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Is Ohio a no-fault divorce state?

Is Ohio a no-fault state for divorce? Yes, but fault-based divorce is also an option. Read on for everything you need to know about no-fault divorce in OH.

evident Editorial Team
November 20, 2023
Road in Ohio with fall foliage

If you are contemplating a divorce, you may be wondering whether Ohio is a no-fault state for divorce. The short answer is yes, Ohio is a no-fault divorce state. But unlike some states, OH offers both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce.

In this article, we'll discuss the grounds for divorce available in Ohio and some other important things to know about filing for divorce in Ohio more generally.

Key Takeaways

Divorce vs Dissolution in Ohio

In Ohio, there are two main ways to end a marriage: divorce and dissolution.

Divorce is the method most people are familiar with that involves one spouse filing a complaint that alleges grounds for divorce.

Dissolution, on the other hand, is a related legal process for when both spouses agree on the terms of the divorce, such as property division and child custody. Dissolution in Ohio is basically what other states would call an uncontested divorce.

The dissolution process

The dissolution process starts with drafting and signing a marital separation agreement and petition. Both parties must agree on all issues related to the dissolution to pursue this option.

Disagreeing about even a single issue turns a dissolution into a contested divorce, which typically means a longer and more expensive process. (For example, if divorcing spouses agree on property division and child custody but cannot agree on spousal support, they would have to file for divorce instead of a dissolution).

If the parties agree on the details, a hearing will be held within 30 to 90 days after the agreement is submitted to the court. During a dissolution, you and your spouse will not have to provide reasons for seeking the dissolution of the marriage, allowing the process to move much faster than a divorce.  

Grounds for Divorce in Ohio

In the past, Ohio only recognized fault grounds for divorce. Over time, though, states started introducing no-fault grounds. Today, Ohio law offers both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce.

At a high level, the distinction between fault and no-fault divorce relates to what reason a divorcing couple offers the court for seeking a divorce, which in turn can affect how the divorce process unfolds.

Fault grounds for divorce in Ohio include adultery, extreme cruelty, abandonment, and more. The no-fault ground for divorce in Ohio is "incompatibility," which simply means that the marriage is irreparably broken.

Fault Divorce in Ohio

Fault divorce involves one spouse filing for divorce on a specific legal basis which places fault upon the other spouse for the failure of the marriage.

In Ohio, the available fault grounds for divorce include:

  • A spouse already had another husband or wife at the time of marriage 
  • A spouse willingly left for a year or more 
  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty 
  • Fraudulent contract (e.g. the spouse lied or hid information to get the other party to marry them)
  • Gross neglect of duty
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • The non-filing spouse is incarcerated in a state or federal correctional institution at the time of the filing 
  • The non-filing spouse divorced the filing spouse in a different state 

The spouse who files for a fault divorce must offer evidence to prove that the other spouse is responsible for the failure of the marriage.

A spouse can file on the basis of more than one ground, which may be useful if they anticipate challenges proving one of the grounds.

No-Fault Divorce in Ohio

No-fault divorce is the most common form of divorce in Ohio. In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse is held responsible for the failure of the marriage. The legal ground for a no-fault divorce is incompatibility.

Incompatibility means that the marriage is broken beyond repair, and there is no chance of reconciliation. It is the equivalent of what many states refer to as "irreconcilable differences."

If the non-filing spouse objects to a divorce on the grounds of incompatibility, then another way to obtain a no fault-divorce is if the spouses live separately without cohabitation for at least one year.

Uncontested vs Contested Divorce

Note that the difference between a no-fault divorce in Ohio and a fault-based divorce is separate from the difference between an uncontested and a contested divorce. 

Whether a divorce is a fault or no-fault divorce in Ohio refers to the legal grounds for the divorce. Meanwhile, whether a divorce is contested or uncontested refers to whether the parties can agree on all aspects of the divorce, such as property division, spousal maintenance, and child custody.

If the parties can agree on all divorce-related issues, they can submit a marital settlement agreement to the court for the judge's review and approval. (This is the same distinction raised earlier between filing for divorce versus dissolution of marriage in Ohio).

Thus, an Ohio no-fault divorce could be either contested or uncontested, depending on whether you and your spouse agree on all issues. If you disagree about a single issue–for instance, you agree about alimony and property division but not on child custody–then you will be dealing with a contested divorce.  

So keep in mind, not all no-fault divorces are created equal. And likewise, not all contested divorces are the same – the number of issues that you and your spouse disagree on and how contentious those issues are can have a significant impact on how expensive, long, and combative your divorce process is.

The impact of filing for fault vs no-fault divorce in Ohio

Filing for a fault divorce in Ohio can have a significant impact on the process and outcome of a divorce. 

As a threshold matter, filing for divorce based on a fault ground means the filing spouse will have to present evidence to prove the fault-based ground. This typically makes the divorce process longer and more complicated.

Proving fault can also change the outcome of the divorce. For instance, a spouse who is proven to be at fault may be required to pay more spousal support than they otherwise would have been required to pay if the the underlying marital misconduct impacts the judge's evaluation of the relevant factors.

By contrast, filing for a no-fault divorce can make the divorce process less complicated and contentious. It can also make the process shorter. In Ohio, it typically takes a minimum of four months for divorces to be finalized, while some cases may take as long as two years.

Overall, fault-based divorces are typically more complicated, which can increase the length and cost of the divorce.

Ultimately, though, the best option will depend on your circumstances and your priorities.

No-Fault Divorce in Ohio: The Bottom Line

So, is Ohio a no-fault divorce state? The short answer is yes, but let's recap the key things to remember.

Ohio is a no-fault divorce state, which means that couples can end their marriage without blaming each other for the failure of the marriage. Fault-based grounds for divorce are also available in Ohio, but filing for a fault-based divorce can have significant consequences on the process and the outcome of a divorce.

Filing for a no-fault divorce in Ohio can make the divorce process less complicated and less contentious, but which path to pursue in your divorce case will depend on your particular circumstances.

If you have questions, speaking with an experienced divorce attorney can help you get a better sense of your options and what makes the most sense for you.