A Guide to Divorce in Ohio
Although every divorce in Ohio is unique, the vast majority follow the same rules and procedures.
This guide will help you understand what many of those basic rules and procedures are in Ohio so that you can equip yourself with important information you will need to help you get through the divorce process.
Depending on your situation, you should also learn as much as you can through other sources such as a family law attorney, your county courthouse, friends and relatives who have gone through a divorce, and online resources to help you deal with the financial, social and emotional challenges you will face along the way.
Here are some of the more important things you will need to know as you start working through the divorce process in Ohio.
- The differences between divorce, annulment and separation
- What are the grounds for divorce in Ohio?
- Deciding what kind of divorce you will go through
- The process of filing for divorce
- How to complete proof of service
- Filing for a divorce online
- Filing for divorce in Ohio without using a lawyer
- How much does divorce cost in Ohio?
- How long does it take to get a divorce?
- Should I retain the services of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
- Bifurcation of Marital Status
- Can I cancel, refuse, contest, stop or reverse a divorce in Ohio?
- What is a divorce decree?
- What is a divorce certificate?
- Changing Your Name
- Bonus: Recommended Resources for a Better Divorce
The differences between legal separation, annulment and divorce in Ohio
Married couples can end their marriages three ways in Ohio. There are special rules and requirements for each one and a basic understanding of each of these is a good place to begin understanding the divorce process more thoroughly.
Although spouses may consider themselves separated when one spouse moves out of the house, physical separation is much different than legal separation.
In Ohio, legal separation requires a court order and can be granted when a husband and wife remain married but live separately. The court order does not end the marriage but allows the court to issue orders about spousal support, a division of assets, and child visitation and custody. Legal separation creates an enforceable court order that sets forth rights and responsibilities for both spouses.
In many cases, legal separation provides a much-needed time out that allows two people to try and resolve their issues in a less combative environment. Stepping away can often times bring added perspective about what a couple will lose in a marriage and possibly give them time to heal from the issues that caused their marriage to come under stress.
Spouses may also choose legal separation for religious reasons. Some religions do not look favorably upon divorce and staying married though legally separated puts less pressure on a couple who might otherwise be in conflict with their church and religious beliefs.
There are financial benefits as well, such as being able to keep health insurance, or by continuing to file as a married couple on tax returns. Also, when a couple is legally separated, each person is responsible for their own financial decisions and is not responsible for those that the other person makes.
Annulments mean that a marriage is considered null and void, as if it never happened. Ohio grants annulments that fall under two categories:
Void marriages are prohibited by law in Ohio. They are not legal and, unlike some other states, living together does not validate the marriage over time.
Void marriages grounds include:
- Bigamy or polygamy
- Incest when the marriage is to a first cousin or closer relative.
Voidable marriages are considered valid but can be declared void in some cases.
Grounds for voidable marriages may include:
- One or both spouses was under the age of consent when the marriage took place
- A marriage has not been consummated
- A spouse is not able to consent to the marriage because they are mentally incompetent or incapacitated
- Consenting to the marriage took place by force or fraud
Fraud claims can be waived if both spouses continue to live together after the fraud has been discovered.
Void marriages are invalid immediate and do not require a court order for annulment. Voidable marriages require a trial and hearing to prove that grounds exist for an annulment to be granted. Parents of spouses can bring actions if the child was under age at the time of the marriage or they lacked mental capacity.
Divorce is a permanent and legal end to a marriage. All ties are severed, assets are divided, custody and alimony issues are resolved, and each spouse goes their separate way after a final decree is issued.
What are the grounds for divorce in Ohio?
Ohio allows no-fault and fault-based divorces. The majority of divorcing couples choose no-fault divorce since it does not require a couple to reveal as many details as in a fault-based divorce. There are two no-fault grounds that can be cited. These are living apart for at least one year or incompatibility.
There are also several fault-based grounds for divorce in Ohio. They are:
- If a spouse neglects his or her duty to the other spouse
- If a spouse was already married to someone else at the time of the marriage
- If one spouse leaves and is absent from the home for at least one year
- Extreme cruelty
- Fraudulent contract
- Habitual drunkenness
Though fault-based reasons are used much less often, at times a spouse will cite a fault-based reason as an attempt to gain a more favorable settlement in negotiations or during a trial.
What kind of divorce is right for you?
You have several options you can pursue in Ohio if you are contemplating a divorce. How you proceed will, in large part, depend on the dynamics of your relationship with your spouse and your goals. If you can agree to work together, chances are you will save a lot of money and move quicker through the process.
