In order to make wise decisions, it is crucial to know your rights and responsibilities under Ohio law.
Alternative Divorce Resolution (ADR)
Child Support and Visitation
Additional Marital Issues
- ADR Available: Yes
- Fault or No Fault: Both
- Parenting Plan Required: Yes
- Property Distribution: Equitable
Grounds For Divorce
Ohio has both fault and no-fault divorce, which can make ending a marriage more complicated than in other states. For a fault divorce, certain grounds need to be proven to the court before a decree is granted. Ohio, couples less commonly take the route of a fault divorce because of the extra steps of proof involved, the high costs and the additional time required to reach a conclusion.
A couple can choose a no-fault divorce under two grounds – voluntarily living apart for one year with no cohabitating or mutual incompatibility. Otherwise, there must be other conditions met and proven for divorce. The grounds for an Ohio fault divorce are:
- Desertion for one year
- A fraudulent contract
- Imprisonment in a state or federal institution
- Habitual intoxication
- Cruel and abusive treatment
Divorce Waiting Period
The waiting periods for divorce in Ohio will vary. In a no-fault divorce, the residency requirement is six months, and couples must have been living apart for one year to meet the qualifications. For a fault divorce, the residency requirement of six months is often the only restriction. For dissolution, there is no waiting period as long as couples agree to the action; residency of six months, however, is required.
Complaint For Divorce
Filing for fault divorce requires proof that often constitutes having a third party corroborate spousal testimony. In the case of adultery, the court would need evidence that might be, for example, photographs taken by a private investigator. Some of the drawbacks to filing for fault divorce as opposed to another option include:
- The information becomes public record.
- It may be harder to move on.
- The process could become volatile and emotionally damaging.
The way chosen to end a marriage will depend on whether or not each spouse agrees about all the components, such as child custody and marital property. The three legal ways to terminate a union are:
Dissolution Of Marriage
The process for dissolution must have both parties in agreement on all issues before the official document can be filed. All matters are handled with little to no court involvement until the spouses are in unison on all issues. The time that is required to achieve dissolution is significantly less than that necessary for a divorce; a dissolution order may be issued in as little as several months while it may take a year to complete a divorce.
In dissolution, however, the process is without some of the protective measures found in the divorce format. Some of the actions that cannot be used in dissolution include:
- Restraining orders
- Temporary support orders
- Proof of income disclosure orders
If children are involved, however, a fault divorce might be a consideration in which to seek sole custody, especially in the event that a spouse isn’t a good influence on the children. In fault divorce, cases do not involve a jury trial, but they are instead tried before a judge.
An annulment terminates a marriage by declaring the union was never legal in the first place. The court views an annulled marriage as invalid. There are other grounds to file a Complaint for Annulment, including proving in court that one of the following conditions is true:
- A spouse lacked the mental capacity to marry due to drug or alcohol intoxication.
- The spouses were close blood relatives.
- A spouse committed fraud by, for example, using the other person for a green card.
- A male spouse was under the legal age limit of 18 or a female spouse was under the age of 16 (both require parental consent).
- The union between the parties was never consummated.
- A spouse was marriage under force.
There is a time limit on filing for annulment. In many instances, the motion must be filed within two years of the start of the marriage. Additional reasons to annul a marriage may exist beyond the aforementioned list.
A legal separation is a civil court order that doesn’t end the marriage, but the action does divide property, determine child custody and establish financial support. Taking this step gives each spouse the freedom to live separately. It might be a viable option for couples that want some time to save their marriage and reconcile. Other benefits may include staying on a spouse’s health plan, observing religious merits or retaining financial advantages of marriage.
Alternative Dispute Resolution is a useful tool with the primary goal of avoiding a trial. Often the mediator is an attorney or retired judge who can help couples resolve matters related to ending the marriage in a productive fashion. Mediation is a method that can save time and money. Disputes are settled by offering a wide range of solutions that benefit each spouse. ADR is not recommended for couples that have:
- A history of physical or verbal abuse
- Lack of cooperation with sharing financial documents
- A situation in which one spouse has significant financial power over the other
In some ADR cases, the mediator can make rulings on the outcome or recommend solutions to the court. There are many choices in resolution that can also be binding (legal) and nonbinding. In all types, however, it can be invaluable to have a lawyer review final agreements before making them official.
