Family and Safety

Divorce, dissolution or legal separation

You have 3 main options if you want to end your marriage: dissolution, divorce or legal separation. Learn the difference between them and what is likely to be best for you.

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Understanding the Basics

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There are 2 main ways to legally end a marriage in Ohio: dissolution and divorce. Both will end up with the same result: You are no longer married. The difference is in the process. A dissolution requires you and your spouse to agree on everything before you file. With a divorce, a judge will make decisions for you if you cannot agree with your spouse. 

Legal separation does not legally end your marriage. It just allows you and your spouse to put legal agreements in place about how you will handle no longer living together. Some people choose legal separation because they don't want to divorce for religious or other reasons. You do not have to be legally separated before you file for divorce. 


A dissolution is sometimes called an "uncontested" way to end your marriage. You and your spouse need to agree on all parts of what will happen after the marriage ends — custody and visitation of children, child support, spousal support, dividing up your property and debts and anything else. You will both need to show up for a hearing. 

A dissolution is faster and may be less expensive than divorce. You can end your marriage in about 1 to 3 months after filing. However, if you and your spouse start to disagree about any of the terms after you file, you must start over with a new dissolution or divorce. 

Learn more about the process for dissolution or start the process to file for dissolution.


Divorce is the most common way to legally end a marriage. It takes longer than a dissolution — usually between 4 months and a year after filing. You and your spouse do not have to work out the terms of the divorce before filing. You do not have to agree on everything with your spouse.

The judge will decide anything that you and your spouse can't agree on. However, they might make decisions that neither one of you like. 

If you and your spouse disagree, you may have to show your side of the story at a court hearing. This can be complicated. In a divorce, it can be very useful to have a lawyer

Learn about the process for divorce. Or start the process to:


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