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How to file for divorce in Ohio

Wondering how to file for divorce in Ohio? We cover everything you need to know about the process and how to get started.

evident Editorial Team
November 20, 2023
Sunshine through trees on road in forest

Filing for divorce in Ohio can be a complicated process. If you’re going through a divorce, you likely have several questions. This article tells you all you need to know about how to file for divorce in Ohio, from understanding what type of divorce you’re dealing with to where to file your paperwork.

(If you're curious about the nuts and bolts of the process, you can jump straight to that section below).

Key Takeaways

Ways to end a marriage in Ohio

There are three main ways to split with your spouse in Ohio: annulment, legal separation, and divorce.  

Annulment in Ohio

Annulment is when the court deems a marriage void or invalid, which essentially means that the marriage never existed from a legal perspective. Grounds for annulment in Ohio include:

  • a spouse being too young to consent to the marriage;
  • committing fraud to get the other to agree to marriage; 
  • already being legally married to someone else; and 
  • not being competent enough to agree to the marriage. 

Note – an annulment in Ohio must occur within two years from the date of marriage. 

Legal Separation in Ohio

Legal separation is another option, but a separation does not legally end a marriage. Instead, legal separations allow couples to live separate lives while remaining married under the law.

That said, a separation agreement is broadly similar to a divorce settlement agreement, as it covers issues such as property division, alimony payments, child custody, child support payments, and many other issues.

If the circumstances of your marriage don’t fall under annulment or legal separation, then divorce might be your best option.

Types of divorce in Ohio

If you’re considering filing for divorce in Ohio, there are two threshold questions to consider: whether you are dealing with a fault or no-fault divorce; and whether your divorce will be contested or uncontested.

What category your divorce falls under will impact many things, including how long your divorce could take and how expensive it is likely to be.

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of how to file for divorce in Ohio, here’s what you need to know about the different types of divorce in Ohio. 

Fault vs. no-fault grounds for divorce 

Ohio divorce laws outline 11 permissible reasons for divorce. Nine of these grounds are "fault-based," meaning one party's actions caused the marriage to end, and the final two grounds are considered "no-fault" grounds for divorce.

Fault-based divorce in Ohio

In a fault-based divorce in Ohio, the spouse who filed for divorce must prove that the other party’s actions caused the end of the marriage. 

Fault-based grounds for divorce include: 

  1. Either spouse already had another living husband or wife at the time of marriage 
  2. The non-filing spouse willingly left for a year or more 
  3. Adultery
  4. Extreme cruelty 
  5. Fraudulent contract, meaning one spouse committed a fraudulent act in order to get the other party to marry them (i.e. the spouse lied or hid information, etc.)
  6. Gross neglect of duty
  7. Habitual drunkenness
  8. The non-filing spouse is incarcerated in a state or federal correctional institution at the time of the divorce filing 
  9. The non-filing spouse divorced the filing spouse in another state 
No-fault divorce in Ohio

The final two grounds for divorce in Ohio are considered “no-fault” grounds, meaning the filing spouse does not need to prove that their former spouse committed an act that caused the end of their marriage. 

No-fault grounds for divorce include: 

  1. The couple has lived apart without cohabitation for a year 
  2. Incompatibility 

Simply put, incompatibility is when the marriage just didn’t work out, or when irreconcilable differences lead to the end of the marriage. This is the most common reason for divorce, and as noted above, it’s a no-fault ground, meaning neither spouse is to blame. 

No-fault divorces are typically faster because one spouse does not need to prove that the other was responsible for the end of the marriage. That said, if the filing spouse claims that the marriage ended due to incompatibility and the non-filing spouse disagrees with that claim, then the filing spouse will need to present a different reason for divorce. 

Petitions can include several reasons for the divorce, but only one of them must be proved. It’s often helpful to list two reasons in the event that you’re unable to prove the first one. 

Contested vs. uncontested divorce (dissolution of marriage)

Divorces in Ohio can either be contested or uncontested. Uncontested divorces are also called a “dissolution of marriage,” meaning that both spouses agree on all divorce-related matters (such as child custody, spousal support, and property division), so there’s no need for a court to step in and resolve any issues. 

Contested divorces, meanwhile, occur when the parties cannot agree on one or more issues in their divorce and therefore need a court to step in. (Note – if you and your spouse agree about nearly all issues but don’t agree on a single issue, that is still sufficient to move your divorce into contested divorce territory).

The distinction matters because uncontested divorces are typically faster and less expensive than contested divorces. In a dissolution of marriage, you and your spouse can submit a proposed separation agreement which the court will typically approve, making for a much easier court process.

Not all contested divorces are created equal, to be sure. But if you and your spouse disagree over a single issue, then the timeline and costs of divorce can increase significantly depending on how contentious and complicated that issue is.

Residency requirements in Ohio

In order to file for divorce in Ohio, the filing spouse must have lived in Ohio for six months prior to filing, and the divorce will be based in whichever county that spouse has lived in for the last 90 days. 

However, if you’re filing for an uncontested divorce (also called a dissolution of marriage) and your spouse lives in a different county, you can pick which county you file in. If neither spouse has lived in any Ohio county for the past 90 days due to a recent move, you may be able to file for a dissolution in any Ohio county.

