A divorce commences with the filing of certain legal documents. For many people, the decision to file is a difficult one, and they need to talk things over with a trusted advisor or attorney. In this article, we focus only on the mechanics of filing for divorce, not whether it is the right decision for you.
Divorce is different from the dissolution of marriage. If you can agree with your spouse on all aspects of the divorce—spousal support, child support, child custody, and the division of marital property and debts—you can file a joint petition for dissolution of marriage and attach your signed settlement agreement. If you can’t reach an agreement, you go through the divorce procedure, which we explain below.
Step 1: Identify If You Are Eligible To Divorce In Ohio
Not everyone present in the state can ask an Ohio court to divorce them. Instead, a person needs sufficient ties to the state. Ohio’s residency requirements are fairly simple:
- You have lived in Ohio for at least 6 months before filing for divorce
- You have lived for at least 90 days in the county where the divorce is filed
You must meet both. This means you might need to wait a little bit before filing for divorce.
Step 2: Complete A Complaint
The complaint starts with the divorce process. You can get a “fill in the blank” complaint form from the Ohio Supreme Court website. Look at the toolbar on the right-hand side of the page. It asks, “What do you need to do?” and has links, such as “Divorce without Children” or “Divorce with Children.” Click on the appropriate link and you will see all the documents you need.
We recommend you download forms in PDF or Word format and type in the requested information instead of printing it off and inserting information by hand. Don’t erase anything from the Word document, even if it does not apply to your case.
Here is some sample information you must supply in a complaint about divorce with children:
- Your name and current address
- Your spouse’s name and current address
- Each child’s name and date of birth
- Whether you want spousal support
- Whether you want to be named residential parent and legal custodian
- Whether you want to go back to a prior legal name
- If you want attorney fees and court costs
The complaint also asks for the reason (called “grounds”) for the divorce. Ohio offers a no-fault option called “incompatibility.” If you choose a fault ground, such as extreme cruelty, you are required to present evidence to prove it.
Step 3: Fill Out Other Forms
You will need to submit more information than simply the complaint. For example, if you are divorcing without children, you will also need:
- Request for Service
- Affidavit of Income and Expenses
- Affidavit of Property
You may also be requesting temporary orders, such as temporary spousal support which will last throughout the duration of the divorce. If you need orders, you will need to complete a Motion or Counter Affidavit for Temporary Orders. There are fill-in-the-blank forms for all these other documents on the Ohio Supreme Court website.
Step 4: Visit The Courthouse
Go to the courthouse where you intend to file. You should ask for the following information:
- How many copies of each document will you need?
- How much does it cost to file for divorce?
- Is there a fee waiver available if you can’t afford the fee?
- What methods of payment does the court accept (check, cash, credit card)?
You can also call ahead if that is more convenient. Remember to call the courthouse you intend to file in, which might not be the courthouse that is closest to where you currently live.
Step 5: File Your Divorce & Arrange Service Of Process
The clerk should help you file and arrange a service. Each courthouse in Ohio has its own procedures. For example, you might also schedule a court hearing when you file, or you might not.
Meet With A Lawyer If You Have Questions
Divorcing on your own is rarely advised. So many issues arise, and you will be at a disadvantage if you don’t have a lawyer. Those people who represent themselves (called going “pro se”) often report feeling like they have been run over by a truck. Certainly, the judge is not going to look out for your best interest. Only an attorney can.