How to File a Divorce in Ohio

How to File a Divorce in Ohio

by Edward A. Haman, Esq., August 2015

Ohio divorce procedures are similar to those of other states. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all matters, you may use the dissolution of marriage procedure. Otherwise, you will need to use the standard divorce procedure.

For the divorce procedure, the party filing (the petitioner) must be an Ohio resident for at least 6 months, and of the county for 90 days. For a dissolution of marriage, one party must meet these same requirements, as both are co-petitioners. You will file in the Court of Common Pleas.

Procedures

Dissolution of Marriage. This procedure may be used if you and your spouse both sign the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and a Separation Agreement that settles property and debt division, alimony, and child support and custody of any minor children. These documents are filed with the court. You will attend a court hearing, at which time the judge makes sure your paperwork is in order, asks a few questions, and enters your Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. However, either party can ask that the case be converted to the standard divorce procedure.

Divorce. Absent an agreement, you will need to use the standard divorce procedure. If you later reach an agreement, you may convert the case to the dissolution of marriage procedure.

Collaborative Family Law Process. Both parties may sign an agreement to work toward a settlement matters in dispute. Each must hire a collaborative family lawyer to help them with the negotiation process. Either party may end the collaborative process at any time. 

Grounds for Divorce

Grounds for divorce or dissolution are legally recognized reasons for severing the marital relationship. Ohio, like most states, has what are commonly called no-fault grounds for divorce and dissolution, and several traditional fault-based grounds for divorce. For the dissolution procedure, you will state in your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage that “the parties desire a dissolution of marriage, and have attached a separation agreement.”

To get a no-fault divorce, you need to state in the Complaint for Divorce that “the parties are incompatible,” or “the parties have been living separate and apart without cohabitation for 1 year.” The grounds of being incompatible can be defeated if your spouse denies incompatibility.

The fault-based grounds for divorce are bigamy, willful absence of the other party for 1 year, adultery, extreme cruelty, fraudulent contract, gross neglect of duty, habitual drunkenness, imprisonment in a state or federal prison at the time of filing, and when the divorce decree of another state does not release one party from the marital obligations in Ohio. In most cases, there is no reason to use any of these, since they add complexity to the process by requiring proof.

Property Division

A divorce involves dividing property and debts between you and your spouse. Generally, each party will keep their separate property, which is property:

  • acquired by inheritance, or by gift that was clearly given to only one spouse,
  • acquired before marriage,
  • acquired after a decree of legal separation, or a valid antenuptial agreement,
  • that is compensation for a personal injury claim, and
  • representing passive income from, or appreciation of, separate property.

All other property is marital property. Marital and separate property is to be divided equitably, considering the following factors:

  • the duration of the marriage,
  • the assets and liabilities of the parties,
  • the desirability of awarding the family home, or the right to reside in it for reasonable periods of time, to the party with custody of the children of the marriage,
  • the liquidity of the property to be distributed,
  • the economic desirability of retaining intact an asset or an interest in an asset,
  • the tax consequences of the property division to each spouse,
  • the costs of sale, if necessary that an asset be sold to effectuate equity,
  • any division or disbursement of property made in a valid separation agreement,
  • any retirement benefits of the parties, excluding social security benefits, and
  • any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.

Alimony in Ohio

Alimony is called spousal support in Ohio. Absent an agreement, the judge will decide whether to award spousal support, and the amount and duration, after considering the following factors:

  • the income of the parties, from all sources, including income from divided property,
  • the relative earning abilities of the parties,
  • each party’s age, and physical, mental, and emotional condition,
  • the retirement benefits of the parties,
  • the duration of the marriage,
  • the extent to which it would be inappropriate for a party to seek employment outside the home, due to being the custodian of a minor child of the marriage,
  • the standard of living established during the marriage,
  • the relative extent of education of the parties,
  • the relative assets and liabilities of the parties, including any court-ordered payments,
  • each party’s contribution to the education, training, or earning ability of the other,
  • the time and expense needed for the party seeking spousal support to acquire education, training, or job experience in order to obtain appropriate employment,
  • the tax consequences for each party,
  • any lost income capacity of either party resulting from marital responsibilities, and
  • any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.

Child Custody in Ohio

Absent, the judge will decide the matters of parenting time and decision-making authority based on the child’s best interest, after considering all relevant factors, including:

  • the wishes of the parties,
  • the wishes of the child, if the judge interviewed the child in private,
  • the child’s relationship with the parties, siblings, and any significant other person,
  • the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community,
  • the mental and physical health of all persons involved,
  • the party more likely to honor and facilitate parenting time rights,
  • whether either party failed to make all child support payments, including arrearages,
  • whether either party or a household member was a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect, or a violent or sexually oriented offense involving a member of the family,
  • whether either party has continuously and willfully denied the other party’s right to parenting time in accordance with an order of the court, and
  • whether either party has, or plans to, establish a residence outside of Ohio.

In considering shared parenting, the court will consider the following additional factors:

  • the ability of the parties to cooperate and make decisions jointly,
  • each party’s ability to encourage contact between the child and the other party,
  • any history of, or potential for, child abuse, domestic violence, or parental kidnapping,
  • the geographic proximity of the parties to each other, and
  • the recommendation of any guardian ad litem of the child.

Child Support in Ohio

Child support is determined by reference to the Ohio child support guidelines and includes a chart to calculate the child’s needs based upon the combined income of the parties. For example, if the combined income of you and your spouse is $96,000, the chart determines that the needs of one child are $11,184 per year. If the party paying support has an income of 55% of the $96,000, then child support would be 55% of 11,184, or $6,151.20 per year (or $512.60 per month).

Miscellaneous Matters

A party’s former name may be restored. The court may order conciliation or family counseling at the request or either party, or on its own. Ohio divorce procedures are similar to those of other states. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all matters, you may use the dissolution of marriage procedure. Otherwise, you will need to use the standard divorce procedure.

For the divorce procedure, the party filing (the petitioner) must be an Ohio resident for at least 6 months, and of the county for 90 days. For a dissolution of marriage, one party must meet these same requirements, as both are co-petitioners. You will file in the Court of Common Pleas.

LegalZoom’s Online Divorce service is an inexpensive way to file for divorce if you and your spouse agree on most major issues. Otherwise, you can talk to an attorney for advice or help filing for divorce through the LegalZoom personal legal plan.