Divorce in Ohio: what you need to know

Make sure you have the facts before moving forward.

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Doug Kutsko is an Ohio-licensed attorney. This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

Getting a divorce in Ohio can be a complicated process to navigate, but with the right knowledge, you can make it through.

This article will walk you through the necessary steps, from filing the paperwork to finalizing the divorce or dissolution of marriage, so you have a better sense of what to expect.

What are the residency requirements for divorce in Ohio?

Something important to note is that Ohio law makes a distinction between contested and uncontested divorces

  • If the case is uncontested and the spouses can agree on the divorce terms, they can apply for a “dissolution of marriage”. This is generally faster and cheaper than a divorce.
  • If the case is contested, the resulting process is called a “divorce” and may go to court.

In order to file for a contested or uncontested divorce in Ohio, one spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six consecutive months prior to filing. 

Additionally, for a contested divorce, Ohio requires at least one spouse to have lived in the county where the divorce is being filed for at least 90 days before filing.

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In Ohio, the grounds for divorce differ from the grounds for dissolution of marriage.

Grounds for divorce

If spouses disagree on any divorce terms, they need to file for divorce based on at least one of the following 11 recognized grounds: 

  • Either spouse was already married at the time of marriage
  • The spouse not filing for divorce willingly left for at least a year
  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Fraudulent contract (the spouse lied, hid information or committed fraud to get the other spouse to marry)
  • Gross neglect of duty (failure to provide respect, fidelity or support)
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Imprisonment of the non-filing spouse in a state or federal correctional institution at the time the divorce is filed
  • The other spouse divorced the filing spouse in another state
  • Incompatibility (unless one spouse disagrees or contests this ground)
  • A separation (no cohabitation) between the spouses for at least a year

In Ohio, divorcing spouses can file for either fault or no-fault divorce.

In the case of a fault divorce, the filing (plaintiff) spouse can list one or more of the first nine grounds above (fault grounds) as wrongdoing committed within the marriage that led to the divorce complaint. In order for the divorce to be granted, they must supply evidence proving the act was committed.

In no-fault cases, the filing spouse doesn’t need to provide evidence of incompatibility in order for that ground to be valid.

However, if the spouse who isn’t filing disagrees with incompatibility, the filing spouse has to base their divorce request on another reason. No-fault divorce in Ohio can also be granted if the spouses have been living separately for at least a year.

You only need to successfully prove one ground in order for a divorce to be granted. Sometimes this can be challenging, so listing multiple grounds in your divorce petition can be helpful. 

Grounds for the dissolution of marriage

To get a dissolution of marriage in Ohio, spouses aren’t required to cite grounds.

Instead, the primary requirement is that both spouses agree to and sign a separation agreement that will be incorporated into the final judgment that makes their dissolution official. In this agreement, the spouses must address matters of: 

  • Property and debt division
  • Spousal support
  • Child custody and visitation (if applicable)
  • The residential parent and/or legal guardian of any children (if applicable)
  • Child support (if applicable)

Can I get spousal support? What factors will a judge consider?

It’s possible to get spousal support, or alimony, when ending a marriage in Ohio. It’s also possible for one spouse to request and receive temporary support while the proceedings take place. 

Ohio law requires the courts to use the following factors when determining how much, if any, spousal support is to be paid: 

  • Each spouse’s income, including property awarded in the division of marital assets
  • Each spouse’s financial earning ability
  • Each spouse’s age and physical, mental and emotional health
  • Each spouse’s retirement benefits
  • The length of the marriage
  • Any difficulty finding a job due to childcare responsibilities for one of the spouses
  • The spouses’ standard of living during the marriage
  • Each spouse’s education
  • Each spouse’s assets and liabilities
  • 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 other getting a professional degree
  • The time and expense necessary for the spouse seeking spousal support to acquire education, training or job experience so they’ll be qualified to get a self-supporting job
  • The tax implications, for each spouse, of spousal support
  • The lost income production capacity of either spouse that resulted from that spouse’s marital responsibilities (i.e., staying at home or caring for minor children)
  • Any other fact that the court finds relevant and fair

Generally, a spouse with a substantially higher income ends up paying some kind of support obligation, for a length determined at the court’s discretion. 

How is marital property divided in Ohio?