Child Custody Determinations
In regard to child custody, the Ohio court system will always rule on what visitation arrangement is in the best interests of the children. In many cases, joint custody is preferred, but the court will rule against it if a parent endangers the welfare of a child. Circumstances in the home that could result in denial of custody include illegal drug use, physical violence, a mental disorder or trouble with the law.
The court may take investigative measures to review the background of each spouse. Some items that might be included are:
- Financial worth
- Earning ability
- Family relations
- Past conduct
Custody in Ohio divorce cases will take one of the following forms:
- Sole legal custody. This type of custody gives only one parent the right to make decisions on medical care, educational needs and religious affiliations, among other factors for the children.
- Joint legal custody. Both parents are responsible for the major decisions affecting children.
- Sole physical custody. In this type of custody, the children reside with one parent.
- Joint physical custody. Both parents have overnight visits and spend time with the children.
When one parent becomes the custodial parent in a joint physical custody arrangement, the other spouse is likely to be awarded visitation. The parents can come up with a schedule that works for their daily lives. For instance, the schedule might involve the children being with the father on the weekends and the mother during the week. The schedule is usually set and allows the children to know what to expect from week to week.
Being financially responsible for the children is the law. Each parent will assume a set financial contribution. In some instances, one parent might make a much larger portion of the combined marital income. In those cases, it’s likely the parent with more resources will pay child support to the other spouse. The factors used by the court to determine the amount of support include:
- The combined gross income of both parents
- The amount of parenting time that has been granted to each spouse
- The number of children
- The cost of health insurance for the children
The court will use additional information to assess child support payments, including the expenses of raising children, taxes paid by the parents and extended parenting time costs, among other relevant factors.
Child Support Enforcement
The court system in Ohio takes delinquency in child support payments very seriously. Many consequences can affect a spouse that is behind on child support, such as:
- Criminal penalties
- Income withholding
- Increasing income withholding
- Suspending a driver’s license
- Revoking a professional license
- Intercepting tax returns
- Placing a lien on real estate
- Credit reporting
Knowing the paternity of children is necessary to get the financial help of the father through support payments. One of the main advantages of establishing paternity, however, is in the added value of a father-child relationship. In addition, determining paternity will allow the children to benefit from life insurance and medical benefits.
Division Of Property
Property division can be a contested area between spouses. It’s important to know that in equitable property states like Ohio, the court has a fair amount of discretion. This also means there is negotiation power on the side of each spouse. Equitable property division divides items between a couple based on the financial needs of each spouse. Some additional factors the court will use in equitable division include:
- The length of the marriage
- The amount of the assets and debts
- Whether property can be divided
- Tax amounts of sold property
- Cost of selling items
- Voluntary property agreements between spouses
Assets and debts that were acquired during the marriage belong to both spouses. Property is categorized as two types – marital or separate. Marital property could include real estate, cars, stocks, bonds and credit card debt, among other assets and liabilities collected in the marriage. Some examples of separate items are:
- An inheritance
- Property that was acquired before the marriage
- Property acquired after becoming legally separated
- Property protected in a prenuptial agreement
- Gifts that were given to just one spouse
Even though separate property may include real estate purchased before the marriage, the appreciation accrued during the marriage could be considered marital in nature. It’s important to seek the advice of experienced divorce attorney to know what guidelines apply before signing legally binding agreements.
Alimony is financial support provided to a spouse after a marriage ends. In Ohio, spousal support is determined by many factors with the income of each spouse being a primary consideration. Some of the information the court will review to determine spousal support include:
- Earning ability of each spouse
- The age, physical and mental health of each spouse
- Retirement benefits
- The duration of the marriage
- Education and retraining costs
- Standard of living
Unexpected circumstances in life can change previously made divorce agreements. These situations can make it necessary to alter the financial obligations of a spouse. Some possible reasons for modifications include loss of employment, bankruptcy, a debilitating injury and employment relocation. Revisions to the divorce agreement might be made in the following areas:
- Spousal support amounts
- Child visitation revision
- Child custody changes
- Other financial obligations
Prenuptial And Postnuptial Agreements
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are planning tools that can safeguard the future interests of each spouse in the event of a divorce. Both agreements serve a wide range of functions, including:
- Protects intended beneficiaries
- Shields you from debt a spouse carries
- Ensures property included in agreement is protected
- Protects a family business
Grandparents can get visitation in limited circumstances and generally need to show the court that the relationship is in the best interests of the children. However, in the case of a stepparent adoption of the child, the court has no grounds to enforce a visitation order.