Once you have made the decision to divorce, determining what type of divorce you will pursue in Ohio is the most important thing you will decide. This is because the nature of the divorce sets the framework for how the divorce will play out.
Remember that there are only two ways for your divorce to reach a final resolution:
- You and your spouse agree
- A judge decides
The type of divorce sets the frameworks for how you get to a final resolution. The process you and your spouse choose sets the tone and shapes the outcome of your divorce.
Before we get into the details, there’s one thing I want you to keep in mind.
One type of divorce is not “better” than another. Divorce is not one size fits all.
Here are the types of divorce:
What I like to call the kitchen table divorce. This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t hire any professionals and attempt to resolve all your differences with your spouse. The biggest downside is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d steer clear of this approach unless you don’t have kids or any money.
A far superior choice to DIY divorce. Navigating the divorce process and legal procedures can be a minefield. A good online divorce platform removes the guesswork. Through guided interviews, you’ll complete the forms while getting educated on the key legal issues in the process. This can be a great option if you have a relatively straightforward situation and you’re on the same page with your spouse.
The default option and also the most expensive. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one of the other options, then you’re headed for litigation. Litigation is an attorney-driven process. While the majority of cases settle before going to trial, that doesn’t mean litigation won’t wreak havoc on you and your kids.
Sometimes it’s the only viable option, however. If your spouse has a high-conflict personality (narcissist, borderline, etc.) or there is domestic violence, litigation might be your only option. It’s also the right choice if your primary objective is to punish your spouse. As tempting as that might be, I encourage you to think about the big picture.
With mediation, you and your spouse retain a neutral professional (typically an attorney) to help facilitate agreement. The mediator will help you brainstorm options, understand each other’s perspectives, and make compromises to reach a resolution that you and your spouse can both live with.
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean that you and your spouse are going to work out your divorce “collaboratively.” There’s much more to it. Collaborative divorce is a structured process that takes a team approach. Divorce is much more than a legal process. It’s about money, kids, and emotions.
That’s why a Collaborative team includes collaborative lawyers, a divorce coach, and a neutral financial specialist. Unlike any other process, everyone commits not to go to court. The idea is that this removes the threat of litigation which fosters creative solutions and interest-based negotiation. It’s far and away the most supportive type of divorce.
Learn More: This is simply a preview of what you’ll want to know about the different types of divorce. For a deep dive into the pros and cons of these options, be sure to check out our guide on the types of divorce.
What is the process of filing for divorce in Ohio?
Gather important information. Save time, money and stress in your divorce by approaching this step in a timely and thorough way. It will take time to pull together your information, but it is vital that you do this without cutting corners. It’s the best way to make sure your rights are protected and to give yourself the possibility of achieving the best possible financial settlement with your spouse.
Starting early and being organized are keys to successfully completing this task.
By doing so, you can ensure your rights are protected while also saving time, money and anxiety for the next steps in your divorce.
Before you jump in to collecting financial information, take the following steps:
- Open a new checking and savings account in your name alone.
- Open a credit card in your name alone.
- Order a free credit report.
- Make a list of all the assets and liabilities that you’re aware of. Include any memberships, reward points, and other perks that may be considered as assets.
Okay, now it’s time to start gathering your information. Here’s a short-list of what you need:
- Tax returns (including W-2’s, K-1’s, and 1099’s) for the last 5 years
- Pay stubs for the last 3 months
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Retirement account statements
- Pension plan statements
- Grant notice for stock options, RSUs, etc.
- Investment account statements
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage statements
- Real estate appraisals
- Deeds to real estate
- Car registration
- Kelley Blue Book printouts (“private party value”)
- Car loan statements
- Social security benefit statement
Complete the initial paperwork. After you decide what kind of divorce you will pursue, you will need to fill out several forms and submit them the Ohio courts to start your divorce. If you are working with an attorney, they will guide you through this process. Although it will cost you more when you use an attorney, you will save time and stress in working with a professional who understands the system and who will ensure that your paperwork is filled out correctly.
If you decide to file on your own, you will need to complete all the necessary forms on your own. If you are the one initiating the divorce process, you will be known as the petitioner. If your spouse is the one who files the initial papers, then you will be known as the respondent.
Here is a list of commonly used forms in Ohio. Which ones you need to use will depend on your unique situation. Depending on your situation, there may also be additional forms that the courts will require to be completed as well.
- Affidavit in Compliance with O.R.C. 3109.27, or Information for Parenting Proceeding. These forms are used only in dissolutions and divorces involving children.
