Answering a divorce

After you have been served divorce papers, it’s important to get organized and respond quickly. You have a limited amount of time to respond. Here's what you need to do, including the paperwork you will need to file.

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Understanding the Basics

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The clock starts ticking the moment you’re “served” the official documents from your spouse asking for a divorce. If you disagree with your spouse about what you want to happen in the short term, you only have 14 days to file a response. 

Review your spouse’s filing

Read carefully through the paperwork that you received, and make a note of anything that you disagree with. 

In particular, look for a Motion and Affidavit for Temporary Orders.” Temporary orders cover what happens during the time it takes to finalize the divorce, including issues like child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support (or “alimony”) and how to divide your property and finances. If your spouse has filed this form, it’s a request that the court decide how all of these things will be handled in the next 4 months to 2 years until your divorce is finalized.

If you disagree with anything in the temporary orders, you only have 14 days to file a response. Otherwise, you have 28 days to file. If you don't file an answer within 28 days, the court will assume you agree with everything your spouse states and award a "default judgment." If there are important reasons you need more time, for example, if you need to get a lawyer or you’re in the hospital, you can request additional time.

Decide how to move forward

There are some key decisions to make before you file the paperwork.

  • Should you get a lawyer? A lawyer can help make decisions, file the paperwork and speak for you in court. If you and your spouse disagree on big issues, like custody, a lawyer can be very helpful. 
  • Will you file your own temporary orders? If you disagree with your spouse’s temporary orders, or if your spouse didn’t file any, consider filing your own. Include anything that you would like to happen differently and any facts or statements in your spouse’s filing that you disagree with. If you don’t say you disagree with it, the court will assume it’s true. 
  • Do you want to file a “counterclaim”? You can simply file an “answer” to the divorce, but many people find it useful to instead “Counterclaim For Divorce.” This may cost you an additional filing fee. You also have to have lived in Ohio for 6 months to file a counterclaim. But it’s important to do if you disagree with any of the information in your spouse’s “Complaint for Divorce.” Also, if you file a "counterclaim," your spouse can't stop the divorce process unless you agree. Otherwise, if your spouse is unhappy about what is decided in the temporary orders — for instance, custody arrangements for your child or how the money is divided  they could decide to call off the divorce and try again later.
  • Organizing your financial information. Filling out the forms requires a lot of information. Getting organized for your divorce will show you what you need. Since you are swearing that all your responses are true, you want to make sure they are both complete and correct.

Learn more about the steps in the divorce process

Complete your paperwork

On this site, you'll find a Divorce Answer Form Assistant that will create a packet of the blank forms you need. It will ask you some questions, which you can answer on any phone or computer. You will then need to be able to email the blank forms to yourself, or save them to a computer. The blank forms can only be filled out on a computer. They can take several hours to complete. 

The court may have sent you some forms to fill out along with the rest of the divorce papers. These forms may look slightly different than those created by this Form Assistant. You can use the forms the court sent, or the ones produced by the Form Assistant — it’s up to you which you use. The court will accept either one.

Once your forms are complete, do not sign them yet. Take them to a notary and sign the forms in front of them. Make copies of the notarized forms and take them to the clerk of court. Ask the clerk to file the forms. The clerk may help you make sure your paperwork is complete, if you ask politely and they have time. They will not be able to help you with the information in the forms. 

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.

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