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Ohio dissolution of marriage laws guide

Prepared by The Center for Principled Family Advocacy

Ohio law allows for an alternative to divorce called dissolution of marriage. Couples in the state can seek a dissolution if they can agree before filing on all issues regarding property, support and parenting.

Many people prefer ending their marriage through dissolution. It can be done on the spouses’ time table and the details remain private. You can file for dissolution even if your marital assets are complex and you have children together. The requirement is agreement by both spouses and attendance at the dissolution hearing.

This does not mean that an Ohio dissolution is straightforward or a do-it-yourself proposition. Even if the end of your marriage appears to be relatively straightforward, you will likely benefit from at least consulting with an attorney, particularly if you have children from the marriage.

Nor should you expect to slip something past your soon-to-be ex spouse or the court. The judge or magistrate will examine the agreement and can deny the petition or request changes.

Both spouses are required to attend the dissolution hearing. If one spouse cannot or will not attend, you must file for divorce.

Dissolution is different from divorce in Ohio

Some other states call a divorce a dissolution. But in Ohio, divorce and dissolution are two distinct legal actions to end a marriage, with dissolution covered under Ohio Revised Code 3105.61-65.

In an Ohio dissolution, the resolution of all marital issues must be described in a written document called a separation agreement. Parenting issues are included in the separation agreement or spelled out in a section called a shared parenting plan. The agreement must comply with Ohio laws regarding property division, spousal support and parenting.

Once all the issues are resolved in writing, a petition for dissolution can be filed with your local Ohio county domestic relations clerk of courts. A signed copy of the separation agreement and all other required paperwork must be attached to the petition. In addition, the husband and wife waive the requirement for the clerk of courts to serve them with the petition for dissolution.

The petition is considered a request

The petition for dissolution is legally considered a request to end the marriage. The court must set a hearing date no less than 30 days or more than 90 days after the petition and paperwork are filed. Both spouses must attend the hearing or the petition will not be granted.

At the hearing, the court must be given a judgment entry for dissolution with signed copies of the separation agreement and other necessary paperwork. You might be able to prepare these yourself. Most people hire attorneys to prepare dissolution documents.

The judge has the discretion to disallow the petition. However, if everything is in order, the settlement fair and legal and both spouses present and in agreement, the court will almost always grant the petition.

Can’t agree?

If one spouse is contesting the end of the marriage or the division of property, you must petition for divorce, not dissolution. Other circumstances, such as a spouse absent for more than a year or who is locatable but will neither contest nor sign an agreement to end the marriage, a fairly common occurrence, also fall under ("uncontested” and no-fault) divorce in Ohio.

If you and your spouse have decided to move on with your lives and can agree on all the terms, dissolution will work for you. Attorneys belonging to the Center for Principled Family Advocacy, which promotes non-litigated approaches to ending marriage, can be hired to help you decide which form fits your circumstances, negotiate a fair agreement and prepare the legal documents.

Should you wish to pursue a dissolution but are having difficulty agreeing on some issues, you can hire a mediator. Your attorney may have a recommendation or you can choose from members of the Center trained in divorce mediation.

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