How to Do Your Own Divorce in Ohio
By Holly Cameron
Either spouse may legally file for divorce in the state of Ohio. If your divorce is uncontested or no-fault, you can likely do it yourself without the assistance of an attorney. If your spouse contests the divorce or you anticipate a complex process, you should consider consulting a family attorney for advice. Ohio law allows you to end a marriage in one of two ways, either by divorce or dissolution of marriage. The dissolution of marriage procedure is cheaper and less bureaucratic, but requires each spouse to agree on all essential issues.
Confirm that you meet the state's residency requirement. To file for divorce in Ohio, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months prior to filing.
Determine the grounds for your divorce. Chapter 3105 of the Ohio Revised Code lists acceptable grounds for divorce, including adultery, bigamy, extreme cruelty and incompatibility. You can also file for divorce if you have lived separate and apart from your spouse for at least one year.
File your divorce complaint in the general or domestic relations division of the common pleas court for the county where you reside. The court clerk can provide the relevant forms. Once completed, the court will serve a copy of the complaint on your spouse. Your spouse has 28 days after he is served to file an answer with the court.
Request temporary orders from the court while the case is pending. Temporary orders typically deal with urgent domestic issues, such as financial support or child custody arrangements.
Attend pre-trial hearing. Each county court has its own procedural rules and may ask you to submit documentation relating to marital property, assets, debts and other related matters. If you choose to represent yourself, show up on time. The court may dismiss your case or make decisions without you if you are late. Often, spouses reach agreement at the pre-trial hearing and no further court appearances are necessary. If not, they must proceed to trial.
Attend divorce trial and present your case. If you are concerned about your ability to represent yourself properly, consider consulting with or hiring an attorney at this stage. After testimony is complete and all evidence presented, the court will make a final decision.
Dissolution of Marriage
Consider your reason for ending the marriage. You can apply for a dissolution of marriage if both you and your spouse agree to end the marriage due to incompatibility. If either party alleges the other is at fault, you must file for divorce.
Establish a written separation agreement with your spouse on all relevant issues. These may include property, child support and custody, spousal support and payment of any outstanding debts.
Complete a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form. You can obtain this form from the domestic relations division of your local court. The court may require you to complete additional forms depending on your circumstances, for example, a waiver of representation if you are representing yourself.
File your separation agreement, together with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and any other required forms, with the county court where you reside. You must then wait at least 30 days, until the court schedules a hearing on the matter.
Attend the court hearing with your spouse. Confirm your joint consent to the terms of the agreement and desire to proceed with the dissolution of marriage. If the court is satisfied with the agreement, it will grant the dissolution.
Mediation may help you reach agreement with your spouse on contentious issues.
If your divorce is uncontested, an online legal document provider can help prepare your divorce paperwork.
- Ohio Legal Services: Family Law – Legal Separation, Divorce and Dissolution
- Ohio Code: Chapter 3105
- OhioBar.org: Divorce and Dissolution – What’s the Difference?
- OhioBar.org: Divorce, Dissolution & Separation
- Ohio Legal Services: Representing Yourself in Court – An Introduction to Representing Yourself
- Domestic Relations Court, Summit County, Ohio: What Happens When a Divorce Is Filed?
- Butler County Domestic Relations Court: Instructions for Submitting a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
Based in the United Kingdom, Holly Cameron has been writing law-related articles since 1997. Her writing has appeared in the "Journal of Business Law." Cameron is a qualified lawyer with a Master of Laws in European law from the University of Strathclyde.