divorce process in cleveland, ohio

Divorce Process in Cleveland, Ohio

Divorce Process

If you live in the greater Cleveland, Ohio area, you have nearly a 50% chance of getting a divorce.  These statistics may sound a little depressing but, Cleveland, Ohio divorce attorney Daniel A. Baron is here to help.  According to Dovorcenet.com, one in three marriages will end within ten years and one in five will end within five years for Cleveland, Ohio couples.  For those that remarry in Cleveland, the median duration of second marriages is slightly less than for first marriages: 7.3 years for men and 6.8 years for women. In short, at least one-third of married couples in Cleveland, Ohio will one day have some questions about ending legal rights or obligations – whether it is via divorce, dissolution, or annulment.  With divorce likely for many Ohio couples, the divorce process may seem daunting.  Here is some useful information that may be helpful.

Divorce Options

Divorce is not the only means of splitting ways with your spouse.  In addition to divorce, a Cleveland, Ohio divorce attorney can help you through a dissolution or annulment as well.   Below is an informational breakdown of your options.

Divorce Dissolution   Annulment
  Basics A divorce is a court judgment formalizing that a marriage is legally over. The court will only enter a judgment of divorce if it finds that certain grounds (“fault”) for divorce exist. Note that Ohio is a “no fault” state.  This means that cheating spouses will not be given priority over assets based on infidelity. A dissolution will sometimes be less contentious. A way to end the marriage without a determination of fault. Both spouses must agree on the terms (such as division of marital property, spousal support, parental rights and responsibilities, child support, etc.) and are requesting that the court approve their agreement. A court decree that a marriage is legally invalid because of some defect that existed at the time the marriage was entered into. An annulment decree declares that a marital status never existed, unlike a divorce or dissolution judgment, both of which end the marriage.
Grounds “No-fault” grounds include incompatibility, or living separate and apart without cohabitation for one year.

Fault” grounds in Ohio include:  bigamy, willful absence for one year, adultery, extreme cruelty,  fraudulent inducement to marriage, gross neglect of duty, habitual drunkenness, imprisonment in a state or federal institution at the time of the filing of the complaint, or an out-of-state divorce.

Contrary to a divorce, there are no “grounds” for dissolution because a dissolution is not adversarial (the parties have already agreed upon every aspect of the termination, and the court does not have to make any of the decisions it would have to make in a contested divorce). That’s why it is usually concluded faster and with less expense than a divorce action Grounds for annulment include:

(1) an underage spouse (age 18 for  males and age 16 for females with parental consent); (2) bigamy – a prior valid marriage with surviving spouse, (3) mental incompetence of one party, (4) consent to marry obtained by fraud, (5) consent to marry obtained by force; and (6) failure to consummate the marriage.

To learn more about the differences between divorce and dissolution, visit this blog.


Divorce Process & Procedure

A divorce proceeding commences by filing a “complaint.” (The spouse who files is the “plaintiff;” the other spouse is the “defendant.”)  To be valid, the plaintiff must have lived in Ohio for six months immediately prior to the filing of the complaint (Additional residency requirements may also apply).  The plaintiff must properly serve the defendant with divorce papers, alleging one of the above grounds for divorce.

The defendant must then file an “answer” admitting or denying the allegations. The defendant may also raise any defenses or file counterclaims. If the defendant fails to answer, the plaintiff must present its case and a judge will rule accordingly. While the divorce case is pending in court, either spouse may request temporary orders for child support, spousal support (alimony), parental rights and responsibilities. Contact a Cleveland, Ohio divorce attorney to learn more.

After much negation between spouses and their attorneys, the court will probably hold one or more pretrial hearings.  If the case cannot be resolved, the court will set dates for the conclusion of the discovery procedures, for the production of expert reports and evaluations and for the date of the final hearing (trial).  The parents will generally be required to pay the fees of the a “guardian ad litem”  if they are able to do so. If the case goes to trial, the judge will make the final determinations. Learn more about the Process of Divorce.

Dissolution Process & Procedure

The biggest difference between a divorce and dissolution is that dissolution does not require the plaintiff to file a complaint.  Here, both spouses must sign a separation agreement that: (1) provides for the division of all property; (2) determines whether one spouse will pay spousal support to the other and if so, how much and for how long; (3) makes provisions for the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, child support, and visitation rights, and (4) resolves any other issues that relate to the marriage. The separation agreement must be voluntarily entered into by both spouses after full financial disclosure.

After the petition is filed, a hearing date is set by the court. The hearing date must be not less than 30 days or more than 90 days after the filing of the petition. At the time of the hearing both spouses must be present in court to present testimony assuring the judge that they entered into the separation voluntarily; that they are satisfied with the terms of the agreement; that the agreement is fair; and, that the parties still want to terminate the marriage by way of dissolution. If the judge so finds, a judgment of dissolution will be entered that incorporates the terms of the separation agreement, thus making the separation agreement an order of the court. At that point the court will enter a judgment terminating the marriage.


In order to have a marriage annulled, one spouse must be able to prove one of the six grounds for annulment in Ohio (see above). A request for annulment in many of these situations must be brought within two years of the marriage or two years of discovering the facts at issue – for example, that the marriage was fraudulently induced. For this reason, most annulments are brought fairly early in the marriage.  A petition must be filed with the court addressing the grounds for annulment and must be served on the defendant spouse.  Learn more about annulments by viewing this blog, or by contacting a Cleveland, Ohio divorce attorney.