Ohio is known as an equitable division state. Under these laws, the courts aim to divide marital property (and debts) fairly but not necessarily equally. 

The first step in property division is determining which assets and debts are considered marital property (generally, anything acquired during the marriage). The spouses need to prove that specific separate property shouldn’t be included in these calculations if they disagree with the court’s assumptions. 

Next, the judge uses the following factors to make an “equitable” division of the determined marital property: 

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s assets and liabilities
  • Whether the family home should be awarded to the spouse with child custody
  • The liquidity of the property
  • The economic desirability of keeping an asset intact
  • The tax implications of division for both spouses
  • The costs of sale if it’s necessary to sell an asset in order to distribute it
  • Any separation agreement that addresses property division
  • Each spouse’s retirement benefits
  • Any other factor that is relevant and equitable

How is child custody determined in Ohio?

Child custody laws address the issue of “parental rights and responsibilities” in Ohio and assume that the child will benefit from a continued relationship with both parents. Visitation is therefore usually permitted, though it may be supervised when needed. 

Ohio custody determinations tend to designate one parent’s home as the child’s primary residence, even if the parents share equal parenting time. The parent with whom the child spends the most time, or who is the primary caregiver, is also known as the “residential parent”.

In cases where the parents can’t agree on parental rights and responsibilities, the judge has the discretion to order them to mediation, parenting classes or counseling before issuing a final custody order.

The factors determining parental rights and responsibilities include: 

  • The parents’ opinions about custody
  • The child’s relationship with each parent and other relatives
  • The adjustment of the child to their home, school and community
  • The mental and physical health of the parents and child
  • Whether one parent is more likely to respect the order and the other parent’s time
  • If a parent has failed to make child support payments
  • Previous abuse or neglect of the child or other parent
  • Whether a parent has denied the other’s parenting time
  • If a parent lives or plans to live outside the state
  • The child’s preferences

How is child support determined in Ohio?

In Ohio, both parents are responsible for supporting their children after ending their marriage, though only one (usually the non-custodial parent) will likely need to make direct child support payments to the other. 

Payments are calculated following the Ohio state child support guidelines and aren’t affected by a parent’s behavior during the marriage.

The guidelines are based on the estimated cost of raising children, each parent’s income, the custody arrangement and the total number of children between both parents within and outside of the relationship. 

A judge can deviate from these guidelines if they believe the resulting amount is unjust or inappropriate for the child’s best interests. In deciding whether the child support determined by the guidelines is appropriate or not, the judge will consider: 

  • Any special needs of the child
  • The child’s own financial resources and earning ability
  • Whether one of the parents pays for schooling, lessons, sports equipment, clothing and similar
  • Extraordinary work-related expenses for either parent
  • The standard of living the child would’ve enjoyed had the marriage continued
  • Who’s providing health insurance

How to file for divorce in Ohio

In Ohio, the process for filing for dissolution differs slightly from the process for filing for divorce. 

Dissolution (uncontested divorce)

To file for dissolution of marriage, since both spouses are considered petitioners in this case, they must bring the following paperwork to the court of common pleas in the county where either has lived for at least 90 days of the last six months in the state of Ohio:

  • Petition for dissolution
  • Affidavits containing basic information,including income and expenses
  • Statement of property and debt
  • Parenting proceeding, healthcare affidavits and child support forms if children are at issue
  • A decree of dissolution
  • Additional accompanying administrative forms and waivers

You can obtain these forms from the clerk of court’s office in the county where you plan to file for divorce.

Along with these forms, the spouses need to include a separation agreement that will be used to shape the final divorce decree and, if they have children, a parenting plan with proper child support calculation forms. Both spouses need to sign the forms and agreement.

Within 30 to 90 days, there will be a final hearing pertaining to the petition and accompanying documents, after which the judge will approve and sign the submitted dissolution decree. Then the marriage is dissolved.

Divorce (contested)

The steps to file for divorce are similar to those for a dissolution, but could take longer depending on the complexity of the issues involved in the case. 

