If you've begun thinking about
ending your marriage, chances are that you've discovered that there are two
primary ways to terminate a marriage in Ohio: Divorce and
Dissolution. (For purposes of this blog post, we'll avoid the topic of
Annulment and save that for a future post.) Bearing in mind that a legal
separation does not, in fact, terminate the marriage, you've really only got
two different roads to travel down.
There are several differences
between the two, and we'll highlight them here:
- To be successful in a Complaint for Divorce, the filing party must be
able to prove one of the 11 Causes for Divorce
as identified by Ohio law. While parties frequently agree on the
cause for divorce (usually being Incompatibility), in some cases there
needs to be extensive litigation regarding the basis of a divorce.
With a dissolution there is no need to specify the reason why the marriage
is being terminated. Generally, a dissolution can be considered a
"no-fault divorce" as both spouses present a joint request to
the Court to "dissolve" their marriage.
Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities - Simply put, in a dissolution, the spouses must agree
to a Plan for Parenting. Such a plan must identify whether or not
there is "Shared Parenting" or if sole legal custody is given to
one parent, and must identify a residential parent for school
purposes. The Plan must also include a schedule for parenting time
given to the non-residential parent. Any plan submitted to the Court
must be found to be in the best interests of the child(ren) before it is
adopted by the Court. With a dissolution, the parents will agree in
advance to this Plan and will attach it to the Petition for Dissolution,
and they must further agree that it is in the child(ren)'s best
interest. In a divorce, the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities
is often the largest source of conflict for the divorcing parties.
The Court can issue temporary orders for parenting in divorce cases, and
can order that spouses attend mediation or a family evaluation specialist
who will make a recommendation to the Court. Often times in more
contentious divorce cases, the Court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem to
represent the child(ren)'s best interests. With both a divorce and a
dissolution, the Court may require both parties to attend a Parenting Education
Seminar prior to final hearing.
- In both a divorce case and a dissolution, in order for the Court to
terminate a marriage, the Court must make a ruling as it pertains to both
child support if there are children of the marriage, and/or spousal
support (if appropriate under Ohio law).
In a divorce case, not only will the Court make an ultimate finding
regarding a permanent order for support, the Court can also consider
requests for temporary support (both child and spousal) while the divorce
is pending. When spouses are seeking a dissolution, they must come
to the Court having already agreed as to all matters of support.
Your attorney can assist with the calculation of child support and working
through the factors to determine if spousal support is appropriate, but
you and your spouse must be in agreement about those matters of
support. Furthermore, with a dissolution there will be no orders of
- Much like issues of support, in order to terminate a marriage there has
to be a finding by the Court that spouses have divided their property
fairly and equitably. With a divorce, the Court may be called upon
to decide those questions of property division at a trial, and will
consider evidence from both spouses about how assets and debts should be
distributed. In a dissolution, the spouses are required to agree on
a full division of assets and debts and must include that written
agreement with their Petition for Dissolution.
- In order for a dissolution to be granted, most Courts in Ohio require
the attendance of both parties at a final hearing. This is required
so the Court can be sure that both spouses are still in agreement with the
terms submitted at the time the Petition was filed (not less than 30 days
prior to final hearing). With a divorce, the Court has the ability
to grant a divorce in the absence of the Defendant, and your attorney can
instruct you as to how that can occur. In the event a divorce is no
longer contested and both spouses have signed agreements to allocate
parental rights and responsibilities, make appropriate orders for support,
and which include a fair and equitable division of assets and debts, the
final hearing will look awfully similar to a hearing on a
dissolution. To assist our clients, you will be well prepared for
any final hearing and we will thoroughly review with you the questions you
If you are considering the
termination of your marriage, it is crucial for you to have a good
understanding of the different methods of marriage termination in Ohio.
If possible, you should be communicating your concerns with your spouse and you
should seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.