"Grounds” for divorce

In Ohio, to get a divorce you must give a legal reason. This reason is called the “grounds” for the divorce. The options for "grounds" are defined in Ohio law, read more to learn what they mean.

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To get a divorce in Ohio, you must have a legal reason, or "grounds," for the divorce. There are 11 grounds that are allowed by Ohio law.

Grounds give the legal reason that your marriage should be ended. They do not determine how support or division of property and debts will be decided. For example, you’re not going to get a higher spousal support payment if you select adultery than you would if you select incompatibility.

The most commonly used grounds are:

  • Incompatibility. This means that you and your spouse have conflicts that make it impossible to stay married. You do not have to prove that your spouse did anything wrong. You and your spouse just need to agree that you're "incompatible."
  • Gross neglect of duty. Under Ohio law, spouses have a duty to give each other "respect, fidelity and support." This “gross neglect of duty” means there has been a severe or long-term failure to fulfill these duties. This can be applied in different circumstances, for example, a spouse who has the means to financially support his family but chooses not to.
  • My spouse and I have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for one year. 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 as a 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.

The other grounds are:

  • 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 as 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.

It is useful to include more than one grounds for divorce. For example, if you don't include a reason in addition to "incompatibility," 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.

If your spouse disagrees with all of the grounds you pick, you will need to prove one of them in court. You will need to use witnesses and submit evidence to prove that at least one of the grounds you selected is true.

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