How to Get a Divorce
Getting a divorce in Ohio often requires going through several court hearings and participating in numerous rounds of negotiation with your soon to be ex-spouse.
Ohio requires that you are a resident of the state for a minimum of six months to file for divorce. Since you will be filing your paperwork through a county court, it is best to look up and see what their residency requirements are—usually a minimum of 90 days.
The state recognizes two options for ending a marriage, a dissolution or a divorce. Like most states, Ohio has both “no-fault” and fault-based grounds for divorce.
Although Ohio does not use the words “no-fault,” when describing a dissolution, many people think of this marriage-terminating procedure as being one.
A dissolution is much quicker than a divorce and the least expensive way to terminate the marriage in the state. However, unless you and your spouse both agree on the reasons for the divorce as well as the various issues, the divorce is considered contested.
If your divorce is contested, you must have grounds or a reason for divorce. The state of Ohio doesn’t require both spouses to agree to a divorce. Fault-based divorces are usually longer, more expensive and can expose embarrassing details about the marriage.
In a fault-based divorce, you must prove that your spouse did something that led to the divorce. To get a fault-based divorce in Ohio, it is required that one person allege that their spouse is under fault due to one of the reasons listed in Ohio Revised Code (R.C.) 3105.01
- Extreme cruelty
- Habitual drunkenness
- Gross neglect
- Fraudulent inducement to marry
- Imprisonment in a state or federal prison
- Willful absence of the other party for one year
Even if they are unable to agree on many issues, a couple can choose one of the two no-fault divorce grounds allowed by the state—living apart for a minimum of one year or incompatibility. Either way, the result of both dissolution and divorce is the same in the end—the marriage is legally terminated.
Although many of the procedures for obtaining a divorce and dissolution are the same, we will be concentrating on the divorce process.
How to File for Divorce
Although every divorce has unique issues, in most cases they tend to follow this particular pattern:
File a Complaint
The Complaint about Divorce is the document that starts the divorce process. It is a formal request to the county court for a divorce.
The divorce complaint also affirms that you have resided in the state and county for the required period of time, states what you are requesting from the court and says what the reasons are for wanting to divorce.
In Ohio, a divorce process can’t begin until 30 days after the Complaint is filed.
The court will prepare the request and serve the other spouse with these papers. During this time, the court may order a couple to attend marital counseling, which will have to be completed before a divorce can be granted.
The defendant responds to the Complaint.
After the court papers are filed and the other spouse has been served, they have 28 days to respond. If your spouse does respond, he or she will do so by filing a corresponding document known as an “Answer.” The Answer admits or denies the items stated in the complaint.
An Answer will only be filed with the court if he or she is opposed to some part of the divorce Complaint. If he or she does, then the case is considered contested and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing. If your spouse files an Answer, you will get a copy of it in the mail.
Temporary Divorce Orders may be issued.
The court can issue temporary orders that state what specific actions should take place immediately and last until the final divorce hearing. Child support, spousal support, and child custody are the most common issues covered in Temporary Divorce Orders. These articles may be temporary, but they are considered legally binding. Not following them could mean you will be found in contempt of court.
Written details of personal finances are exchanged.
Not surprisingly, divorce involves a lot of filling out of forms. These include those that ask for detailed information about you and your spouse, including information on employment status and children. During this period, each spouse is also required to inform the court of financial assets, debts, and property.
You are usually required to submit copies of your tax returns, W2s, and other financial documents, so it is best to have these ready and organized beforehand.
Decisions are made regarding custody and a parenting plan.
For those that have children, custody and a parenting plan are put into place. All couples with children must agree to a parenting plan that includes visitation and custody. If you and your spouse are unable to agree on these matters, a trial will take place to resolve the issue.
The final hearing is scheduled.
Several months after the Divorce Complaint is filed, you will receive a notice in the mail of your final hearing date and time. During the trial of a contested divorce, both people—usually being represented by an attorney—have a chance to argue their case before a judge.
It is very important you dress appropriately and conduct yourself professionally to make a good impression. The judge will examine the evidence and use it to decide what he or she feels will be a proper divorce settlement and outcome.
A Decree (decision from the judge) is rendered and the divorce is official.
After you present your case to the county court, you will give the judge a document known as the Judgement Entry and Decree of Divorce. These papers contain the court order granting you a divorce, dividing up marital property and debts and requiring one or both parties to pay costs.
This document is filed, assigned a case number, time-stamped by the Clerk and entered into the court record. The Clerk will give one copy of each form back to the person doing the filing, give one copy to the Judge, send one copy to your spouse, and keep two copies for the Court file.
Keep your copy of these forms in a safe place. You will get a final certified copy of the Judgment Entry/Decree of Divorce in the mail within three weeks. When you get this Judgment Entry, your divorce is final.