First, assuming residency requirements are met, the filing spouse must bring the following paperwork to the court of common pleas in the county where they’ve lived for at least the last 90 days. More forms may be required depending on the circumstances, so check with the court clerk in the intended filing county:

  • Complaint for divorce
  • Affidavits of basic information, income, expenses, property and debt
  • Request for service
  • Accompanying administrative forms

When filing, or soon after, the plaintiff spouse also submits any requests for temporary orders on issues like spousal support or child custody. 

Next, copies of the divorce forms are served to the non-filing spouse (either by certified mail, process server or the county sheriff). They have 28 days to file their own responsive documents agreeing or disagreeing with the complaint and requested temporary orders. 

About four to six weeks after both have filed their papers, the spouses attend a hearing where a judge issues temporary orders based on the information submitted. 

From this point, spouses need to participate in various hearings depending on the complexity of their case. In these hearings, spouses may discuss the terms of the separation agreement, participate in mediation and/or present or exchange evidence supporting their grounds. They may also need to meet with different experts to prepare testimony or undergo evaluations if certain issues are highly contended. 

Once both spouses come to an agreement on all issues, the judge reviews and approves it as acceptable under Ohio law. If the spouses can’t come to an agreement on any issues, the judge will rule on those. 

The divorce is officially finalized once a signed “judgment entry for divorce” is filed by the court or an “agreed judgment entry/decree of divorce” is filed by the parties. Either must be signed by the judge to finalize the divorce. 

How long will it take to get divorced in Ohio?

In Ohio, contested divorce cases that don’t involve matters of child custody and support can usually be resolved within around 12 months, while cases with children are usually resolved within 18 months.

On the other hand, dissolution cases can be finalized in as little as 30 days, depending on the complexity of issues and the ability of the spouses to work together. At a maximum, dissolutions are typically resolved in no more than three months after the spouses file. (Be aware that the bulk of the work for a dissolution takes place before filing, while the spouses negotiate their separation agreement.)

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How much does divorce cost in Ohio?

Several things factor into the price of a divorce in Ohio, including attorney fees, filing fees and other charges.

Some attorneys charge an hourly rate, while others charge a flat fee for handling an entire case. Either way, you can generally expect to pay anything from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars for an attorney’s services.

Whether or not you work with a lawyer, spouses in both divorce and dissolution proceedings in Ohio are required to pay court filing fees, which currently range from $200 to $400 in many counties. For a divorce, there’s an additional process server fee (approximately $75 to $100 currently) to serve the papers to the non-filing spouse.

Finally, depending on the circumstances of the case, the following may result in additional costs: 

  • Child custody and child support
  • Real estate appraisals
  • Retirement, pension and/or investment account valuations 
  • Business valuations
  • Evaluations for personal property
  • Costs of testimony and gathering evidence for separate property claims

Although it’s hard to predict exact divorce costs, it’s clear that it’s less expensive if spouses pursue a dissolution and can agree on all the major divorce terms, rather than seeking a divorce. That’s because divorce means going to court, which requires additional time, and more time means greater attorney fees.

Can we agree to a divorce settlement outside of court?

In Ohio, couples seeking a dissolution of marriage can agree to a settlement without having to go through a lengthy court process.

To be eligible, both parties must agree on all major issues, including child custody and support, spousal support, property division and debt division.

Note that even if both parties agree to the terms of the divorce settlement outside of court, they still need to go through a formal dissolution process.

The court needs to approve the agreement and ensure it complies with Ohio law. Once the court has approved the agreement and the judge signs it, it becomes legally binding and enforceable.

When to speak to a divorce attorney

When you’re considering filing for a divorce in Ohio, it’s wise to speak to a divorce attorney as soon as possible. A knowledgeable attorney can answer any questions you have about the process, provide advice and help ensure that your divorce is handled in an efficient and fair manner.

In addition, the following situations may necessitate the need for legal assistance:

  • A complicated case
  • You have a significant amount to win or lose
  • You’re unlikely to be able to agree with your spouse
  • You’ve experienced domestic violence
  • The divorce will affect your immigration status 
  • The divorce involves complex child related issues

An experienced divorce attorney can also help you negotiate any agreements that need to be made between you and your spouse, such as child support, custody arrangements and division of property. They should be familiar with the laws of the state and will be able to provide advice about what’s best for your situation.

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Disclaimer: This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

This page includes links to third party websites. The inclusion of third party websites is not an endorsement of their services.

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