Once you've made the difficult decision to end your marriage, you should familiarize yourself with the basic steps for starting your divorce.
Residency Requirements in Ohio
Before filing for divorce, a spouse must meet all state and local residency requirements. In Ohio, spouses must reside in the state for at least six months before they can file for divorce there. Ohio also requires that at least one spouse live in the county where the divorce is being requested for a minimum of 90 days.
Preparing the Complaint for Divorce in Ohio
Once you've met the residency requirements, the next step is to file the complaint for divorce (sometimes referred to as a divorce petition in other states). The Ohio Supreme Court website provides downloadable complaint forms. You can look through all the available forms to decide which one best meets your needs. For example, in Ohio, divorcing spouses will use specific forms for a divorce with children and different forms for a divorce without children.
When you fill out your divorce complaint, you'll include basic information about the marriage and what you're requesting, including:
- the spouses' names and addresses
- the date of the marriage and date of separation
- the names and ages of any minor children of the marriage, and
- whether you're requesting spousal support, child custody, child support, and/or any property.
Once you've completed your complaint, you must file it with the local county court and then serve it on your spouse. Check the local rules, but formal service typically requires that you have someone else hand deliver a copy of the complaint to your spouse—you cannot do this yourself. Many divorcing spouses will hire a local process server (or ask a friend) to deliver copies of the divorce paperwork to the other spouse.
Once service is complete, your spouse typically has 30 days to file an answer (or response) to the complaint.
Grounds for Divorce in Ohio
In your divorce petition, you will also have to state a ground (reason) for the divorce. Ohio allows for both no-fault and fault based divorces. In a no-fault divorce, you can simply state that you and your spouse are incompatible, which means you no longer get along and there is no chance you'll get back together. You can also file for divorce based on a separation, where you must live part for at least one year.
Ohio also allows spouses to file for fault divorces, which means the divorce is based on some type of misconduct, which caused the marriage to fail. Ohio recognizes the following fault grounds:
- gross neglect of duty
- willful absence or abandonment for at least one year
- extreme cruelty (physical and/or mental abuse)
- fraud to induce the marriage
- habitual drunkenness (alcohol addiction or substance abuse)
- the other spouse's imprisonment, and
- the responding spouse obtained a divorce in another state, and it's terms are not binding on the filing spouse.
Taking your divorce case to court is time-consuming and expensive. A court battle should be reserved as the last resort, only after you've attempted all other alternatives, such as mediation, to reach a divorce agreement with your spouse. In mediation, a neutral third party—usually an attorney who is specially trained in mediation—assists you and your spouse in finding workable solutions to your divorce-related issues. Many divorce cases are settled this way.
Working With a Lawyer
You can get a divorced without a lawyer, especially if you have a fairly simple case, with no children and no assets, or if you and your spouse agree on everything. However, divorce can be an emotional roller coaster, and making life-altering financial and legal decisions may be difficult when you're in distress. If you feel overwhelmed, you may want to ask a divorce lawyer to guide you through the process and help you achieve a fair outcome.