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Understanding uncontested divorce in Ohio

Prepared by The Center for Principled Family Advocacy

In Ohio, you can end your marriage without fighting in court.

Will your divorce be uncontested? That’s up to you and your spouse. The word “uncontested” has a specific meaning under Ohio divorce laws.

Divorce and dissolution in Ohio

Ending marriage in Ohio without a court fight is most often done through dissolution. Divorce and dissolution are distinct legal actions in the state.

In dissolution, you negotiate a settlement outside of court and then file a separation agreement along with other forms. Both spouses must attend the dissolution hearing. The separation agreement must be approved by the court.

Even though you are negotiating outside of court in a dissolution, you might still have significant differences to resolve. As unpleasant as these might become, dissolution allows you to keep these battles private.

In addition, you can seek any outside assistance you deem appropriate: attorneys trained in collaborative divorce, mediators, arbitrators, counselors, clergy or others.

Uncontested Ohio divorce

If you cannot reach agreement and still want to terminate the marriage, one of you must file for Divorce.

A person filing for divorce in Ohio must allege at least one of nine “fault” or two “no-fault” grounds. Divorce is granted on fault grounds only if at least one witness supports the alleged ground. 

What if one spouse files for divorce and the other does not respond? After 42 days, the filing spouse can ask the court to grant an uncontested divorce.

Because only in rare circumstances could someone guarantee their spouse will fail to respond to a divorce complaint, you are unlikely to find any special Ohio uncontested divorce forms, kits or attorneys.

At hearing, the court will verify that the non-answering spouse was legally notified. The judge will also want to be satisfied that the divorce is justified and the submitted settlement agreement is at least fair and legal to the non-participating spouse.

You can change your mind

In most cases, however, the second spouse does file what is called an answer. When he or she does, the case is moved to the contested docket and ischeduled for a pre-trial hearing.

Sometimes the filing of a complaint and answer motivates a couple to reach agreement outside of court. If they come to terms, the court will allow them to withdraw the answer and move the case to judgment incorporating their agreement.

A divorce that begins contested but is then resolved outside of court hearings may also be called uncontested.

The bottom line

Some spouses do allow their divorce to proceed without their participation. Causes can include guilt, depression, fear and real or defensive apathy.

While court officials will take steps to protect non-participating spouses, these decisions can be influenced by un-refuted allegations and evidence presented by your spouse. At the least, you should consult with an attorney to understand your position and possible outcomes.

In Ohio, you can end your marriage without fighting in or out of court. But you can’t just say you want an uncontested divorce. Whether divorce is uncontested is determined by specific actions of the spouses.

You might suspect your spouse will allow your divorce to proceed uncontested. Legally and emotionally, you should proceed as if they will contest. If they do file an answer, you can still reach agreement outside of court.

Attorney members of the Center for Principled Family Advocacy can guide spouses seeing divorce to the approach and strategy best suited to their needs.

 

 

 
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