Divorce doesn't have to involve drawn-out, expensive legal battles. There's a faster and simpler way to end your marriage in Ohio. But you must meet certain requirements for the state's streamlined procedure known as "dissolution of marriage," or simply dissolution. Here's what you need to know.
Many states use the terms "divorce" and "dissolution" interchangeably, to mean the same thing. Not so in Ohio. In this state, dissolution of marriage does have the same legal and practical effect as divorce: it ends the marriage. But when it comes to the requirements, procedures, and benefits, there are significant differences between dissolution and divorce in Ohio, including:
There are two basic requirements to file for a dissolution in Ohio: the state's residency requirement and the agreement.
Either you or your spouse must have been a resident of Ohio for at least six months just before you file the initial paperwork for a dissolution. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.62 (2022).)
In order to qualify for an Ohio dissolution, you and your spouse must have a written marital settlement agreement (known as a "separation agreement" in Ohio) that includes provisions on all of the following:
In your agreement, you may also authorize a judge to modify the property and spousal support provisions in the future. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.63 (2022).)
If you're having trouble agreeing about all of these issues but still want to file for a dissolution, you can turn to a mediator for help. (Learn more about how divorce mediation works in Ohio.)
You can download the standardized court forms for a dissolution of marriage from the Ohio Judicial System's website.
The main form is the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Waiver of Summons. You and your spouse will fill out and sign the petition. You must attach your signed settlement agreement, along with the other accompanying forms. It's a good idea to check with the court clerk's office where you will be filing to see if the county has additional forms or requirements.
You also have the option of using an online divorce service, which will provide you with the completed forms.
Because Ohio considers both spouses to be "plaintiffs" in a dissolution proceeding, you'll file the petition and other paperwork with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where either of you have lived for the past 90 days. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.62; Ohio Rules of Civ. Proc., rule 3(C)(9) (2022).) If neither of you meet the 90-day requirement in any county, you might be able to file anywhere in Ohio with your spouse's consent; check with the court clerk's office to see if this is allowed where you want to file.
The dissolution filing fee varies from county to county (and is typically more when you have children), but it's usually between $150 and $400. Normally, you and your spouse will split the cost. But if you can't afford to pay, you may file a request to have the fee waived. Because there's no need to serve the petition or file an answer to the dissolution petition, you won't have to pay additional fees for those steps.
The time it takes to work out a separation agreement is mostly up to you and your spouse. The process could take longer when you have more (or more complex) disputes to address and when either or both of you resist compromising.
After you've reach an agreement and filed your dissolution paperwork, you'll have to wait at least 30 days for a hearing. But the court must schedule the hearing within 90 days after the filing date.
At the hearing, both you and your spouse must appear and tell the judge (under oath) that the agreement was voluntary, that you're satisfied with it, that you both want the marriage dissolved. Once the judge approves your agreement—after reviewing the parenting plan to ensure that it meets your children's best interests—the judge will sign the final dissolution decree. Because your agreement will be part of the decree, the judge will have the power to enforce the agreement as a court order. (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3105.64, 3105.65 (2022).)
Yes, but you and your spouse must work out an agreement on any support requests to get a dissolution in Ohio. Your separation agreement (and thus your dissolution decree) may provide for spousal support—and it must include child support provisions if you have minor children. Unlike in a divorce, Ohio's dissolution procedures don't allow for temporary court orders for alimony or child support. However, you and your spouse may agree to an arrangement for support payments during the short period (no more than three months) before you can get a final dissolution decree.