How to file for divorce in Ohio - the nuts and bolts

What forms you need to file for divorce in Ohio

Forms required for an Ohio divorce differ for uncontested divorces (or dissolutions) and contested divorces. Additional divorce forms will also likely be required when children are involved. That said, you can expect the following forms to be required at a minimum: 

  • Complaint for divorce or dissolution
  • Statement of income and expenses 
  • Statement of property and debt 
  • Request for service (only required for contested divorces)

Where to file for divorce in Ohio

For a contested divorce in Ohio, you’ll need to bring the necessary divorce papers to the Court of Common Pleas for the county you live in. All 88 Ohio counties have a Court of Common Pleas, which is the court that hears general matters. Divorces are handled by the Domestic Relations Division of each court. 

For a dissolution of marriage, you can bring this paperwork to the Ohio county where either you or your spouse live. 

Filing fees for divorce in Ohio

How much is it to file for divorce in Ohio? Well, each Ohio county has different filing fees, but the filing fee for a divorce or dissolution in most counties is between $200 and $400. 

However, if your income is at or below 187.5% of the federal poverty limit, the court will waive your filing fees. Even if you make over this amount, you can still apply for a fee waiver, but it will be up to the judge whether to grant your request. 

Serving your spouse 

If you are filing an uncontested divorce, you do not need to serve your spouse since both parties are already required to sign the initial petition. 

But if you are filing a contested divorce in Ohio, you must notify your spouse after filing the initial divorce complaint. 

There are usually two options for serving your spouse – you can either use certified mail or personal service by the sheriff. The certified mail method is typically more popular because it’s cheaper. 

It’s usually a good idea to follow up with your county clerk to ensure that your spouse was successfully served. If you’re unable to serve your spouse because you’re unsure where they are living, you can request that the court allow you to serve them in an alternative way. One of the most common alternatives is serving them “by publication,” which involves publishing notice of the divorce in a newspaper.

Temporary orders during divorce in Ohio

Ending a marriage can involve a lengthy court process, but a spouse can request a temporary order to help manage marriage-related affairs until the divorce decree is finalized. Temporary orders dictate how child custody, debt repayment, and alimony are handled (and by whom).

To obtain a temporary order, a spouse must file a request with the court that details how they want matters to be handled until the divorce is finalized. The other spouse will then have 14 days to file their own documents to agree or disagree with the order. 

If the other party doesn’t respond in time, the requests of the filing party will usually be granted. If they ask for different things, though, the court will decide the arrangement based on the information provided. 

In complicated cases, the court will sometimes hold a hearing to decide what the temporary order should be (this usually occurs 4 to 6 weeks after filing). Both parties must follow the temporary order until the divorce is finalized. Note that the terms of the temporary order can be very different from the details of the finalized divorce decree. 

Other FAQs about Ohio divorce

How to start a divorce

What is the first step when you want a divorce? Once you’ve checked that you meet the residency requirements for an Ohio divorce and have grounds for divorce (in other words, you have a legally acceptable reason to terminate the marriage), you can begin the divorce process.

The first step in filing for divorce in Ohio is filing a divorce petition. Once the petition is filed with your county clerk, your divorce process has officially begun.

This initial divorce petition will include basic information about each spouse (names, addresses, etc.), and it will specify what type of divorce you’re seeking. After filing your divorce petition, the next step is serving your spouse to notify them about the divorce.  

How long does a divorce take in Ohio? 

This is a tough question to answer because your circumstances significantly affect how long your divorce will take in Ohio. However, if your divorce is uncontested (meaning you agree on the terms of the divorce), then you can expect it to move much more quickly than a contested divorce. In cases where divorcing couples see eye-to-eye on all matters, the divorce can be finalized within a few months.

But the greater the number of unresolved issues and the more you disagree on those issues, the longer you can expect your contested divorce to take. Contested divorces can easily take a year or more. Additionally, divorces involving minor children can also take longer as child support and custody must be determined. 

How is property divided after a divorce?

Ohio law outlines two types of property in a marriage: marital property and separate property. 

Marital property includes all property acquired during the marriage (such as real estate, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, etc.) and it is usually divided equally during a divorce, unless the court believes an equal division of this property would be unfair. 

On the other hand, separate property is property that includes inheritance, gifts directed toward only one spouse, personal injury awards, property owned before marriage, as well as income from property that didn’t come from a marital contribution. 

The court has the authority to make a distributive award from the separate property of either spouse to achieve a fair property distribution, if necessary. For example, if one spouse engaged in financial misconduct, the court may compensate the other spouse by awarding them some of the offending spouse’s separate property. 

Overall, it’s difficult to determine how property will be divided in each Ohio divorce case since every case is different, but the court strives for a fair distribution of property.

What is spousal support and how is it determined? 

Spousal support – also known as alimony – is when the court orders one spouse to make payments to the other. This is common in divorces where the spouses have unequal earnings and have been married for a long time. 

Spousal support is not awarded in every divorce, but if necessary, it is awarded after the division of property. Ohio law provides 13 factors courts consider when deciding whether spousal support is appropriate, including things like the earning ability of both spouses, the length of the marriage, and the couple’s standard of living during the marriage.

How is child custody determined in Ohio? 

Ohio child custody laws previously granted custody to just one parent but now allocate the parental responsibilities between both parents according to the child's best interests.

If the parents submit a child care plan to the court, the court can grant shared parenting, as outlined in the plan. However, if the parents don’t submit a plan, then the parental responsibilities will still be distributed between both parents, but one parent will be named as the sole residential parent and legal custodian, and the other parent will be given parenting time rights.

The Bottom Line

Divorce can feel difficult and overwhelming, but understanding how the process works can alleviate some of the stress involved. 

If you have other questions, it may be worth speaking with an experienced divorce attorney. And be sure to ask these key questions when you first meet to help evaluate if they are a good fit for you.