DIFFICULTY: Legal assistance is required
Initial Filing Fee: $225
Ohio divides divorce or separation into three separate areas: legal separation, dissolution of a marriage, and divorce. Legal separation is the a civil suit that does not legally end a marriage but rather allows the court to issue orders for the division of property, the creation of spousal and child support, and to distribute the rights and responsibilities for any minor children. In this case, the spouse’s remain legally married but live separate lives. Dissolution of a marriage is when both spouses agree to end their marriage. No grounds are necessary for dissolution, although both parties must have signed an agreement stating how their property and filial responsibilities will be divided. In many states, this is known as a no-fault divorce. Divorce, on the other hand, is necessary when spouses cannot agree on how to divide their property and responsibilities or one spouse does not want a divorce. This process is much more complicated, and as such is the focus of the steps provided below.
Step 1: Check if You Can Divorce or Separate in Ohio
In order to end a marriage or legally separate in Ohio you or your spouse need to have lived within the state for at least six months and have resided in the county you file in for at least 3 months. If this is not the case, then you will probably have to file for divorce in a different state or seek legal assistance.
Step 2: Decide On the Type of Separation
If you and your spouse agree that you want to end your marriage, or separate, and you also agree on the way your property and responsibilities should be divided, then dissolution of the marriage or a legal separation are the right choices for you. When one of you disagrees, however, with the need for separation or about the division of property and responsibilities, then divorce proceedings become necessary. In the case of legal separation of dissolution of a marriage you can usually proceed with minimal legal assistance. In the case of a contested divorce, however, it is usually best to seek legal assistance to mediate the conversation and ensure both parties receive fair representation.
Step 3: Verify Your Grounds for Divorce
In Ohio, spouses seeking a divorce must provide some grounds for the separation. In general, the acceptable grounds for divorce are:
• You and your spouse have lived separate lives apart from one another for at least one year
• You and your spouse are incompatible
• Your spouse committed adultery
• Your spouse was cruel
• Your spouse is currently imprisoned
• Your spouse grossly neglected his/her duties
• Your spouse was habitually drunk throughout the marriage
If any of these grounds apply to your case, then you can proceed and file a complaint. If they do not, then you should consult a lawyer to see how you should proceed.
Step 4: File a Complaint
To begin divorce proceedings, one spouse needs to file a complaint with the clerk of the court. From here on, the spouse who files the complaint is known as the plaintiff and the spouse who the complaint is filed against is known as the defendant. You can either pick up a complaint form from the clerk of the court or download the appropriate form from the county courthouse’s website. Make sure to make three copies for a total of four complaints: one for your own records, two for the court, and one to send the defendant.
Step 5: Serve the Defendant
After the complaint has been filed, the clerk of the court will serve the defendant the complaint. The plaintiff does not take part in this action, and the service is usually performed by mail or delivered in-person. In extraordinary cases the clerk may publish the service in a newspaper, but such methods can make it impossible to get child or spousal support in the divorce.
Step 6: The Defendant Answers the Complaint
Once the defendant has been served the complaint they have 28 days to respond or answer the complaint. They may file a counterclaim or they may go along with the items listed in the complaint. The defendant uses an answer form to provide this response, and if a counterclaim is proposed the plaintiff will then have to answer the counterclaim in the same way.
Step 7: Report Personal and Financial Information
If the division of property and child / spousal support is not agreed upon by both parties, then the court will usually request that each party fill out forms reporting their financial and personal state. This information is then used to moderate any division of property and support to ensure that both parties are treated fairly and any children involved in the divorce are taken care of. These forms are known as affidavits, and are readily available online.
Step 8: Hearing
If both parties cannot agree on how to divide their property and support then there will be a hearing before a judge. At which point the judge will hear both sides of the debate and make a final decision.
Step 9: Decree of Divorce
Once the decisions are finalized, the court will issue a decree of divorce to the parties that they will then file with the county clerk. Once this decree is filed the divorce will become official and all of the stipulations set out in the decree will be legally binding.