Family Law : Legal Separation, Divorce and Dissolution

How can I legally end my marriage?

Marriages in Ohio may be terminated by legal separation, divorce or dissolution.

Although it is the least frequently used method to terminate a marriage annulment may be preferable on religious or property distribution grounds.

What is a legal separation?

In Ohio, some people seek a legal separation because they do not meet the six-month residency requirement for filing a divorce action in Ohio.

In those cases, the parties may later convert their legal separation action into a divorce action, or obtaining a decree of legal separation may be a preliminary step toward later obtaining a divorce decree.

However, other people file an action for a legal separation instead of a divorce action because they object to divorce for personal or religious reasons, or because they want their spouse to remain fully responsible for their financial support, health insurance coverage, etc.

How do I file for a legal separation?

A complaint requesting a legal separation must be filed in the domestic relations division of the local common pleas court, or if there is no domestic relations division, in the general division of the common pleas court.

The parties may enter into a separation agreement that addresses issues such as spousal support, child custody and visitation, child support, property division, and/or payment of marital debts.

If there is no separation agreement, the court, after hearing testimony and taking evidence, will determine child custody and visitation and, as appropriate, order spousal support, child support, and division of the marital property and debts.

How do I file for a divorce?

A husband or wife may file a complaint for divorce in the domestic relations division of the local common pleas court or, if there is no domestic relations division, in the general division of the common pleas court.  The complaint must allege, and the plaintiff (party filing the divorce complaint) must later prove, one or more of the following legal grounds for divorce:

  • adultery;
  • gross neglect of duty (e.g., failure to support the other spouse);
  • one of the spouses was already married to another person at the time of their marriage to the second spouse (bigamy);
  • willful absence of the spouse from the plaintiff's home for a continuous one-year period preceding the filing of the divorce case;
  • extreme cruelty;
  • fraudulent contract (fraudulent misrepresentations or promises made to the other party before the parties' marriage);
  • habitual drunkenness;
  • imprisonment of the other spouse;
  • the parties have for one year, without interruption, lived separate and apart without cohabitation (no-fault divorce grounds); or
  • incompatibility of the husband and wife, if alleged by one spouse in the divorce complaint and not denied by the other spouse (another type of no-fault divorce).

How do I file for a dissolution?

In a dissolution of marriage in Ohio, the husband and wife file a joint petition where both parties are requesting the court to grant the same relief, namely, that their marriage be terminated and that their separation agreement that is attached to the joint petition be reviewed and approved by the court.  The separation agreement must settle all property disputes and all issues pertaining to spousal support, child custody and visitation, property division, and payment of marital debts.  If the husband and wife cannot resolve all the issues between them and include those provisions in their separation agreement, one of them will have to file a complaint requesting a divorce instead of filing the joint petition requesting a dissolution of their marriage because in a divorce case, the court may resolve any issues that the parties cannot settle between themselves.  At any time before the court has granted a decree of dissolution of marriage, either spouse may convert the case into a divorce case by filing a motion for conversion of the action that includes an attached complaint for divorce.

A joint petition for dissolution of marriage must be filed in the domestic relations division of the local common pleas court or, if there is no domestic relations division, in the general division of the common pleas court.

What is a dissolution of marriage, and how is it different from a divorce?

A dissolution of marriage process may eliminate much of the divorce process and expense. Unlike a divorce, fault grounds are not at issue. Dissolution is often thought of as no-fault divorce.  Read more...

How is child custody handled in a divorce, dissolution or legal separation?

Please see the child custody page for more information on child custody in a divorce, dissolution or legal separation.

For more information on domestic violence visit the Ohio Domestic Violence Resource Center.

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

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The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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