Can a Person Be Forced Into a Divorce in Ohio?
By Heather Frances J.D.
Divorce can be simpler when both spouses agree to the divorce and its terms, but Ohio law does not allow one spouse to prevent a divorce by objecting to it. A spouse who does not want to get a divorce can delay the process and make it more difficult, but he ultimately cannot keep it from happening. Thus, one spouse can get a divorce without the other spouse’s consent, thereby forcing him into it.
Courts must have a reason, or grounds, upon which to base a divorce, and Ohio offers several grounds to choose from. A spouse can file for divorce based upon the no-fault ground of incompatibility, which requires little proof, but an Ohio court can only grant a divorce based on incompatibility if both spouses agree. One spouse cannot force the other to divorce based on incompatibility, and the objecting spouse can simply deny incompatibility exists. However, denying or contesting incompatibility will not stop the divorce. Instead, the filing spouse can file for divorce based on another of Ohio’s grounds.
Fault-based divorce grounds require the filing spouse to prove that her spouse did something wrong to destroy the marriage. If a filing spouse cannot provide sufficient proof, the judge cannot grant the divorce. For example, a spouse’s gross neglect can be grounds for divorce, but the filing spouse must prove the other spouse failed to meet his spousal obligations of respect, fidelity and support, which may be evidenced by a failure to provide financial or emotional support, or engage in sexual relations.
Even if the filing spouse cannot prove fault-based grounds, she cannot be forced to stay married. Ohio permits spouses to divorce based on the no-fault ground of separation for at least one year, so a filing spouse can obtain a divorce after living separately from her spouse for at least a year. Spouses must actually live in separate homes during this one-year period. In Ohio, living separately under the same roof is not sufficient to qualify as separation in a divorce proceeding.
The non-filing spouse can ask the court for a conciliation period or family counseling before the divorce is granted. The court can order the couple to go through family counseling and can even name the counselor the couple must see. The divorce cannot be completed until the conciliation or counseling is completed. But if it does not work, it only delays the divorce. If the filing spouse is still determined to end the marriage after the conciliation period, she can.
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.