How to get divorced in Ohio

Tags: Online Divorce, Ohio

Image: Sean Pavone / iStock

By Steffan Lawson

Published Jul 27, 2022

Requirements for an Ohio divorce

  • If you want to file for a divorce in Ohio, either you or your spouse should have lived in Ohio for at least 6 months before filing for divorce.

  • The state also requires that either of the spouses must reside at least 90 days in the county where you file for divorce.

Grounds for no-Fault divorce

Instead of going into the nitty-gritty of why the marriage broke down or assigning blame, you can choose either of the no-fault grounds i.e.

  • Incompatibility and

  • Living separately for at least 1 year.

The no-fault option for filing divorce is when you agree on various issues such as children, property, etc. with your spouse. This is known as the “dissolution of marriage” and this allows you to hasten the entire divorce process and also save quite a lot of money for both parties.

Grounds for fault divorce

Ohio State also has various fault-based grounds on basis of which you can file for a divorce such as:

  • Adultery

  • Bigamy

  • Not supporting your spouse financially (gross neglect of duty)

  • Extreme cruelty

  • Absence for a period of at least 1 year

  • Habitual drunkenness

  • Fraudulent contract and

  • Imprisoning your spouse

Step 1: Starting & filing your divorce in Ohio

You will need to fill several forms to file for divorce in the state of Ohio. There are no specific set of domestic relation forms mandated by Ohio and so you must check in your specific county for the forms required. However, the basic forms required are:

  • Divorce Complaint: This essentially informs the court what you want from your divorce in terms of the spousal support, custody or visitation arrangements (if you have children), how the property and debts should be divided and if you want to revert to your name before marriage.

  • Case Designation Sheet

  • Instructions for Service

If your spouse and you have minor children, then you must have a Parenting Proceeding Affidavit, where the party filing for divorce must provide all the information regarding the residence of the child for the previous 5 years.

If you’re opting to go down the “dissolution of marriage” route, then this needs with the cooperation of both, your spouse and you. And, if you decide to file for divorce by the process of dissolution, then you need to file most of your forms upfront, even before a case number is assigned by the court and the following documents are required in case of dissolution:

  • Petition for Dissolution for Marriage (this must include the Waiver of Service of Process): This form is jointly filed by both spouses. It identifies the two parties, children and incorporates the signed separation agreement. The form establishes that at least one spouse meets the residency requirement for divorce.

  • Statement of Financial Disclosure (or Affidavit of Income and Expenses and Property): This essentially includes information regarding your spouse’s and your finances and expenses. The Property Affidavit requires information of the property to be distributed during the divorce process.

  • Settlement Agreement (or Separation Agreement): This is filed along with the Petition of Dissolution and it specifies the division of all property, debts, spousal support, specifies parental rights, responsibilities, parenting time and child support. In case of dissolution, the form stipulates waiver to the right of an attorney by both spouses and the form is signed by both spouses and finally notarized.

In case there are minor children involved, the following documents must be submitted along with the ones mentioned above:

  • Child Support Worksheet: These are used to compute the child support on basis of the custody arrangements, which is based on the parent’s income.

  • Shared Parenting Plan or Sole Custody Agreement: This form has information about the child custody and child support payments after the divorce.

  • Parenting Proceeding Affidavit: Has the information about your children and the current family situation details.

  • Health Insurance Affidavit: Has information pertaining to the health insurance of your child/children.

IV-D application: This form is to enroll in child support services

Filing the Papers

Once you have all the documents required to file for divorce and you have filled out all the details, you can file the documents with the court in the county where you want to proceed with the filing for divorce. If you want to go the dissolution of marriage route, then you must include the settlement agreement to your divorce petition. And, if you have minor children, then you need to include the shared parenting plan along with the petition.

Step 2: Serving your spouse

According to the Ohio law, the state requires the spouse filing for divorce to “serve” the other party with copies of all the documents pertaining to the divorce. The papers can be served via the following methods:

  • Registered mail

  • Certified mail

  • Sheriff’s service

  • Private process service

  • In case you are not aware of your spouse’s whereabouts, then you can publish the notice of your divorce in the local newspaper.

In the case of dissolution of marriage, there is no service required, as both you and your spouse know all the details of the process and agree on all issues. You also waive the right to service of the process of the petition also.

Once the petition has been filed and all required forms have been submitted, the date of hearing will be scheduled by the court between 30-90 days from the date of your filing.

Step 3: Contested or uncontested Ohio divorce?

Contested divorce (High Cost)

  • This is when your spouse and you are unable to agree on one or more of the aspects related to your divorce such as custody of children, the division of property, alimony, debts, etc. Usually, when you can’t agree on any of these issues with your spouse, then your divorce case ends up in the court, where the unresolved issues are decided by a judge. Usually, contested divorces are quite expensive and can cost thousands of dollars, as you will need to hire an attorney to present the case on your behalf, submit the evidence, etc.

Uncontested Divorce (Low Cost)

An uncontested divorce, on the other hand is where your spouse and you agree on all the issues pertaining to the divorce. This does not really mean that the divorce is friendly, it essentially means that all the issues are resolved between you and your spouse outside the court. Uncontested divorces are usually low cost and inexpensive compared to a contested divorce.

You can use several methods to reach an agreement with your spouse in the case of an uncontested divorce. You can meet at a mutually agreed place and identify all the issues of your divorce and enter into an agreement. The agreements must be put into writing in a “separation agreement”.

