"Grounds” for divorce

In Ohio, to get a divorce you must give a legal reason. This reason is called the “grounds” for the divorce. There are several reasons you can give, but "incompatibility" is the one most people choose. 

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To get a divorce in Ohio, you must have a legal reason, or "grounds," for the divorce.

Most people include “incompatibility” as one of their grounds

"Incompatibility" means that you and your spouse no longer get along. Perhaps most usefully, you do not have to prove that your spouse did anything wrong. You and your spouse just need to agree that you're "incompatible."

It's useful to include at least one additional grounds

If you don't include a reason in addition to "incompatible," it's possible that your spouse could keep you from getting divorced. They could argue that you're not really "incompatible," and that you really do get along. Even if this seems unlikely right now, adding another grounds will help ensure this doesn't happen if they change their mind during the process of the divorce.

Some of the possible legal grounds are more likely to lead to legal arguments with your spouse than others. If your spouse disagrees with all the grounds you pick, you will need to prove one of them in court. This can be complicated. You will need to use witnesses and submit evidence to prove that at least one of the grounds you selected is true.

Some grounds that are commonly used and are less likely to lead to more disagreement with your spouse are:

  • Gross neglect of duty. Under Ohio law, spouses have a duty to give each other "respect, fidelity and support." If your spouse won't agree that you're "incompatible," it can be useful to say that this very thing shows a lack of respect for you, and is a "gross neglect of duty."  
  • We have lived separate and apart without cohabitation. This means you have not lived together at any time for the past year. If you have spent even one night together in the past year, you can't use this grounds for divorce.
  • My spouse has been willfully absent for one year. This means your spouse left your home and has not returned for the past year or more.

If you are a survivor of domestic abuse in your marriage, it's important to make sure the court knows that whether or not it may lead to legal arguments with your spouse. A grounds of "extreme cruelty" is often used in this case. It's important to get a lawyer if you or your children have been abused. See more information and ways to get help.  

Grounds don't affect how things are decided

The reasons for divorce doesn't have any relation to how things are split at the end of the marriage. It doesn't affect how property or debt is divided, or who the children live with. For example, you can have grounds of "incompatibility" and still ask the court to order your husband to pay some debts because he bought something for his girlfriend rather than supporting his family.

Other grounds for divorce 

Here are all the other reasons for divorce that are legally recognized in Ohio:

  • Adultery. “Adultery” means that your spouse willingly had sexual relations with someone else while you were married. 
  • Extreme cruelty. “Extreme cruelty” can mean physical or emotional abuse or any act which makes it unsafe, unhealthy or unreasonable for you to continue to live with your spouse. If you are in danger because your spouse has threatened to use violence, or has actually used violence, see dealing with domestic violence
  • Habitual drunkenness. In Ohio, habitual drunkenness may include situations where your spouse is an alcoholic or a drug addict. 
  • My spouse is guilty of fraudulent contract. Marriage is legally viewed a kind of contract. A marriage contract is “fraudulent” if your spouse did not tell you the truth, hid important information or if you were forced or threatened into getting married. 
  • My spouse or I had a spouse living at the time we got married.
  • My spouse will be in prison when I file this divorce. 
  • My spouse divorced me already in another state. 
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