Grounds for Divorce in Ohio

Ohio has both fault-based and no-fault divorce, but also offers the option of getting a dissolution of marriage, where you don't have to state a reason why your marriage is ending.

By , Attorney

Ohio divorce law is unique in that it offers spouses two different ways to legally end their marriage: dissolution and divorce. As discussed below, spouses who qualify for a dissolution won't have to state a reason ("ground") for why their marriage is ending.

On the other hand, when spouses get a divorce in Ohio, the filing spouse must provide in the complaint a reason—either fault-based or no-fault—why the marriage is over.

Dissolution of Marriage in Ohio

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 through 3105.65 (2022).) 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—similar to an "uncontested" divorce in other states. Your agreements must be written out in a marital settlement agreement. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.63 (2022).) You won't have to provide a reason for why your marriage is ending, and you can skip many of the steps required to file for divorce, meaning that the dissolution will be finalized much more quickly than a divorce.

In a dissolution, couples 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 (2022).)

If either spouse decides at some point that they want to contest one or more issues, they can ask the court to convert the dissolution complaint to a traditional divorce complaint. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.65(C) (2022).) Likewise, if you filed for divorce but then settle all your issues, you can seek to convert the divorce complaint to one for dissolution. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.08 (2022).)

Divorce in Ohio

"Divorce" in Ohio is similar to contested divorce in other states: The spouses can't agree on at least one of the issues in their divorce and ask the court to make decisions for them. Ohio isn't a pure no-fault state—Ohio divorce can be either no-fault or fault-based.

Grounds for a No-Fault Divorce in Ohio

A no-fault divorce means that the spouses won't have to prove or argue about whose bad behavior led to the end of the marriage. All states offer couples some form of a no-fault divorce.

To get a no-fault divorce in Ohio, both spouses have to agree that they are incompatible with each other. Most people who file for divorce in Ohio list incompatibility as the reason their marriage is ending. As long as the other spouse doesn't disagree, it's the simplest way to proceed: No-fault divorces often reach resolution faster than fault-based divorces because the spouses don't have to argue about who was responsible for the end of the marriage.

If either spouse denies that the couple is incompatible, the only other way to get a no-fault divorce is for the spouses to live apart without cohabitation for a year. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.01 (2022).)

What Are the Grounds for a Fault-Based Divorce in Ohio?

Ohio law lays out nine fault-based reasons for divorce:

  1. either spouse had a husband or wife living at the time of marriage
  2. the spouse who isn't filing for divorce left willingly for a year or more
  3. adultery
  4. extreme cruelty
  5. fraudulent contract (meaning a spouse lied, hid information, or committed another fraudulent act in order to get the other spouse to marry)
  6. gross "neglect of duty"
  7. habitual drunkenness
  8. imprisonment of the non-filing spouse in a state or federal correctional institution at the time the divorce is filed, and
  9. the other spouse divorced the filing spouse in another state.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.01 (2022).)

A spouse who files for divorce in Ohio can claim more than one of these grounds for divorce, but will need to prove only one of them. Listing two or more grounds in the petition can be helpful in the event one ground is difficult to prove.

Divorces in Ohio usually take at least four months to finalize, and some can take up to two years. Also, divorces tend to be more expensive than dissolutions—because they have to prove the grounds for divorce, parties often choose to hire attorneys to present their case to the court.

Residency Requirements for Ending Your Marriage in Ohio

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 divorce 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 (2022).)

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."

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