Residency Requirements and Grounds for Divorce
You must be a resident of Ohio for six months to file for a divorce.
Unless your spouse disagrees, you can get a divorce by simply stating in divorce papers that you and your spouse are "incompatible." Otherwise, the spouse wanting the divorce must prove one of these grounds for divorce:
- Separation, meaning that the spouses have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for one year
- Habitual drunkenness
- Your spouse is in state or federal prison when you file for divorce
- An out-of-state divorce that does not release you from the obligations of marriage in Ohio
A divorce case begins when one spouse files a "Complaint" with the Court of Common Pleas. The other spouse is then served with the paperwork has time to respond. If you and your spouse agree on key issues of property and debt division, as well as child custody and child support matters, your case can be converted to a "dissolution" proceeding, which can be finalized without a trial. If you don't agree, the court will set a time for a hearing.
After your case is filed, either spouse can request temporary assistance from the court in the form of temporary custody and child support orders, and orders to determine who pays community debts on a temporary basis.
Dividing the Property
Assets and debts acquired during your marriage - called "marital property" - is divided "equitably" when you divorce. An equitable division isn't always an equal division. The court makes a division that is fair.
You and your spouse keep your separate property, which includes:
- Property you had before you married
- Interest and appreciation from separate property
- Property received through an inheritance
In deciding how to divide the property owned by divorcing couples, judges will consider a number of factors, including:
- Marriage length
- The assets and liabilities of each spouse
- Whether the custodial parent needs to stay in the family home and keep household items
- Whether property is liquid
- The economic desirability of keeping an asset or the interest in an asset intact
- Tax consequences
- The costs of the sale of assets
- Terms of a voluntary separation agreement between the spouses
Be prepared with information on your property, including when you purchased it, an estimate of value, and details such as account numbers, serial numbers and so forth. You'll be ready to meet with an Ohio divorce lawyer and it can save you a lot of time and money.
A court can order alimony - called "spousal support" to either spouse. A court will generally consider such factors as:
- The income and relative earning abilities of the spouses
- The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the spouses
- The retirement benefits of the spouses
- Marriage length
- Whether it's appropriate for the custodial parent to work outside the home
- A couple's standard of living during the marriage
- Spouses' educations
- Spouses' assets and liabilities
- The contribution of each spouse to the education, training or earning ability of the other spouse
- The time and expense needed for the recipient spouse to gain the education, training or job experience needed to secure appropriate employment
- The tax consequences of alimony
- The lost income production capacity of either spouse due to marital responsibilities
A court can order temporary support while the divorce is pending. Most spousal support is ordered for set period. Once ordered, it can be modified only upon a showing of a "change in circumstances."
Child Custody and Visitation
In Ohio, child custody is called the "allocation of parental rights and responsibilities." A court makes decisions on parental rights issues based on the best interest of the child. If you and your spouse propose a parenting plan, the court approves it, unless it's not in the best interest of your child.
If parents can't agree on a parenting plan, the court decides based on many factors, including:
- The parents' wishes
- The child's wishes, if the court finds the child has the ability to make and express a preference
- The child's interaction and relationships with parents, siblings and others who may have an important role affecting the child's best interest
- The child's adjustment to its home, school and community
- The mental and physical health of all involved
- The parent more likely to honor and facilitate court-approved parenting time rights for visitation and companionship rights
- Whether either parent has failed to make all child support payments
- Whether either parent has been involved with incidents of child abuse or neglect
- Whether one parent has continuously denied the other parent visitation rights
- Any plans by parents to relocate to another state
If either parent requests joint custody - called "shared parenting" in Ohio - the court looks at additional factors, including:
- Whether the parents can cooperate in making child-rearing decisions
- The ability of each parent to encourage the child's relationship with the other parent
- Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, other domestic violence or parental kidnapping
- Whether shared parenting is geographically feasible
- Recommendations by a child's guardian ad litem
An order for parental rights and responsibilities can be modified if the change is in the best interest of the child. Parents can also file a joint petition for a change; the court will approve it unless it's not in the child's best interest.
In Ohio, a court orders child support based on the child support schedule listed in state statutes. The schedule is based on a percentage of both parents' gross incomes in relation to the number of children being supported if the combined income is less than $6600 or more than $150,000.
The amounts listed in the child support schedule are presumed correct. A court can deviate from the schedule if the amount would be unjust or inappropriate. Deviation may be needed based on a child's special needs, a sizeable disparity in the parents' incomes and resources, or parents' responsibilities to support others.
After a court has issued an order of child support, it will issue a "withholding order" requiring the paying parent's employer to withhold the amount of child support from the parent's paycheck and to pay that amount directly to the bureau of support. If the paying parent is self-employed, he or she may have to post a cash bond with the court to ensure payments. Portions of worker's compensation benefits and retirement benefits may also be withheld to satisfy a child support obligation.
A child support order can be modified if there has been a change in the circumstances of the child or the parent, such as a big increase or decrease in the paying parent's income or the change in the needs of the child.
Questions for Your Attorney