Serving Northeast Ohio's Family Law Needs

Frequently Asked Questions

How can a marriage be terminated in Ohio?

By divorce, dissolution, annulment, or death.

What is necessary in order to file for and obtain a divorce in Ohio?

To file for and obtain a divorce in Ohio, at least one of the parties must have been a resident of the State of Ohio for at least six (6) months immediately prior to the filing of the complaint. Grounds for divorce must also be present; there are many statutory grounds for divorce, one of which is simply “incompatibility” of the parties.

You must file for divorce in your county of residence, and only are permitted to do so after residing there for at least three (3) months. If, however, you and your spouse decide to file a dissolution instead of a divorce, you are not precluded from filing in any county, even in one where neither party resides.

What is the difference between a Divorce and a Dissolution?

A Divorce and a Dissolution are two different ways to legally terminate a marriage. Both result in the legal end to a marriage.

A Dissolution is essentially an agreement reached between the parties, after full and complete disclosure of all assets and liabilities of both parties. You can think of a dissolution as an uncontested divorce, and it typically involves some negotiation between the parties to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both spouses.

Divorce is a more formal legal process than dissolution. In cases where one or both parties want the court to invoke its jurisdiction to hear the case and issue orders, or when financial documents and/or employment information needs to be obtained by subpoena, a dissolution may not be possible or in the parties' best interest. While most divorce cases are settled prior to trial, there is still the possibility that a final evidentiary hearing will be necessary. 

Generally, dissolutions tend to be less expensive and are typically resolved in a shorter amount of time than divorces.

Does the reason we are divorcing matter?

Normally, the Court does not care why parties are divorcing. Ohio law does not consider fault when determining support or dividing property in a divorce. Marital fault may be considered with respect to custody issues, or in instances where there has been financial misconduct (such as one party using marital funds for nonmarital purposes, such as spending funds on a significant other or on some unlawful purpose).

How long does it take to get a divorce?

A divorce can take anywhere from several months to more than one year from the filing of the Complaint until the final Judgment Entry granting the divorce. There are many factors that impact the time it takes to obtain a divorce. Our office provides each potential new client with a timeline during the initial consultation that provides an approximate timeline, however, the willingness of the parties to fully disclose financial assets and liabilities, and the willingness of the parties to negotiate a reasonable resolution of all matters can effect the length of time it takes to resolve a case for better or worse.

The Ohio Supreme Court guidelines suggest that a divorce without minor children should, theoretically, be completed within twelve months, and a divorce with minor children should be finalized within eighteen months.

How is property divided in a divorce?

The parties can agree to divide their property on their own, to their mutual satisfaction, without court intervention. If, however, the parties cannot agree on a property settlement, the court will determine whether assets owned by the parties are marital or separate property, and how they should be divided.

As a general rule, all assets acquired during a marriage are considered marital property, and are subject to equitable division unless the Court decides that an equal division would not be fair for some reason. Assets that were acquired prior to the marriage, as well as certain other types of assets (ie: inheritances, personal injury settlements, or a gift solely to one of the parties) are considered separate property, and generally are not subject to division. This is a very complex subject, and we can explain to you how the assets owned by you and your spouse would be valued, characterized, and likely divided by the court in the event of a divorce.

How can I be sure I'm getting a fair settlement?

It is not uncommon for only one of the parties in a divorce to have handled the finances during the marriage. Once a divorce is filed, your attorney can file requests to obtain necessary financial information through the discovery process, and through subpoenas if necessary. After financial assets and liabilities are fully disclosed or obtained through discovery, a fair settlement can be negotiated.

What are the options with respect to custody of minor children?

Parental rights and responsibilities are allocated based on a multitude of factors. The most common custody arrangements are sole custody and shared parenting. Parents can agree to one or the other, and if they can't, the Court will decide what is in the child(ren)'s best interest. The Court will only decide custody as a very last resort, and many processes and procedures are utilized before that determination is made.

Sole custody under Ohio law is the designation of a primary residential parent and legal custodian. In a sole custody situation, one parent has full control over all issues involving the children, and has sole decision making authority.

Shared parenting is the preferred method of allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. In this situation, a shared parenting plan is drafted and signed by both parties, which addresses all issues with respect to parenting and raising the child(ren). The success of shared parenting is largely dependent on the parties' ability to communicate and to work together to make decisions that are in the best interest of the children. It is important to note that there is a distinction between decision making authority and parenting time (commonly referred to as "visitation"), and parties can have shared parenting without necessarily having equal parenting time. The willingness of both parents to facilitate a respectful, loving relationship between the children and the other parent is a key component of a successful shared parenting situation. 

How is custody decided with parents who were never married?

When parents share a child, or children, but were never married, problems oftentimes arise with respect to custody and parenting time in the event that the parents' relationship ends. Unless a father takes steps to establish paternity and to request that the court allocate parental rights and responsibilities, the mother is the only parents recognized under the law. Unfortunately, many parents wait until a problem arises to initiate the process of establishing paternity and establishing legal parental rights. 

In most instances, it is in the children's best interest to have two loving parents in their lives.

How is child support determined?

Many factors go into determining child support, including but not limited to: the income of the parties, the cost of health insurance for the child(ren), the cost of work-related child care, and sometimes the percentage of the time the child(ren) spend with each parent. Our office has the same computer software the courts will use to calculate the cost of child support, and we are happy to help you determine what a fair and reasonable child support calculation is based on your unique circumstances.

What happens if a spouse or ex-spouse doesn't follow the orders of the court?

Any time a court order is being violated, the procedural remedy is to file an action asking the court to enforce the order. While a contempt filing is oftentimes an effective method to resolve the issue, there are also other non-litigious avenues to pursue to get a court order enforced. If, however, a contempt filing is necessary, it is important to note that the court may impose sanctions against the party in violation of the order, and may also award payment of attorney fees to the non-violating party in certain circumstances.

How can I protect my assets in the event that my marriage does not work out?

Ohio recognizes pre-marital (also called pre-nuptial or ante-nuptial) agreements if certain specifications are met. These agreement must be signed prior to the date of marriage, and it is preferable to have the documents executed several months prior to the planned wedding. Full, accurate disclosure of all financial assets and liabilities of the parties is critical to the execution of a fair, enforceable agreement. We encourage both parties to hire their own attorney to represent their individual interests.

Can my child's stepparent adopt my child?

A stepparent can adopt a child with the consent of the natural parent. This will permanently terminate all parental rights between the natural parent and the child. A stepparent can also adopt a stepchild without the express consent of the natural parent if it can be shown that there has been no support paid by the natural parent and no contact with the minor child for more than one year before the filing of an adoption petition.

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