Ohio Divorce: What You Should Know

Learn about the processes for getting a divorce or dissolution of marriage in Ohio, including the grounds for ending your marriage, how to file, and how much you’ll pay in court costs.

By , Attorney UC Berkeley School of Law
Updated 12/02/2021

Every state has its own rules and procedures for divorce. Here's what you need to know about getting a divorce in Ohio.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in Ohio

As long as you follow the state's marriage license rules, you can get married in any state—even if you don't live there. The requirements for ending a marriage, though, are not as relaxed. Instead, you must meet a state's residency requirements before you can file for divorce in its courts.

To divorce in Ohio, the plaintiff spouse (the spouse who files for divorce) must have been a resident of the state for at least six months immediately before filing the complaint. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.03 (2021).)

To obtain a dissolution of marriage (the difference between a "dissolution of marriage" and a "divorce" is discussed below), one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least six months immediately before filing the complaint. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.62 (2021).)

The purpose of state residency requirements is to prevent one spouse from moving to another state to "shop" for a court or judge that will view the case more favorably for that spouse. Residency requirements also prevent one spouse from filing in a location far from the other just to make it more difficult (and expensive) for the other spouse to respond and participate.

What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Ohio?

Ohio's divorce procedures are unique: It is the only state that differentiates between "divorce" and "dissolution of marriage." In all other states, a dissolution is the same as a divorce. In a nutshell, you must seek a divorce if you and your spouse don't agree on all the issues—such as property division and child custody—in your divorce. You can seek a dissolution only when you and your spouse agree on all issues.

Grounds for Divorce in Ohio

Ohio law lists 11 grounds (reasons) for divorce:

  1. either spouse had a husband or wife living at the time of the marriage
  2. the spouse who isn't filing for divorce left willingly for a year or more
  3. adultery
  4. extreme cruelty
  5. fraudulent contract (meaning a spouse committed lied, hid information, or committed another fraudulent act in order to get the other spouse to marry)
  6. gross "neglect of duty"
  7. habitual drunkenness
  8. imprisonment of the non-filing spouse in a state or federal correctional institution at the time the divorce is filed
  9. the other spouse divorced the filing spouse in another state
  10. the spouses have lived apart without cohabitation for a year, and
  11. incompatibility (unless one of the spouses denies that the couple is incompatible).

(Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.01 (2021).) When a spouse files for divorce based on one of the first nine grounds listed above, the divorce will be "fault-based." This means that the filing spouse will have to present evidence to the judge that proves the other spouse committed the act.

When a spouse seeks a divorce because the couple has lived apart for a year or because the couple is incompatible, the divorce will be "no-fault." This means that the court doesn't require the filing spouse to prove that the other committed a bad act that caused the end of the marriage. However, if the non-filing spouse disagrees with the other's claim that they are incompatible, the filing spouse will have to give another reason for the divorce.

You can claim in your petition that your marriage ended for one or more of these reasons, but you'll need to prove only one of them. Claiming two or more grounds can be helpful in the event you're unable to prove one of them.

Most people who file for divorce in Ohio will give incompatibility as the reason their marriage is ending. As long as the other spouse doesn't disagree, it's the simplest way to proceed: No-fault divorces often reach resolution faster than fault-based divorces because the spouses don't have to argue about who was responsible for the end of the marriage.

Divorces in Ohio take at least four months to finalize, and some can take up to two years. To get details about how to file a divorce in Ohio, visit Ohio Legal Help's website.

Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage in Ohio

A "dissolution of marriage" in Ohio is a form of uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on all divorce-related matters, such as division of property, child custody, and spousal support. (A contested divorce, on the other hand, is one where the spouses can't agree and must ask a court to decide the issues in their divorce.)

To get a dissolution of marriage in Ohio, both spouses must sign the petition, and must include with the petition a separation agreement for the court to incorporate into the final judgment. The separation agreement must address:

  • division of all property
  • spousal support
  • child custody and visitation (if there are minor children)
  • the designation of a "residential parent" and "legal custodian" of the minor children, if any, and
  • child support (if there are minor children).

(Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.63 (2021).) The court will hold a hearing on the petition for dissolution, and both spouses must attend. Dissolutions are typically faster and less expensive than divorces because there is nothing for the spouses to argue about.

Ohio dissolutions of marriage are usually finalized within 30 to 90 days after filing the petition. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.64 (2021).)

For information about filing a Dissolution of Marriage in Ohio, visit Ohio Legal Help's website.

Divorce Filing Fees in Ohio

Like most legal proceedings, you must pay court filing fees to begin a divorce or dissolution of marriage. Every county in Ohio has different filing fees; contact the clerk of the court where you will be filing for more information. As of 2021, the filing fee for divorce and dissolution in most counties is between $300 and $400. Also, the filing fee might be more in some courts when the couple has minor children.

If you can't afford to pay the filing fees, you can ask the court to waive the fees. If your income is at or below 187.5% of the federal poverty limit, the court must waive your fees. If you don't qualify for this mandatory waiver, you can still apply for a waiver—it will be up to the judge to decide whether to grant your request. (Ohio Rev. Code § 2323.311 (2021).) Use Form 20: Civil Fee Waiver Affidavit and Order to request a waiver.

Serving Your Spouse in Ohio

Once you file the divorce paperwork, you will need to provide notice to your spouse of the divorce. (You will not have to send your spouse notice of a dissolution of marriage, because both spouses sign and file the petition.) In Ohio, you can ask the court to serve the paperwork when you file the petition. In most cases, you'll have the option of having your spouse served by certified mail (return receipt requested) or by personal service by the sheriff. Most people choose certified mail because it is less expensive.

You'll need to follow up with the clerk to confirm that your spouse was served successfully. If you're not able to serve your spouse—perhaps because you don't know where your spouse is or your spouse is evading service—you can request permission from the court to serve your spouse in another way. A common alternative method of service is "by publication"—usually this means that the court will allow you to publish notice of the divorce in a newspaper.

What to Expect in an Ohio Divorce

Unlike some states, Ohio doesn't have a "waiting period" between when you file your divorce and when the court can start processing it. However, there is a 30-day waiting period in a dissolution of marriage—the court can't grant the dissolution until at least 30 days has passed.

You'll most likely have at least one hearing in court, no matter whether you're pursuing a divorce or a dissolution. In a divorce, the judge might also schedule hearings on any motions (requests) you or your spouse file.

Here are some of the issues a judge will address in an Ohio divorce.

Property Division in Ohio

Ohio is an equitable division state, which means the court will divide marital property and debt fairly—but not necessarily equally.

First, the judge will determine whether property is marital or non-marital property. Judges presume that all property acquired by either spouse after the marriage is marital property, so it's up to the spouses to prove that something is non-marital property.

Next, the judge will divide marital property "equitably" by evaluating:

  • the duration of the marriage
  • assets and liabilities of the spouses
  • whether the family home should be awarded to the spouse with child custody
  • the liquidity of the property
  • the economic desirability of keeping an asset intact
  • the tax consequences of division on both spouses
  • the costs of sale if it's necessary to sell an asset in order to distribute it
  • any separation agreement that addresses property division
  • retirement benefits, and
  • any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.171 (2021).) See Ohio Divorce: Dividing Property for more details.

Spousal Support in Ohio

Ohio judges can award "reasonable" spousal support to a spouse who requests it. Ohio judges have a lot of discretion on the form of, length of, and amount of any spousal support awards. When deciding whether spousal support is appropriate, Ohio judges will consider:

  • each spouse's income
  • each spouse's earning ability
  • the age of and the physical, mental, and emotional condition of each spouse
  • the parties' retirement benefits
  • how long the marriage lasted
  • whether it would be inappropriate for one of the spouses to seek employment outside the home due to caring for a minor child
  • the parties' standard of living during the marriage
  • each spouse's level of education
  • the spouses' assets and debts
  • whether the spouses contributed to the education, training, or earning ability of the other
  • the time and expense necessary for the spouse seeking support to get the training needed to become self-supporting
  • the tax consequences to each party of a spousal support award
  • whether the marriage caused one of the parties to lose the capacity to earn income, and
  • any other factor the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.18 (2021).) See Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Ohio for more information.

