A Basic Legal Guide to Divorce


Filing for divorce can be confusing, and many men and women delay because they are unsure of what to do. Fortunately, our attorneys can break down the process for you so that it is easy to digest. Below, we outline some basic information that you need to know before seeking a divorce in Ohio. Meet with one of our divorce lawyers if you have questions.

Divorce Options

There are two options: dissolution and divorce. Dissolution is also called an “uncontested” divorce, where a couple agrees on child custody, child support, alimony, and the division of marital property and debts.

If a couple disagrees about one or more of these issues, then they cannot seek dissolution. Instead they seek a divorce, which can take a year or longer and certainly requires the help of an attorney.

Residency Requirement

Ohio’s courts will not divorce just anybody. Instead, the person filing the divorce papers must have been a resident of the state for at least 6 months immediately before filing. If you have just moved to the state, you cannot file in Ohio. You might need to file in a different state or wait.

You should also seek dissolution or divorce in the court of common pleas for the county where you have lived for at least 90 days.

Child Custody & Child Support

Child custody is definitely a contentious issue in many divorces. If parents can reach an agreement on child custody, a judge will decide it based on the “best interest of the child.” O.R.C. §3109.04(F)(1) lists many factors that a judge should consider.

Before a judge can order shared parenting, he or she must also consider some other factors, such as how well the parents cooperate and how closely they live together. Shared parenting is often ideal but is not possible in all cases.

The centerpiece of a child custody case is the parenting plan. This should lay out the child’s schedule—who he will be with and on what days—as well as other important information, such as who can make medical or educational decisions.

Child support is decided using a formula in most cases, and this formula takes into consideration how much time a parent has with the child. It is difficult to decide child support until a custody schedule is set.

Spousal Support (Alimony)

One spouse can request alimony, which usually takes the form of monthly payments from the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning one. Alimony can be for a definite amount of time or indefinite. Judges have enormous discretion to award alimony and how much. To see what factors a judge considers, read O.R.C. § 3105.18.

Equitable Distribution

Ohio is an equitable distribution state. This means that a judge will divide marital property and debts fairly. A fair division does not always mean 50/50, though that is often the starting point. A judge can depart after looking at all relevant factors, such as each spouse’s separate property, income, and career opportunities. O.R.C. § 3105.71 contains the relevant factors a judge considers.

Mediation & Collaborative Divorce

If you can’t immediately agree to all terms, that does not mean you will not be able to seek dissolution. Instead, you might benefit from mediation. You can also hire an attorney who practices collaborative divorce. When undertaken in good faith, mediation and/or collaborative divorce can help squabbling couples see eye to eye and reach an agreement on tough issues.

Filing Paperwork

If you have decided to file, then you should go to the courthouse in the county where you live. There are forms available. You can also find these forms online.

If you are seeking dissolution, then obtain the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Both parties will need to sign it. You should also attach your separation agreement to it and complete other forms. When you file, ask the court for a hearing, which should happen within 90 days. Every court is different, and some clerks will immediately schedule a hearing while others might mail the hearing date to you.

If you are seeking divorce, then one spouse should complete the Complaint for Divorce. There are different forms depending on whether you have children.

Hiring the Right Attorney

We strongly recommend that men and women considering divorce hire a lawyer. Even a simple dissolution might be more complicated than you imagine.

By meeting with an attorney, you are not committing to having a drawn out, knock down divorce. However, you need to ensure your rights are protected. At Lawrence Law Office, we have helped clients seeking either dissolution or divorce. Please contact us today for more information.