The Basics of Divorce and Dissolution in the State of Ohio

Ohio provides two ways that you can dissolve a marriage: divorce and dissolution. The end result is the same, but the court procedure is different when entertaining which avenue is appropriate for your specific case.


To start the divorce process you have to file a Complaint for Divorce with the Court that has jurisdiction and venue. Jurisdiction is established in Ohio when the Plaintiff (the person filing) has been a resident in the State of Ohio for at least six months. This, however, does not mean that you can file in any Court in Ohio. The Complaint you file must also establish proper venue. Venue is the county that you have been a resident in for at least 90 days immediately preceding the filing of the Complaint. There are exceptions to these general rules, therefore, seeking advice from counsel is highly recommended should you have questions on these two matters.

The Complaint must also specify the grounds (reason) that you are seeking a divorce from your spouse. The potential grounds for divorce are outlined in the Ohio Revised Code and include:

  • Either party has a husband or wife living at the time of the marriage from which the divorce is sought;
  • Willful absence of the adverse party for one year;
  • Adultery;
  • Extreme cruelty;
  • Fraudulent contract;
  • Any gross neglect of duty;
  • Habitual drunkenness;
  • Imprisonment of the adverse party in a state or federal correctional institution at the time of filing the complaint;
  • Procurement of a divorce outside of this state, by a husband or wife, by virtue of which the party who procured it is released from the obligations of the marriage, while those obligations remain binding on the other party;
  • On the application of either party, when husband and wife have, without interruption for one year, lived separate and apart without cohabitation; and/or
  • Incompatibility, unless denied by the other party (in my practice this is the most common ground of divorce).

The Complaint further identifies whether child custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support (alimony) and property will be at issue in your case.

Once the Complaint is filed you will have to “serve” your spouse with the paperwork to properly commence the action with the Court. After service, a divorce proceeds like any other litigation. The end result will either be obtained through a mutual agreement between you and your spouse or, if an agreement cannot be reached, through the final decision of the Judge who is assigned to your case. Most divorces do end with the parties coming to a final separation agreement and parenting plan (if applicable) which is then merged into a final decree and subsequently entered with the Court.


When you file for dissolution you do not have to state any grounds for why you seek the dissolution of your marriage. The biggest difference between divorce and dissolution is that when you file for Dissolution everything pertaining to your separation has to be finalized and agreed upon between you and your spouse. Again, Dissolution can only be filed if there is already a signed separation agreement and parenting plan (if applicable) in place. If you and your spouse do not have a signed agreement on all matters pertaining to child custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support (alimony), and division of property division, then you cannot file for dissolution. Dissolutions of one’s marriage can take time and there are no time frames that either party is bound by because the Court is not involved until after all matters have been resolved.

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