Getting a Divorce in Ohio

When it comes to leaving your spouse or denouncing marital vows, Ohio is a unique state. The Ohio divorce process is divided into regular divorce petitions and dissolutions of marriage, a division that can create hassles you just don’t need. To make this easier, I’ve broken this complicated divorce process down into smaller bits.

Divorce in Ohio Summary

Here is a brief breakdown of everything you need to know to get a divorce in Ohio.

Divorce Complaint Requirements

Divorce Filing Eligibility

The main requirement to file a divorce in Ohio is that you or your spouse have been a resident of Texas for no less than 6 months.

You must also have lived in the county for 90 days before filing a divorce complaint.

Grounds for a no-fault divorce

There are two grounds for no-fault divorce in Ohio:

– Living separately and apart without cohabitation

– Incompatibility, unless denied by either spouse

Grounds for an at-fault divorce

The grounds to get an at-fault divorce in Ohio are:

  • If your spouse was legally married to someone else at the time of your marriage
  • Willful absence of your spouse for one year
  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty or domestic violence
  • Fraudulent contract
  • Any gross neglect of duty
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • If your spouse is imprisoned in a state or federal correctional institution at the time of filing the complaint

How to File For
A Dissolution of Marriage in Ohio

Step 1. Filing the petition for dissolution of marriage

The first step of this process is completing a petition to dissolve your marriage and submitting it to the court.

Step 2. The separation agreement

Ohio law requires couples filing a dissolution petition to attach a separation agreement to the petition, stating the joint desires of the parties regarding the division of marital property, custody of the children, child support, and spousal support.

Step 3. The hearing

The court holds a hearing, which you must both attend, to consider your petition and decide if it is fair and equitable under Ohio law.

Step 4. The dissolution order

This is the final step in a dissolution of marriage. The court will grant a dissolution order after considering your petition to ensure all vital divorce issues are addressed.

How to File For A Divorce in Ohio

Step 1. Filing the divorce complaint

You can kickstart your divorce process by filing a complaint form at the Court of Common Pleas where either you or your spouse lives, containing the grounds or reason of divorce

Step 2. Serving the divorce papers

After filing the divorce papers, you should notify your spouse so that they can respond or defend the petition. Since your decision to file was not a joint one, your spouse is entitled to file a counterclaim for divorce or legal separation.

Step 3. The divorce hearing

The third step in your journey to marital liberation is the divorce hearing. The court will invite you and your soon-to-be ex-partner to prove your cases. That is, show why the divorce order should be granted or not.

Step 4. The divorce decree

This is the final stage of the Ohio divorce process. The divorce decree is only granted after all the issues regarding your divorce have been resolved.


Requirements for Filing a Divorce Petition in Ohio

The major requirement to obtain a divorce order under Ohio law is residency. The spouse filing for divorce must be an Ohio resident to file for divorce in the state. As such, a person must have lived in Ohio for no less than six months before filing for divorce. 

In addition to the residency requirement, Ohio divorce laws also require you to file your divorce complaint in the county where either spouse has lived for 90 days. This ensures easy service of the divorce papers and attendance at court hearings where necessary.

Once either spouse qualifies as a resident, you can file for divorce in Ohio under any of the grounds permitted by law.

What are the grounds for divorce in Ohio?

There are 11 grounds on which you can file for divorce in Ohio. These are broadly divided into no-fault and fault-based grounds.

Fault-based grounds 

These refer to situations where your spouse messes up badly, causing you to file for divorce. The fault-based grounds for divorce under Ohio law include the following:

  • If your spouse was legally married to someone else at the time of your marriage
  • Willful absence of your spouse for one year
  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty or domestic violence
  • Fraudulent contract
  • Any gross neglect of duty
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • If your spouse is imprisoned in a state or federal correctional institution at the time of filing the complaint

No-fault grounds

Ohio law also makes room for you to end your marriage without blaming your spouse. This is useful when you’re both tired of the marriage and see no future together. The no-fault grounds for divorce include the following:

  • Living separately and apart without cohabitation
  • Incompatibility, unless denied by either spouse

How to File for Divorce in Ohio

There are two ways to end your marriage in Ohio. The first is by filing for a dissolution of marriage, and it is used in cases where both spouses want out of the relationship. The second is by filing for a regular divorce when you no longer wish to be with your spouse.

Once you’ve identified the type of divorce you need, the next step is to file your divorce papers. However, the forms and procedures largely depend on whether you’re filing for a dissolution or marriage or a divorce. To make it easier, I’ve ordered the steps according to the types of divorce available in Ohio. You may also consider using an online divorce service to reduce the stress of your divorce.

Filing for a dissolution of marriage

Step 1: Filing the petition for dissolution of marriage

The first step of this process is completing a petition to dissolve your marriage and submitting it to the court. The petition should contain the names, addresses, social security numbers, and signatures of both spouses. 

Step 2: The separation agreement

Ohio law requires couples filing a dissolution petition to attach a separation agreement to the petition. This agreement should state the joint desires of the parties regarding the division of marital property, custody of the children, child support, and spousal support. The agreement is subject to court approval and must be signed by both spouses authorizing the court to make amendments where necessary.

