Divorce and Dissolution

Ohio law provides a number of ways for spouses to end or alter their marital relationship. Two of the most common are divorce and dissolution of marriage. For a dissolution or divorce, you must live in Ohio for at least six months before filing. The terms visitation and companionship describe the rights of non-parents, such as grandparents. Parenting time refers to the time parents spend with their children.

In a dissolution of marriage, the parties mutually agree to terminate their marriage. Neither party must prove grounds to end a marriage by dissolution. Once the parties have determined how their property will be divided, how they will parent their children as a divided family, and how they will continue to support each other and/or their children, a petition for dissolution is jointly filed, with supporting documents.  After filing the petition, the parties must wait at least 30 days before the court will hear their case, which must ultimately be heard within 90 days of filing. 

At the hearing, the court will review any separation agreement, review any parenting issues, ask about assets and liabilities, and determine whether the parties understand and are satisfied with the agreement. If the court is satisfied that the parties agree and desire to end their marriage, the court will grant a dissolution and incorporate the agreements the parties’ have reached into the final court order. 

Divorce begins as a civil lawsuit in which one party (the plaintiff) asks the court to end a marriage. In a divorce proceeding,  the court is tasked with making the final decisions concerning property division, spousal and child support, and matters regarding the children.  In a complaint for divorce, the plaintiff must assert, and eventually prove, one or more statutory grounds for divorce. 

Once a divorce complaint is filed, the other spouse (the defendant) has 28 days after service of the complaint and summons to file an answer to respond to the complaint. The defendant may file a counterclaim requesting a divorce, stating the grounds the defendant believes apply. 

Even where a divorce complaint is filed, most divorce cases are settled by agreement. During a divorce, spouses must engage in the discovery process; that is, they must make disclosures of all their assets and liabilities, and exchange other relevant information, which may help the parties come to an agreement.  If the parties cannot resolve all of their disputed issues, evidence may then be presented in a contested trial. After a divorce trial, the court makes the final decision on all contested issues, based on Ohio law.

Legal Separation

A more uncommon way to end a marriage in Ohio is through legal separation.  A legal separation does not end a marriage, but does allow the court to issue orders concerning property division, spousal support, allocation of parental rights and responsibilities (including parenting time and child support). In a legal separation, parties remain married, but live separately. The steps to ask the court for a legal separation are nearly the same as for a divorce proceeding.