Ohio Uncontested Divorce
This information is an overview of the uncontested Ohio divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Ohio.
In Ohio, a couple may end a marriage by dissolution, divorce, annulment (as well as death and/or the presumption of death).
Either spouse may file for a dissolution or divorce after living in Ohio for at least six months. For a divorce (or annulment) the filing party, in addition to the six-month state residency, must be a resident of the county of filing for at least 90 days prior to filing. The action may also be filed in the county where the defendant lives.
In Ohio, the spouse initiating the action in called a Petitioner, in the case of a dissolution, or a Plaintiff, in the case of a divorce; the other spouse is called a Co-Petitioner, in the case of a dissolution, or a Defendant, in the case of a divorce. The divorce happens in the local county court, which is called the Court of Common Pleas.
A marriage ending by dissolution follows a swifter and more predicable course than one ending by divorce.
A dissolution is uncontested, and it is always a no-fault action. In a dissolution, the couples achieve a no-fault termination of their marriage. Both spouses must agree on all the terms of the termination, including division of property, spousal support, parental rights and responsibilities. A dissolution is not adversarial; it ends a marriage but it is not a divorce. The court does not make any of the decisions it would in a contested divorce. In short, dissolution ends a marriage by mutual consent.
By comparison, a divorce is contested or uncontested, and it may be a fault action. In a divorce, the court ends a marriage based on grounds. Ohio permits divorce on no-fault grounds, which mean incompatibility and/or living separate and apart without cohabitation for one year, and fault grounds that include bigamy, willful absence from the home for one year, adultery, extreme cruelty, fraudulent contract, gross neglect of duty, habitual drunkenness, imprisonment, and out-of-state divorce.
In dissolution actions, a hearing is held no fewer than 30 days after the initial filing of the action and no more than 90 days. In some counties the petitioners learn the hearing date when they file. In divorce actions, the divorce hearing -- the one which ends the marriage -- may be one of many that is held between filing and decision and judgment.
A dissolution begins when the couple file a petition for dissolution. The petition is filed jointly and it includes the separation agreement as an attachment. The separation agreement must provide for 1) the division of all property and debts, 2) spousal support (how much and for how long, if appropriate), and if there are children, 3) the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, 4) parenting time and 5) child support.
When spousal and/or child support is a consideration, other forms that may or may not be necessary (depending upon the situation) include the following:
> A Financial Disclosure Affidavit that lists the joint assets and liabilities of both spouses. In some counties it may not be required if neither child nor spousal support is involved. In some counties, each spouse must file his or her own Financial Disclosure Affidavit.
When the couple appear for the dissolution hearing, a Decree for Dissolution, prepared by them, dissolves the Marriage. Both petitioners must appear at the hearing and answer certain routine questions.
Either spouse may convert a dissolution to a divorce. In a dissolution, each spouse retains the right to stop the dissolution at any point, including the day of the divorce hearing. A dissolution may be converted to a divorce by filing a Motion for Conversion and Complaint for Divorce, which is accompanied by an Order. The action then proceeds as if the Motion had been the original complaint.
A divorce action begins with the filing of a Complaint for Divorce, which is accompanied by the Summons and Notice of Service of Process. Notice of Service can be made by certified mail. That failing, the plaintiff must attempt personal service by having the sheriff, or a private process server, personally deliver the notice and summons.
When the plaintiff files the Complaint for Divorce, he or she also may file some or all of the same forms filed in a dissolution. These include the Financial Disclosure Affidavit, Affidavits in Compliance with O.R.C. 3109.27 and Information for Parenting Proceeding, Child Support Worksheet, the Health Insurance Disclosure Affidavit, Shared Parenting Arrangement.
The action then proceeds in the manner of civil cases. After the Plaintiff files, the Defendant responds, filing an Answer and making a Counterclaim. He or she files a Financial Disclosure Affidavit and answers Interrogatories, which may also be filed at the same time of filing the Complaint. Generally, he or she has 28 days to answer any Interrogatories.
A defendant can elect to sign a Waiver of Service, and allow the divorce to proceed uncontested. If not, the Defendant must be served.
An uncontested divorce may happen when the Defendant simply refuses to respond to the complaint. This does not mean that the divorce will proceed by default. A hearing will nonetheless by held and the plaintiff must present evidence to support his or her allegations that the relief sought should be granted.
An uncontested divorce also happens when the spouses manage to resolve all differences before the case goes to a hearing, as is most often the case. Thus what may have started as a contested divorce becomes uncontested. By agreement, the spouse can then convert the action to a dissolution case, or the Decree of Divorce is then titled Agreed Judgment Entry Decree of Divorce. In this routine the Decree of Divorce details the issues in much the same way as the Separation Agreement does in a dissolution case.
Spouses may convert their divorce to a dissolution at any time before the final Decree of Divorce is entered. This requires a Motion for Conversion and Petition for Dissolution and an Order, both signed by a judge.
When a spouse cannot or will not be located for Service of Process, the plaintiff in a divorce action must make what is termed a "diligent search." Basically, this means that he or she must prove to the court that a good faith effort was made to find the missing person.
This effort, which may be exhaustive, includes Freedom of Information inquiries at the United States Post Office; contacting the last known employer, trade unions where he or she may have been a member, regulatory agencies; inquires with relatives; telephone inquiries in the area of the spouse’s last known address; Internet searches, including www.switchboard.com, which is a pay search, searching law enforcement and criminal records, including police records, driver’s licenses records in the state of the spouse’s last known address, Department of Corrections records in the state of the last known address, Title IV-D records in the state of the last known address, or the state where he or she was previously divorced; contacting hospitals in the area of the last known address, utility company records in the area of the spouse’s last known address; inquiries to the various branches of the Armed Services; and the tax assessor’s office in the area of the spouse’s last known address.
If, after making a diligent search, the missing spouse cannot be located, the plaintiff may appeal to the court for permission to give Service by Publication. This means publishing the Summons in a newspaper as a classified advertisement. The advertisement must be published a certain number of times. The newspaper then certifies the publication dates.
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