Step 3: The hearing

The court holds a hearing, which you must both attend, to consider your petition and decide if it is fair and equitable under Ohio law. The purpose of the hearing is for both parties to testify to the voluntariness and authenticity of the attached marital agreement.

The court may recommend some changes where necessary to ensure the rights and interests of both parties and any minor children of the marriage are met. However, these changes are subject to the consent of both parties.

Step 4: The dissolution order

This is the final step in a dissolution of marriage. The court will grant a dissolution order after considering your petition to ensure all vital divorce issues are addressed. The dissolution order is usually granted within 30 to 90 days of filing your petition.

Filing for a divorce

If one spouse wants to leave the marriage, that person will need to file for divorce. This is different from a dissolution of marriage because only one spouse signs the divorce complaint form. Divorce in Ohio consists of contested divorces and uncontested divorces. The process is largely the same for both, though contested divorces are more complicated and take significantly longer.

Step 1: Filing the divorce complaint

You can kickstart your divorce process by filing a complaint form at the Court of Common Pleas where either you or your spouse lives. This form should contain the grounds or reason for divorce, the date of the marriage, social security numbers, and the names and addresses of the parties if they live separately.

You’ll also need to submit a statement of your income, expenses, assets, and any minor children. This information helps the court award costs, spousal support, and child custody to either spouse. 

Step 2: Serving the divorce papers

After filing the divorce papers, you should notify your spouse so that they can respond or defend the petition. Since your decision to file was not a joint one, your spouse is entitled to file a counterclaim for divorce or legal separation.

You may notify your spouse by serving them the papers personally, via registered or certified mail, or through the court sheriff’s service.

If your spouse fails to respond, and you can prove to the court that you’ve done your reasonable best to serve them the papers, the court may grant the divorce order in your favor. However, if they file a counterclaim for divorce or legal separation, the matter moves to a hearing.

Step 3: The divorce hearing

The third step in your journey to marital liberation is the divorce hearing. The court will invite you and your soon-to-be ex-partner to prove your cases. That is, show why the divorce order should be granted or not.

In addition to this, the court will also attempt to resolve any issues in dispute, including spousal support, child support, marital property division, and who becomes the legal custodian of any minor children of your marriage. In some cases with minor children, the court may decide to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the children’s interests. 

You may also file for temporary orders while your divorce is before the court. Such temporary orders may include an order for spousal support or an order to prevent your spouse from tampering with marital funds or assets.

You may want to enlist an attorney for this process, since it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. The court may recommend mediation sessions for you and your spouse to come to an agreement so that you can move forward with the process.

Step 4: The divorce decree

This is the final stage of the Ohio divorce process. The divorce decree is only granted after all the issues regarding your divorce have been resolved. Ohio courts cannot grant divorces where decisions regarding life after the divorce are yet to be agreed upon. Once the court is satisfied with the terms of your divorce, a divorce decree is entered, and you become single again.

If you need help with your divorce . . . 

I’ve assessed some online divorce services in Ohio and ranked them according to the quality of their service and value for money. These online services guarantee compliance with Ohio divorce laws and can ease the weight of the divorce on your shoulders.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a divorce in Ohio?

The timeline for divorce in Ohio depends on the circumstances of your divorce. A dissolution of marriage may last between one to three months since you and your spouse formulate a separation agreement before filing for divorce. 

An uncontested divorce takes slightly longer than a dissolution of marriage, and if your spouse disagrees on the divorce (contested divorce), the process may last much longer. Such lengthy disputes usually involve child custody and spousal support claims, and may take many months or even years to conclude.

What are the different types of divorce in Ohio?

There are two types of divorce available in Ohio: dissolution of marriage and divorce. A divorce can be either contested or uncontested. 

A dissolution of marriage occurs when both spouses agree to end their union. In this type of divorce, the law requires you and your spouse to create a separation agreement containing amicable terms on all your divorce issues, such as spousal support and property division.

The divorce process works like a traditional divorce and commences when one spouse files a complaint or petition for divorce. A divorce may be either a no-fault or a fault-based divorce. A contested divorce can often be lengthy and ugly. But an uncontested divorce is similar to a dissolution of marriage because although only one party files, the answering party does not contest the grounds and the process involves fewer hearings and disputes.

Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Ohio?

While seeking legal advice during a divorce makes sense, it is not compulsory to hire a divorce attorney, especially where the divorce is uncontested. The back and forth of a contested divorce makes legal advice essential, but attorney fees are a huge turnoff. 

If you cannot afford an attorney, you may apply to Ohio Legal Aid or find one on the lawyer referral service. Alternatively, there are many online divorce services willing and ready to process your divorce for a fee.

Do I have to prove separation to get a divorce in Ohio?

Generally, you don’t have to prove separation to get a divorce in Ohio. The law only requires proof of separation where the ground for your divorce petition is the willful absence of your spouse. In other cases, you don’t need to prove separation to obtain a divorce or dissolution of marriage.

Can I get a divorce in Ohio if I was married in another state?

Sure! You can get a divorce here regardless of the state where your marriage certificate was issued. 