- Answer and Counterclaim. This is filed by the Defendant and is used in contested divorces. It contests actions when a spouse wants to agree or disagree with allegations and claims made by the Plaintiff in the Complaint for Divorce. It includes a Certificate of Service, certifying that a copy of the Answer and Counterclaim was mailed to the Plaintiff or his or her attorney.
- Child Support Deduction Notice. This form is used to require an employer to withhold a certain percentage of a payor’s income and pay it directly to the Office of Child Support, which in turn is sends it to the custodial parent.
- Child Support Computation Worksheets. These worksheets are used to compute child support based on the custody arrangements.
- Complaint for Divorce. This is filed by a Plaintiff and can be used in an uncontested or contested divorce. It identifies the parties, any children, and may ask for an equitable distribution of property, custody, spousal and child support and the restoration of a name. It establishes that the Plaintiff meets the residency requirements for a divorce.
- Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. This form is signed by a judge and ends a marriage in a dissolution. It includes a number of
- Financial Disclosure Affidavit. Depending on the county of filing, this form may be required of either or both spouses. Two versions of the form are in use in Ohio counties. It catalogs the income and assets of the filing spouse.
- Health Care Order. This form is used in dissolutions where there are minor children and orders one spouse or the other to maintain proper health coverage for them.
- Health Insurance Disclosure Affidavit. This provides information on medical coverage for all members of a family going through a divorce. It includes details about medical, dental, vision and prescription coverage including deductible amounts.
- Judgment Entry Decree of Divorce. This form is signed by a judge and ends a marriage in a divorce. It spells out the terms and conditions of child support, medical and life insurance, any income tax dependency exemption, property division and it includes a number of legal notices further defining terms of the divorce.
- Motion for Conversion and Petition for Dissolution and Order. This form is used when a couple start a divorce by then are able to negotiate a settlement with both spouses agreeing to end the marriage through a dissolution.
- Motion for Conversion and Complaint for Divorce and Order. This is the opposite of the previous form and is used with a couple start out with a dissolution action, but can’t come to terms and then decide to proceed with a divorce action instead.
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This form is filed jointly and is used in an uncontested divorce. It identifies both parties, their children and an executed separation agreement
- Separation Agreement. This form is filed jointly with the Petition of Dissolution and stipulates the division of all property and debts, spousal support (how much and for how long, if appropriate), the allocation of parental rights, parenting time, responsibilities and child support.
- Service of Summons. This document informs the Defendant that they are being sued for divorce and is often times delivered via certified mail.
- Spousal Support Deduction Notice. This form is used to require an employer to withhold a certain percentage of a payor’s income for payment to the payee.
- Waiver of Legal Representation. This form is used in marital dissolutions and states that neither party is represented by legal counsel. Some counties in Ohio do not require this form.
- Waiver of Service of Summons. This form is used when a couple files for dissolution. It is signed and filed jointly. Some Petitions for Dissolution have a provision for a waiver so this form is not always required.
If you are working with an attorney, they will make sure all the forms are correct and will help you file them at the appropriate county clerk’s office.
Completing proof of service in Ohio
Once your forms are filed with the court in Ohio, your spouse must be notified of the pending action by being served with a summons and the complaint.
In Ohio, anyone who is over 18 and is not a party in the divorce can serve divorce papers. This can include a county sheriff or a paid process server.
However, most of the time, service of process is completed by certified or express mail. The county clerk will mail the documents with a return receipt requested and records the facts of the mailing on the appearance docket.
It the spouse declines service or does not pick up the certified mail, then the plaintiff must attempt personal service. When the service has been completed, the person who completed the service verifies that it has been completed and notifies the clerk.
If there is a failure of service and the plaintiff or the server cannot locate the spouse, then service can be completed using service by publication. In this instance, the plaintiff makes a diligent search and then can file a motion to advertise notice of service.
When this is done, the clerk notifies a local general circulation newspaper in the Ohio county where the complaint has been filed. The notice is then published at least once a week for six weeks and the process of service is effect on the date of the last publication.
Can you file for divorce online in Ohio?
You can do much of the work related to a divorce online, especially in an uncontested divorce or when you decide on a Dissolution of Marriage as the route you want to pursue, but ultimately forms will need to be submitted in person at your county courthouse.
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Filing for divorce in Ohio without using a lawyer
You can file for divorce in Ohio without using the services of a lawyer. You can probably complete the divorce if it is uncontested or a no-fault case.
Instead of a divorce, a couple may want to consider seeking a dissolution of marriage which is a much more simple process than a divorce. It is quicker but does require a written agreement between you and your spouse on all issues which is filed as part of the petition for dissolution with the court.
