There are a lot of steps involved in getting a divorce in Ohio. The whole process can take between several months and 2 years. This overview will help you understand what to expect.
The process can take 4 to 12 months if you don't have children, or up to 2 years if you do have children. While this article will help you understand the process, consider getting a lawyer to help you.
Get help if you’re in danger
If you or your children have been hurt or abused by your spouse, get help right away. Call 911 if you are in danger now. If you want help from a domestic violence advocate, call the Ohio Domestic Violence Network at (800) 934-9840. If your spouse has harmed you or threatened to harm you, speak to a lawyer before you file for divorce. The process for getting a divorce is different if you have dealt with abuse.
Decide where—and whether—you can get divorced
In order to get divorced in Ohio, you must meet these requirements:
- You or your spouse must have lived in Ohio for at least 6 months.
- You or your spouse must have lived in the county where you are filing for at least 90 days. Learn more about deciding what county to file in.
- If you or your spouse are pregnant, you can't finalize the divorce until the baby is born.
You do not have to be legally separated before getting divorced.
If you and your spouse live in different counties, you can choose which county you file in. You can file in a county where you have lived for more than 90 days or the one where your spouse has lived more than 90 days. There may be some advantages of one over the other, especially if you have children. See more about how to choose which court to file in.
Fill out forms and requests for "temporary orders"
In order to file, you must fill out detailed forms describing your income, expenses, what you own and any debts. You will need to think through your finances carefully to ensure that you complete these forms truthfully. Any information that's not accurate can make things more complicated later on in the divorce process. Learn how to get organized for a divorce.
Divorce is often a long process. To decide what happens while you wait for the divorce to be finalized, you can file "requests for temporary orders." These "temporary orders" will set out who will be responsible for important things in your life, like custody of your children or payment of debts, while you're waiting for the divorce to be final. See more about temporary orders.
To view what divorce forms to file in your county and fill them out online, go to:
Bring in and "serve" the forms
Take your completed forms to the clerk of court at the domestic relations court where you decided to file. You have to pay a fee to file for divorce. If you have a low income and can’t afford the filing fee, you can use the Poverty Affidavit Form Assistant to create an additional form to file with your packet of documents. This form asks that you be allowed to file without paying a fee upfront. You may still be responsible for paying the fee at the end of the case.
The court has to tell your spouse that you have filed for divorce. This is called “serving” divorce papers. One of the forms that you will have to fill out asks you how you want the forms to be served. Most people ask the court to mail the papers via certified mail. You will need to check back with the court to make sure that your spouse got the papers. See more about “serving” divorce papers.
"Temporary Orders" are defined
If you asked for temporary orders, your spouse will get up to 14 days to file their own documents to either agree or disagree. If your spouse doesn't respond in that time, usually the court will issue the temporary orders that it approves.
If your spouse responds in time and asks for something different, the court will decide between them based on the information that you both gave in your forms.
In some cases, the court will schedule a hearing to make a decision on what the temporary orders should be. This hearing is usually held about 4 to 6 weeks after you file the paperwork. You must attend the hearing if one is scheduled.
Once the court decides on the temporary orders, you need to do what they say until your divorce is finalized.
Participate in hearings
The court will ask you and your spouse to come to a “pre-trial hearing” or “settlement conference” to discuss the terms of the divorce. Some courts may ask you to work with a mediator to come to agreement. Prepare for this meeting by bringing information about your income, expenses, property and debts.
In this hearing, you will tell the judge what you and your spouse agree on and what you don't. The judge may ask for more information so they can make a fair decision.
If you and your spouse can agree on all the terms of the divorce, you can give your finished plan to the judge. If the judge agrees with it, and thinks that you have given all the information they need, you may be able to finalize your divorce right away.
You must either agree on or prove the "grounds," or reason, for your divorce during this hearing. Most couples simply agree that they are “incompatible,” which means you no longer get along. If your spouse does not attend the hearing, does not agree that you're "incompatible" or if your grounds for your divorce are something other than "incompatibility," you will need to do more. You will need to call witnesses and present evidence to support your reason for divorce.
You may have to exchange information with your spouse in a process called “discovery.” This may include answering written questions, answering questions in front of a court reporter or giving documents like tax returns or bank account information. Be sure to follow any requests for discovery; otherwise you could get in trouble with the court.
If you can't agree on everything, the court will tell you when your next hearing will be. The number of hearings in your divorce will depend on how many issues you and your spouse cannot agree on and how long it takes you to come to agreement.
Finalize the divorce
If you and your spouse have agreed on all the issues, the judge will read your written agreement and confirm it is acceptable under Ohio law. The judge will then approve it and sign it.
If you and your spouse have not agreed, the judge will usually say that they need time to review all the evidence and make a decision based on Ohio law. The judge will end the hearing and issue a written decision later. The judge is responsible for making sure there is a fair agreement for all the issues involved in ending the marriage, including child custody, support, property, debts and more.
Your divorce is not finalized until a signed “Judgment Entry for Divorce” is filed with the court. This is usually filed automatically after the judge approves the divorce. The court will also mail a copy to you.