The primary qualification to get divorced in Ohio is the residency requirement. Once either you or your spouse has lived in Ohio for six months and at least 90 days before the date of filing, you may get your divorce order.

Is spousal fault necessary for divorce in Ohio?

Proving spousal fault isn’t necessary for an Ohio divorce or marriage dissolution process. This is because a divorce may be uncontested or jointly initiated by the couple. 

However, proving spousal fault becomes necessary if you’re filing for a fault-based divorce. If you’re applying for a no-fault divorce on the grounds of separation or incompatibility, you won’t need to show which spouse was at fault in your marriage.

How are alimony and child support determined?

Alimony is a form of financial support payable by a spouse to the other spouse upon the court’s order. This financial support is different from any payment made to a spouse in a property sharing agreement or division. 

The court may grant alimony payments where it is convinced that such financial support is reasonable and appropriate. The applying spouse must show a genuine need for financial support and the ability of the other spouse to pay before the court grants the alimony order. Alimony may be ordered as a lump sum or interest in real estate or property. In either case, the court will consider the following factors before granting alimony:

  • The income of the parties
  • The relative earning abilities of the parties
  • The ages and physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the parties
  • The retirement benefits of the parties
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The extent to which it would be inappropriate for a party, because that party will be the custodian of a minor child of the marriage, to seek employment outside the home
  • The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage
  • The relative extent of education of the parties
  • The relative assets and liabilities of the parties
  • The contribution of each spouse to the education, training, or earning ability of the other spouse, including, but not limited to, any spouse’s contribution to the acquisition of a professional degree of the other party
  • The time and expense necessary for the spouse who is seeking spousal support to acquire education, training, or job experience so that the spouse will be qualified to obtain appropriate employment, provided the education, training, or job experience, and employment is sought
  • The tax consequences for each party
  • The lost income production capacity of either party that resulted from that party’s marital responsibilities
  • Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable

Spousal support may be granted temporarily pending the determination of the divorce or for a specific period determined by the court. Where the court doesn’t specify, spousal support lasts until the receiving spouse’s death. Lastly, the court ignores allegations of spousal fault when considering an application for spousal support except in cases of extreme cruelty.

Child support payments take a different approach, as both spouses are expected to contribute to their child’s upkeep. However, the court may order either spouse to pay child support depending on the circumstances of the divorce. 

If you have any minor children, you and your partner have to plan for their upkeep or leave it to the court to decide before finalizing your divorce. Child support payments in Ohio are determined by the parties’ settlement agreement or the court, with the main factor being the child’s best interests.

The court may consider other factors in awarding child support payments:

  • The financial capacity and needs of each parent
  • The standard of living the child enjoyed before the divorce
  • The physical, educational, and emotional needs of the child
  • Any special needs of the child
  • The ease or difficulty of the child’s adjustment to a new environment
  • The tax obligations of each parent

How is marital property divided?

Dividing marital assets is one of the trickiest parts of an Ohio divorce. First, the court must categorize each asset into marital and separate property. Marital property is defined by Ohio divorce law as assets acquired by either or both spouses during the marriage. Marital property includes interests in real and intangible property.

On the other hand, separate property refers to assets acquired by a spouse before the marriage. This may include assets inherited or gifted to one spouse during the marriage, interests in personal property protected by a prenuptial agreement, and the passive income accruing to one spouse during the marriage. 

In a dissolution of marriage or uncontested divorce, you and your spouse are expected to draft a settlement agreement detailing property division and other issues relating to life after your divorce. The court may also order a mediation session to help you reach an amicable solution. If successful, the court adopts the settlement agreement and includes it in the dissolution order. 

If you and your spouse cannot agree on a solution, such as in a contested divorce, either of you may apply to the court for property division. Upon such application, the court shall categorize the assets filed in your complaint form as marital and separate property. 

Ohio divorce law assumes that each spouse made equal contributions to the production and acquisition of marital assets. Consequently, only marital assets are divided in an Ohio divorce, and such division is done equitably. The court determines an equitable distribution by considering the following factors:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The assets and liabilities of each spouse
  • The desirability of awarding the family home, or the right to reside in the family home for reasonable periods, to the spouse with custody of the children of the marriage
  • The liquidity or ease of selling the property to be divided
  • The economic interests of retaining an asset or an interest in an asset
  • The tax consequences of the property division upon the respective awards to be made to each spouse
  • The costs of sale, if an asset must be sold to achieve an equitable distribution of property
  • Any division or disbursement of property made in a separation agreement that was voluntarily entered into by the spouses
  • Any retirement benefits of the spouses, excluding the social security benefits of a spouse except for dividing a public pension
  • Any other factor that the court finds relevant and equitable

NOTE: Ohio is not a community property state, so marital assets are not divided equally between the parties. An equitable (fair) distribution of the assets and liabilities occurs based on the factors listed above.

In Summary

Divorce proceedings in Ohio are a bit confusing due to the dual nature of grounds for divorce in the state. However, the process gets easier once you get the hang of it. I hope I’ve simplified this process enough for you, but if you still have questions and wish to enlist the help of an attorney, read my article about the best online divorce services. I wish you good luck in your divorce and your future endeavors.

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