You will need to wait 30 days before a hearing is scheduled and if the court confirms your terms and is satisfied with the agreement, a dissolution will be granted.
How much will it cost?
There can be many costs associated with getting a divorce and the exact amount you pay will depend on your situation. At the very least, you will need to start by paying filing fees.
Filing fees vary by county in Ohio. For the vast majority of counties, the fees fall between $200 and $300. To find out the exact amount for your county, you will need to contact the courthouse and ask for the amount. Fees for photocopies, notary fees, mailing, process server fees or attorney costs are not included.
Depending on your circumstances, in Ohio it may be possible to ask a judge to waive your fees by filing of a fee waiver request. You may be able to get fees waived if you are receiving public benefits such as welfare, Food Stamps, or SSI benefits. You may also get a waiver if you can demonstrate you do not have enough money to support your family and pay the fees.
If there are any unresolved issues regarding your divorce, you can expect to pay legal fees to an attorney that will range from $200 to $500 per hour depending on how complex your divorce is and how many hours it will take to resolve those issues. You will probably also need to pay some sort of a retainer up front to start the process.
If you decide to use a mediator or an arbitrator in Ohio, expect your costs to be somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000, and possibly more.
Fully contested divorces can run into the tens of thousands of dollars depending on how contentious the divorce is, what kind of assets are involved, and how much disagreement there is with child custody and support issues.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Ohio?
Once papers have been filed, for an uncontested divorce it will take between 30 and 90 days for a divorce to be final. The amount of time will depend on the caseload of the local court and the availability of judges to sign the Final Decree for Dissolution.
In divorces where there are disagreements over things such as a division of assets, custody or support issues and a judge must intervene, finalizing a divorce can take considerably longer.
Should I retain the services of a certified divorce financial analyst?
Divorcing spouses in Ohio often retain a family law attorney to help them through the process. In simple cases, an attorney may be equipped to handle all aspects of the divorce, including the finances.
But if you have a degree of complexity to your financial situation, you might benefit from working with a divorce financial planning expert.
The best professional to help in these situations is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and preferably someone who is also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
A CDFA has specialized training in the financial and tax implications of divorce and can work with you to help you understand the pros and cons of your options.
Bifurcation of marital status in Ohio
Bifurcation means that both parties in a divorce can legally declared as a single person while the other issues in their divorce are still being worked out. It does not affect things such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony or other contentious issues that may have stalled or become major sticking points that are keeping the divorce from being finalized.
Bifurcation of marital status is allowed in Ohio, but courts are generally not in favor of the bifurcation process because it removes incentives to finalize a divorce and it means that courts may have to deal with the same case more than once, creating a lack of judicial efficiency.
Can I cancel, refuse, contest, stop or reverse a divorce in Ohio?
You cannot force someone to stay married in Ohio. However, if you reconcile with your spouse and you both want to stop a divorce from going forward, if the dissolution or divorce decree has not already been filed, then you may mutually decide to discontinue the divorce.
Generally, the spouse who originally filed the divorce papers with the court must file a motion for those papers to be withdrawn if it is early in the process. However, if the papers have already been served on the spouse and they have served a response, then both parties must agree to a stipulation that both have signed and presented to the court.
What is a divorce decree?
A divorce decree is the court’s final order that terminates a marriage. It provides a summary of the rights and responsibilities of each party, including financial responsibilities and a division of assets. it also covers child custody, visitation, alimony, child support and other similar issues.
Once the divorce decree is issued, parties are legally free to marry another person. The divorce decree is a legally binding document, and if either party does not meet the requirements and obligations set forth in the decree, the other party can take legal action to correct any deficiencies.
When couples opt for a dissolution of marriage in Ohio, then a Dissolution of Marriage document will be issued instead, but also have all the terms agreed upon by the couple as part of the dissolution.
What is a divorce certificate?
As opposed to a decree which goes into details about the terms of a divorce, a certificate only includes brief and general information such as the names and dates of the divorce. A divorce certificate can provide proof of divorce for many legal purposes.
Changing Your Name
When preparing your divorce forms, you will be presented either an option to either restore your former name or request a court order for changing names.
The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You may either receive a separate court order making your name change official, or else have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Either of these documents are accepted with all US agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.
Your name change will not take effect just because you have a court order. You need to contact all your organizations to request your records are updated.
It’s best to begin by updating your name with the Social Security Administration. Once complete, you can go on to change names everywhere else.
It takes a long time to reach out to each company and figure out what to send where, so we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to cut out the 10+ hours of research and paperwork that follows.
Read: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Changing my Last Name
Recommended Divorce Resources
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