry and Decree of Divorce.
Dividing the Property
- How long the parties were married
- The couple's assets and debts
- Whether it makes sense to award the marital home to the spouse receiving custody of the children
- The liquidity of the assets being distributed
- The financial desirability of keeping assets intact
- The tax implications of the property distributions to each side
- The costs of selling assets, if necessary
- Property distributions the parties agreed to in a separation agreement
- The couple's retirement benefits
- Any other relevant factors
The court may decide that one spouse needs financial support from the other to meet his or her basic living needs. Under Ohio law, courts consider a list of factors when deciding whether to award one side support. If one side asks for support, Ohio courts consider the following:
- The parties' incomes, assets, and debts
- Each side's earning ability
- The ages of the spouses
- The spouses' retirement benefits
- The length of the marriage
- Whether one side stays home with the children
- Each side's standard of living
- Each party's level of education
- Whether one side supported the other while he or she pursued higher education
- How long it will take the support-seeking spouse to train to reenter the workforce
A primary concern for the Ohio divorce court is the best interests of the children involved in divorce cases. The court is tasked with providing for their financial, educational, and emotional needs. Often, the court makes temporary orders to provide for the children while the case is pending. Common temporary orders include child support, visitation, and cooperation between the parents.
Ohio courts prefer that both parents share parenting responsibilities. Although shared parenting isn't possible in every case, courts work with families to create visitation schedules that meet both parents' needs. Ohio courts consider the following when they determine whether shared parenting is appropriate in a case:
- The wishes of both the parents and the children
- The child's relationship with parents, siblings, and anyone else who might significantly impact the child's best interest
- The child's ability to adjust to home and school
- The mental and physical health of the people involved
- Which parent is more likely to adhere to court orders
- Whether a parent is behind on child support payments
- Whether a parent has been convicted of a child abuse felony
- Whether a parent has denied the other parenting time
- Whether the parents have established a residence
- The parents' ability to cooperate with each other
- The parents' ability to encourage the child to be affectionate toward the the opposite parent
- Any history of domestic violence
- The geographic distance between the parents
Ohio has specific rules regarding how much parents must pay to support their children.
Deciding to Divorce
Divorce is a big step. You might feel understandably reluctant to move forward with filing a complaint. It is always a good idea, particularly if you have a complicated situation, to consult with an attorney who can help guide you through the process.