Many people think of divorce as a lengthy process fraught with expense, emotion and conflict. It is therefore no surprise that a large number of couples seek a faster alternative to traditional divorce. Although Ohio does not necessarily provide a speedier option to the standard divorce, the Buckeye State does permit couples to choose a "dissolution of marriage," which is known to proceed on a much faster timetable as long as both husband and wife can agree on all the issues.
To file for dissolution, the parties must be willing to overlook fault. Whereas a traditional divorce allows the filing party to assign blame for the breakup of the marriage, that option is not available in a dissolution. Instead, the couple must choose from among two grounds: incompatibility or living separate and apart for at least one year.
As with divorce, couples who wish to pursue a dissolution must satisfy Ohio's residency requirement. At least one party must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months and the filing county for at least 90 days.
Unlike divorce, the dissolution paperwork is not filed until the parties have worked out all the issues in their case. To file a "Petition for Dissolution," (legal paperwork requesting a divorce) both husband and wife must agree on all the issues surrounding property division, child support, custody, and spousal support before they submit their case to the court. If there are any unresolved problems at the time of filing, the case cannot proceed as a dissolution of marriage. Other issues the parties must address include:
Once the parties have reached an agreement on all outstanding issues, they will file their petition with the court, along with a separation agreement that outlines how they wish to divide their property. If they have minor children, they must also submit a document called a "Parenting Plan" that addresses custody, child support, and any other issue that involves the children. Ohio law also requires the couple to file a host of other forms, such as a "Health Insurance" form and a "Custody Affidavit." Depending on the county, there may be additional forms required.
After the case is filed, Ohio law requires the parties to wait at least 30 days before the dissolution hearing, however, the law also mandates that the hearing must take place no later than 90 days after the initial filing. This means that all dissolutions are finalized within three months of the date of filing.
At the hearing, both husband and wife must appear and provide testimony. The parties must state that they fully agree to the terms of the separation agreement, that they have fully disclosed all their assets and debts, and that they are in agreement with the dissolution.
In general, dissolution is a much faster and less costly alternative to divorce. By cooperating with each other regarding all the issues, divorcing couples can avoid the conflicts, delay, and expense that plague divorce cases. On the other hand, because dissolution is a non-adversarial process, pretrial remedies such as temporary restraining orders, civil protection orders, and temporary financial support are unavailable.
Dissolution is designed to be a quick, amicable process. Parties with significant differences are unlikely to use it successfully. For couples that wish to end their marriage quickly, however, it is a useful tool that cuts costs and helps people move on with their lives.