The law in Ohio allows divorcing spouses to choose from two types of legal methods to end your relationship: dissolution and divorce. Ohio is a hybrid state which means you can obtain a no-fault or fault divorce.
A no-fault divorce means that you don’t need to explain to a judge why your marriage ended in order to obtain a divorce judgment. All states offer couples some form of a no-fault divorce,
In Ohio, both spouses have to agree that incompatibility exists. If either spouse denies it, you’re out of luck. In that case, you’re restricted to using either the one year separation ground if you can, or one or more of the fault-based grounds (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.01.)
It’s important to remember that a no-fault divorce isn’t necessarily an uncontested divorce. The ground for divorce is only one aspect of the process. You will typically be addressing other issues, such as alimony (spousal support), division of property and debt, child custody, and child support.
There’s another avenue available to Ohioans who are seeking to end their marriage, and it’s one that bypasses both the fault and no-fault grounds. It’s called “dissolution of marriage.” In many states, the terms “divorce” and “dissolution of marriage” are interchangeable. But in Ohio, dissolution has a different meaning and is a separate process. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.61.)
The key to being able to file for dissolution of marriage is that you and your spouse need to have resolved all your issues in advance, such as the issues referenced in the previous section (alimony and so on). And you must incorporate the terms of that resolution in a written settlement agreement. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.63.)
In this process, couples will jointly present the written settlement agreement to the court, together with a dissolution petition. Dissolution is like an express train to formally ending your marriage. Once you file the petition and agreement, the court will hold a hearing within 30 to 90 days. You and your spouse must both appear in court, and each of you must testify under oath that: you voluntarily entered into the separation agreement; are satisfied with its terms; and, are seeking dissolution of the marriage. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.64.)
As an aside, you should know that if at some point during the dissolution process either spouse decides that they want to contest one or more issues, the law allows you to make application to convert the dissolution complaint to a traditional divorce complaint. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.65 (C).) Likewise, if you filed for divorce and then settled all your issues, you can seek to convert the divorce complaint to one for dissolution. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.08.)
Regardless of the method you choose to end your marriage—divorce or dissolution—you must meet Ohio’s residency requirements before you can start either process. If you’re the one filing the paperwork, you must be able to show the court that you’ve been a resident of the state for at least six months immediately prior to the filing. (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3105.03 and 3105.62.)
The rules surrounding residency requirements are strict, and are meant to prevent a spouse from trying to locate a judge or court that may provide a more favorable result in the divorce trial—called “forum shopping”.