Divorce in Ohio

Buckeye state makes distinction between dissolution of marriage and divorce


Domestic violence involved?

As in other states, the first order of business in Ohio is to address any domestic violence that may be involved in the relationship. If such is the case, please see the Ohio Domestic Violence Resource Center, which includes emergency contact info (one number for use during business hours and a national hotline for use after 5 p.m. and before 9 a.m.) and a link for those needing an emergency shelter from domestic violence. Other links are to a DV FAQ, background and information for anyone experiencing domestic violence, and another for attorneys and DV advocates.

Consider all needs: emotional as well as legal

Another consideration is your emotional, psychological and spiritual needs: divorce can be a draining, painful process that may benefit greatly from professional counseling or spiritual advice. Experts agree that most divorces should involve at least one attorney–even for the simplest, uncontested cases, to make sure the final decree is completely legal and enforceable. However, complex, contested cases involving significant division of property and child custody/child support issues will almost certainly require both parties to have trained, experienced attorneys. Oftentimes, both parties sort “get that” as common sense, but forget to include, and budget for, professional counseling.

Dissolution is essentially ‘uncontested,’ and filed jointly

Ohio is a little different from many states that refer to divorce in their statutes as dissolution of marriage. All states now have some provision for “no-fault” divorce, but in Ohio, “dissolution of marriage” requires no “grounds,” and the document that gets filed is a joint petition. In this sense, it equates to what other states often refer to as uncontested divorce. In fact, according to the Ohio State Bar Association, “A dissolution petition is not filed with the court until the parties have reached an agreement on all the issues that must be addressed in a divorce matter. Designation of a residential parent, parental rights, visitation, child support, spousal support, division of property, payment of debts, and payment of attorney fees must be considered in either case.”

‘Incompatibility’ is another ‘no-fault’ alternative

Although neither party has subpoena power, professionals can be hired, for example, to appraise property. By its nature, this is quickest, simplest avenue to legally end a marriage in Ohio. Another route to no-fault divorce is incompatibility, in which the Petitioner and Respondent agree that the couple has been living separately for at least one year “without interruption and without cohabitation”–and that both parties agree to the incompatibility. In other words, if one party objects, then fault grounds will have to be proven.

Grounds for divorce, when ‘no fault’ not an option

These grounds, as in most states, include the following, according to Ohio Legal Services:

  • adultery;
  • gross neglect of duty (e.g., failure to support the other spouse);
  • one of the spouses was already married to another person at the time of their marriage to the second spouse (bigamy);
  • willful absence of the spouse from the plaintiff’s home for a continuous one-year period preceding the filing of the divorce case;
  • extreme cruelty;
  • fraudulent contract (fraudulent misrepresentations or promises made to the other party before the parties’ marriage);
  • habitual drunkenness;
  • imprisonment of the other spouse.

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