If you’re like most people, this is your first divorce case. And just like doing anything for the first time, there is a whole world of uncertainty in front of you. Will I get to see my kids? How will the business be divided? How much will my spousal support be? How much for child support? Will I have to sell the house? What happens to the retirement accounts?
Divorce is what we do every single day. (You can read about our firm here.)
We’re here to help. To speak up for you. Fight for you. To guide you to your new life.
We can answer your questions. We believe that our clients should be fully informed about the law, their case, the opposing counsel, and their options.
Please read through our Ohio Divorce and Dissolution resources below. When you are ready for our professional opinion or when you’re ready to move forward with your case, you can Schedule a Consultation or call us at (330) 535-8171.
Table of Contents
Divorce vs. Dissolution vs. Legal Separation
What is the difference between a divorce and a dissolution?
In a dissolution, the parties reach an agreement as to all issues before filing anything with the Court. There will be a written contract called a Separation Agreement that contains all the terms of the settlement. If there are children, there will be a Parenting Plan or a Shared Parenting Plan. Once both parties have signed the contracts, they will be filed with the court with a Petition for Dissolution. The court will then set a hearing date, and both parties will go before the judge and tell the judge on the record that they have agreed to the terms in the Separation Agreement and that they both agree that their marriage should be terminated.
In a divorce case, the parties are not in agreement regarding the issues. If the parties cannot reach a settlement before trial, the Judge will make the decision. If either party is dissatisfied with the Judge’s decision on the division of property, spousal support, custody and visitation, or child support, they can appeal the Judge’s decision to the Court of Appeals.
What is a legal separation?
A legal separation is an action very much like divorce, but the marriage is not actually terminated. The court will divide the parties’ property, issue spousal support orders, child support orders, and custody orders, but the marriage legally remains in place. The problem with this is either party can file for divorce again later, meaning that you may go through divorce twice with the same person. You also cannot remarry if you are legally separated – you will have to get divorced to terminate the marriage. We only recommend legal separation in a few rare circumstances such as when it is necessary for health insurance reasons, or parties wish to do it for religious reasons.
The Dissolution Process
Can you a file a dissolution on your own? Certainly. Check out our Dissolution Center for resources for people exploring the option to terminate their marriage on their own.
However, we recommend that the first step you take is to schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss your marriage and your dissolution. Why? Because you may end up giving away too much if you start negotiating your dissolution with your spouse before you talk to an attorney about it.
Completely Fill out Affidavits.
By filling out these forms, you will have a complete list of all the assets and debts that you will need to divide in your dissolution. They will help guide you and your attorney through the rest of the process and act as a checklist as you finalize your dissolution.
For a dissolution without children, you will need to complete some financial affidavits. If you have minor children, you will need to complete several additional affidavits relating to the children and health insurance.
Make your wish list for the issues in your case.
The following issues need to be resolved: Division of Assets, Division of Debts, Spousal Support, Custody and Visitation, and Child Support. For a complete list of the issues that need to be resolved, you can download our Dissolution Checklist.
Write your Separation Agreement and Shared Parenting Plan.
After you know what you want, you need to put your terms in writing. Your attorney will complete this for you if you have an attorney. If you are doing this on your own, you can download the form Separation Agreement and Shared Parenting plan from our forms library.
Give the Documents to Your Spouse and Negotiate any Differences.
Exchange your proposed Separation Agreement and Shared Parenting Plan with your spouse. At this point, if there are any differences remaining between what you and your spouse want, you will need to work out the differences on those issues and finalize the agreed-upon terms of your dissolution.
File the Petition for Dissolution with the Court.
Prepare the Petition for Dissolution (we also recommend completing the Final Judgment Entry at this time).
You will need to file the Petition for Dissolution, Separation Agreement, Shared Parenting Plan, Financial Affidavits, parenting affidavits, and any other required local forms with the court. You can find out what documents are required in your county by checking your court’s website or calling the clerk of courts and asking. The standard Ohio Supreme Court forms are identified in our forms library. Local courts often have their own forms or additional forms that are required.
There will be a filing fee, which will vary from county to county, but typically ranges from $100 to $500.
Attend the Parenting Class (Only for dissolutions with children).
The court will set a final hearing date. Both you and your spouse must attend. At the final hearing, the judge or magistrate will ask each of you a series of questions related to the court’s jurisdiction, and the terms of your agreement.
Some of the questions you may be asked include:
- Name and address
- Name of Spouse and date of marriage.
- Names and birthdates of all minor children.
- Were you a resident of Ohio and your county for the 6 months prior to the filing of your dissolution?
- Do you agree that you and your spouse are incompatible?
- Have you fully read the Separation Agreement that you signed?
- Do you understand the terms of the Agreement?
- Did you sign the Agreement of your own free will?
- Did you sign the Agreement of your own free will?
- Do you agree that the terms of the Agreement fairly and equitably resolve the issues in your dissolution, including division of assets and liabilities and spousal support?
- Are you currently pregnant?
- Are you currently serving in the military?
- Have you fully read the Shared Parenting Plan that you signed?
- Do you understand the terms of the Parenting Plan?
- Did you sign the Parenting Plan of your own free will?
- Do you agree that the terms of the Shared Parenting Plan are in the best interest of your child(ren)?
- Are you asking the court to terminate your marriage on the grounds of incompatibility and to adopt the terms of your Separation Agreement and Shared Parenting Plan as an Order of this Court?
Complete all your Post-Decree Obligations
Once your final hearing is over, it is time to complete all the obligations outlined in your Separation Agreement.
For example, if you need to transfer real estate to on party, you will need to create and sign the deed. If you need to divide retirement accounts, you will need to submit the appropriate forms or Qualified Domestic Relations Order. You may need to sign over a car title.
If you fail to complete the obligations required in the Separation Agreement, you may be subject to a contempt action and the court may issue penalties or fines for non-compliance.