“Divorce” is the common term for the legal termination of a valid marriage, though many states now use the term “dissolution” in their statutes and court proceedings. Ohio law is a bit different from most states, in that divorce and dissolution are two separate legal processes by which Ohio couples can end their marriages.
What is the Difference Between Divorce and Dissolution?
A dissolution of marriage action is a simpler, less expensive, and less confrontational means of ending a marriage in Ohio.
The Ohio Divorce Process
An Ohio divorce case is filed and served on the other spouse much like any civil lawsuit in Ohio. The spouse petitioning for divorce must allege and prove grounds for the divorce.
Under Ohio law, the only grounds for divorce are:
- Extreme cruelty
- Fraudulent contract
- Gross neglect of duty
- Habitual drunkenness
- One of the parties had a living spouse at the time of the marriage
- The non-filing spouse was willfully absent for a period of at least one year
- One of the parties procured a divorce outside the state, which released that party from his or her legal obligations but left the other bound
- The parties have lived separate and apart for an uninterrupted period of at last one year
- Incompatibility, unless denied by either spouse
It is notable that even when the parties have been separated for months, an Ohio spouse cannot obtain a divorce unless he or she can prove one of the listed fault grounds or the other spouse agrees that the couple is incompatible.
The process of obtaining a divorce can be drawn out, contentious, and expensive. Each party has the right to “discover” information about the other’s income and assets, and the spouses may disagree about the value of certain assets. Often, this process requires the use of expert witnesses to determine the value of the marital estate.
Ultimately, the court may be called upon to make a number of decisions, often over the objections of one party or the other. For example:
- Custody and visitation of minor children (technically described as “allocation of parental rights and responsibilities” in Ohio)
- Division of marital property
- Responsibility for marital debts
- The amount of child support payable
- Spousal support (more commonly known as “alimony”)
The Ohio Dissolution of Marriage Process
The key difference between divorce and dissolution is that there are no contested issues in an Ohio dissolution case.
There is no need to prove fault, as the parties are jointly requesting that the marriage be dissolved. And, a petition for dissolution of marriage isn’t filed until the couple has resolved all of the relevant issues, such as custody, child support, visitation, the division of property, responsibility for debts, and any spousal support.
This process is more cooperative and often less expensive than the divorce process. For example, there is no formal discovery process available in a dissolution. Rather, the parties must voluntarily share whatever information is necessary to reach an agreement.
Choosing Between Divorce and Dissolution
The dissolution of marriage process offers obvious advantages, but it isn’t an option for every couple. To use this streamlined, cooperative process, the couple must be able to resolve every issue before submitting the petition.
That doesn’t mean, though, that the divorcing couple must sort out all of the legal, financial, and procedural details on their own. Often, an experienced divorce and dissolution attorney can assist by guiding a party through the issues and drafting an agreement. In fact, it is possible to convert a divorce proceeding to a dissolution if the couple is able to reach agreement on all outstanding issues.
Whether you are attempting to resolve your issues amicably and hope to pursue a dissolution, or you are in conflict with your spouse and expect to use the divorce process, your first step should be to talk with an experienced Ohio family law attorney. You can get started right now by scheduling a consultation with one of our divorce and dissolution lawyers.