Child Custody in Ohio

Ohio laws and courts refer to child custody as "parental rights and responsibilities." Like all states, Ohio courts begin with a presumption that it's best for a child to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a divorce. However, the judge will make a determination about custody based on what is in the child's best interests. Ohio judges may take into account the child's wishes when deciding custody.

The parent who lives most of the time with the child is the "residential parent." If the parents share time equally ("shared parenting"), the court might designate one of the parents' residences as the child's home if necessary.

When parents don't agree on the division of parental rights and responsibilities, the court may order them to attempt mediation. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.052 (2021).) Ohio judges also have the discretion to order parents to attend classes on parenting or obtain counseling before the court will issue an order allocating parental rights and responsibilities. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3109.053 (2021).)

For more details about child custody in Ohio, see Ohio Child Custody Laws and Ohio Parental Rights and Shared Parenting FAQs.

Child Support in Ohio

Ohio requires both parents to support their children after divorce. Ohio courts use the state's child support guidelines to evaluate how much support a parent must pay. Child support payments are not affected by the parents' behavior during marriage. If the judge believes that the amount of child support calculated under the state's guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate, the judge may deviate from the state's guidelines to protect the child's best interests. When determining whether the amount dictated by the state's guidelines is appropriate, the judge may consider a number of factors, such as:

  • special needs of the child
  • the child's financial resources and earning ability
  • whether one of the parents pays for items such as schooling, lessons, sports equipment, or clothing
  • extraordinary work-related expenses incurred by ether parent, and
  • the standard of living the child would've enjoyed had the marriage continued.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.23 (2021).) You can use the Ohio Department of Job and Family Service's child support calculator to get an estimate of how much child support might be awarded in your case. For more details, see Child Support in Ohio.

Mediation as a Divorce Alternative

Not all divorces need to be drawn out battles in the courtroom. Instead of hurrying to the courthouse to file for divorce when you have unresolved issues, mediation might be a less contentious and cheaper way to divorce.

In mediation, both spouses meet with a trained and neutral third party called a "mediator." Mediation sessions are confidential, and each spouse will have the opportunity to list their issues and suggest resolutions. The mediator won't make any decisions in the case—rather, a mediator's job is to guide the negotiations in a way that will help the spouses settle their divorce without court intervention.

If you agree on some or all of the issues during the mediation, the mediator can draft a divorce settlement agreement for you to present to the court. Any remaining issues that you and your spouse can't agree on will be decided by the court. Even if you're able to agree on one or two issues, mediation is usually much less expensive than going through a complete divorce trial, and can help you and your spouse create a foundation for continuing communication after your divorce.

Divorcing spouses can choose to mediate on their own with a private mediator. Some states' laws require divorcing spouses to attempt mediation while a divorce is pending in court. This is known as "court-ordered mediation." Ohio judges have the discretion to refer a divorce case to mediation.

Finalizing a Divorce in Ohio

To finalize your divorce, the judge will sign a "Decree of Divorce." (If you've filed for dissolution of marriage, you'll receive a "Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.) The decree will include the details of your divorce, such as property division, child custody, and spousal support. Your divorce is final as of the date the judge signs the decree.

You will likely get a copy of your final divorce decree after it's been entered into the court's record. You can also request a certified (official) copy of the decree from the court clerk.

Also, if one or both of the spouses requested that their name be changed back to the name they had before marriage, the decree will serve as the order restoring the spouse's former name.

Other Resources for Filing a Divorce in Ohio

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