You can use the help of a mediator to identify the various issues, go through all the information and resolve any disputes. Mediators can fill out the various legal documents and also draft the separation agreement on your behalf.

As discussed earlier, Ohio also allows divorcing couples to choose dissolution of marriage which is a form of uncontested divorce and is a speedier process.

Step 4: Do it yourself or hire an attorney?

If your divorce is a no-fault or an uncontested divorce where your spouse and you agree on all the issues, then you can complete the entire process by yourself without hiring the services of an attorney. This is known as a “pro se” divorce i.e. “without a lawyer”.

Here, you need to work along with your spouse on resolving issues without a lawyer. The main benefit of a pro se divorce is that it is cheaper as you will save on the lawyer’s fees. You will also learn quite a bit by filing for divorce and finalizing it all by yourself as you will need to educate yourself about the divorce laws of your state, your assets, the legal issues, etc.

Online Divorce Service

Many couples opt for an online divorce service to help them with the divorce process if the divorce is uncontested. An online divorce service usually provides the divorce forms online and the online service fills in all the forms on the basis of the information provided by you.

While some online divorce services have paralegals to prepare and review your papers, others require you to fill in the forms yourself. And, once the documents are prepared, then you can submit the forms electronically or submit them on the website of your county court. (See our review on our favorite provider

Hire an Attorney

If you and your spouse are unable, and unwilling to work together, it would be best for your both to employ an attorney to make sure both of your are equally represented. When hiring an attorney, your divorce will be seen as a contested divorce, and this will lead to both of you spending a lot more on the divorce.

Step 5: Property division, child custody and spousal support

When there is a contested divorce, it almost always involves at least one of the following issues: Child custody, spousal support or property distribution.

Property division In Ohio

Generally, your property and your debts are divided between your spouse and you in the case of a divorce. Usually, your spouse and you will retain your separate property, which includes any property:

  • Received before marriage.

  • Received as a gift (given to only one spouse) or by inheritance.

  • Received after legal separation or after a valid prenuptial agreement.

  • Compensation for any claim for personal injury.

  • Passive income or appreciation of income from a separate property.

All other property is considered as marital property. Both martial, as well as separate property will be divided considering the following:

  • Length of marriage.

  • Assets and liabilities of your spouse and you.

  • Liquidity of the property that is to be distributed.

  • Giving the family home or the right to live in it for a reasonable time period to the spouse with the custody of the children from the marriage.

  • Interest in the asset or desire to keep the asset intact.

  • Cost of sale.

  • Tax implications of the property division for each spouse.

  • Disbursement or division of property made in a legal separation agreement.

  • Retirement benefits of both spouses (excludes social security benefits)

  • Any other equitable and relevant factor.

Spousal Support in Ohio

If there is no agreement, the judge will decide to award spousal support, duration and amount on basis of the following factors:

  • Length of the marriage.

  • Income of both spouses from various sources including the income from divided property.

  • Earning capability of both the spouses.

  • Age, physical, emotional and mental condition of both spouses.

  • Retirement benefits of both spouses.

  • Standard of living maintained during the marriage.

  • How inappropriate it would be for the spouse to look for employment outside the home if the spouse is the custodian of a minor child.

  • Assets and liabilities of both spouses (including payments ordered by the court).

  • Tax liabilities of both spouses.

  • Each spouse’s contribution to education, earning ability or training of the other.

  • Any lost income of each spouse due to marital responsibility.

  • Time and expenditure for the spouse seeking alimony to get job experience, education or training to get proper employment.

  • Any other relevant factors.

Child Custody

The judge will make a decision on the child custody, visitation arrangements, etc. on basis of the following factors:

  • The wishes of both spouses.

  • Wishes of the child.

  • Relationship of the child with the parents, siblings and any other relevant person.

  • Adjustment of the child to the home, school and community.

  • Physical and mental health of all parties involved.

  • The spouse who is more likely to facilitate and honor the parenting time rights.

  • Failure on the part of either spouse to make child support payments.

  • If either spouse or household member has been involved in neglect, child abuse or any type of sexual or violent abuse involving another family member.

  • If either spouse is planning to move to a place outside of Ohio.

  • If either of the spouses has willfully and continuously denied the other parent’s parenting time according to the court orders.

In the case of shared parenting, the additional factors will be considered by the court:

  • The ability of both parents to be cooperative on issues and take joint decisions.

  • The ability of each spouse to encourage the contact between the child and the other spouse.

  • History or potential for domestic violence, child abuse or kidnapping by a parent.

  • The proximity of the spouses to each other geographically.

  • Recommendation of any guardian.

Step 6: Finalizing your Ohio divorce

Preparing For Court

Once you have served your spouse and your spouse files a counterclaim or an answer, a date will be set by the court for a hearing. Usually, the hearing is set 3 months after the petition for divorce is filed. The judge may want to meet you and your spouse before the hearing date if you can come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce.

The judge may encourage or order your spouse and you to attend a mediation session if you can resolve your issues and come to an agreement. If you come to an agreement with your spouse, then you can attend the hearing where the judge will simply sign the agreement. However, if you are unable to come to an agreement, the judge will set a trial date in order to decide the terms of your divorce.

Court Process

It is a good idea to prepare and write down what you would like to tell the judge about your divorce and contact the witnesses to testify for you. On the day of the hearing, ensure that you arrive at the courthouse early with all your divorce-related documents. After your hearing, the judge will then decide on the terms of your divorce and grant your divorce.