The prospect of seeking a divorce is scary for many people. Most have a wrenching image of head-wringing spouses yelling back and forth across a conference room table at smug and superior attorneys. Meanwhile, the kids are sitting, crying in the secretary’s office next door while the office employees scrounge for candy. Anything to keep them quiet. It doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, many divorces are handled relatively amicably with little more than bitter attitudes on both sides. If you and your soon-to-be-former spouse both agree that a divorce is the right move for your marriage and mutually agree on the terms of your divorce, you may be eligible for a “dissolution of marriage.” In a dissolution of marriage, there is no screaming, there are no expensive legal battles, and there are no hurt feelings.
This article will explain the nature of a dissolution of marriage and Ohio law on the matter. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for a dissolution of marriage, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
TIP: Click here for the complete guide to filing for uncontested divorce.
Dissolution of Marriage in Ohio, Defined
Unlike some states, Ohio does not have a mechanism for filing an “uncontested divorce”. Instead, Ohio law allows spouses to file for divorce normally and request a dissolution of marriage, which is faster and less expensive than litigating a full-blown divorce lawsuit.
The key component of a dissolution of marriage, however, is that the spouses must agree on all of the issues presented by a divorce. Unlike in a traditional divorce lawsuit, the spouses must be willing to look past their differences and negotiate a compromise on the terms of the divorce.
Dissolution of marriage is a form of no-fault divorce; in other words, the court does not care whether one spouse cheated or was abusive. All that matters is that either the spouses in the marriage have proven to be incompatible over time, or that the spouses have already been living separately for at least one year.
Requirements for Seeking an Ohio Dissolution of Marriage
To file for dissolution of marriage in Ohio, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Ohio divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The first requirement to seek a dissolution of marriage is the Ohio residency requirement. As with a normal divorce filing, Ohio courts require two tiers of residency requirements, state and local, to be met before a married couple can divorce. To meet the state residency requirement, at least one of the spouses must have lived within the state of Ohio for at least six months. Additionally, the local requirement requires that at least one spouse must have lived in the county in which the divorce paperwork was filed for at least 90 days.
The spouses must also agree on the terms of the divorce. If either spouses disagrees about any of the following issues, the spouses are ineligible for an uncontested divorce:
- Division of marital assets, property, and debts;
- Alimony payments (also referred to as spousal support);
- Tax deductions and exemptions;
- Payment of attorneys’ fees (if any); and
- If the couple has children born of that marriage:
- Child custody and visitation (this includes deciding which parent the children will live with) and
- Child support (including an agreement on the costs of medical expenses and health insurance).
The Process for Filing for Dissolution of Marriage
Spouses must file their Ohio divorce paperwork in the proper Ohio Court of Common Pleas. Each Ohio Court of Common Pleas contains a Domestic Relations Division, which handles family and divorce matters. Each county in Ohio has its own Court of Common Pleas, and you should file your divorce paperwork in the county in which either you or your spouse resides. General information about the Ohio state court system can be found online.1
Once you have determined which Court of Common Pleas is the proper court for filing, the general flow of the process is follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly;
- Discuss the divorce with your spouse and come to an agreement on the terms for the divorce. In Ohio, you and your spouse must have a complete agreement beforehand, such as a separation agreement, to file for a dissolution of marriage;
- Obtain the required divorce paperwork, either online2, or from the courthouse. The first filing you will need to make is the “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Waiver of Service of Summons”;
- The spouses will then file their divorce paperwork together along with a written separation agreement that outlines the terms of their divorce;
- Once the initial petition for dissolution of marriage is filed, the spouses will also need to fill out additional forms that are required by the county in which they have filed for divorce (varies on a county-by-county basis);
- Wait--a hearing on the dissolution of marriage will be scheduled at some point between 30 and 90 days after the filing;
- At the hearing, both spouses will be asked whether they agree with the terms of the dissolution agreement. If both spouses agree, the court will finalize the divorce.
On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal separation agreement. A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any separation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.