Completing a divorce in Ohio can require going through numerous court hearings, participating in court-ordered counseling, and engaging in several rounds of negotiation with your soon-to-be ex. These processes play out over the course of at least three months and can be roughly grouped into the steps of filing, cooling off, securing pretrial orders, negotiations and mediation, and trial. Each divorce proceeding follows its own unique course, however, so having advice and representation from a caring and knowledgeable family law attorney can help you achieve your best outcomes at each step.
Filing for Divorce
Contact the Domestic Relations Court for your Ohio County to request all the forms you need to fill out. Unless you and your spouse mutually agree to end your marriage without contesting any of the reasons and while reaching amicable agreements over custody, property, and support, you must use one of the divorce court forms to state grounds for divorce. These grounds include infidelity, abuse, cruelty, and abandonment.
Filing the first set of forms constitutes making a request for a divorce decree. The court prepares the request and serves the defendant spouse (i.e., the person who did not file) with the papers.
No divorce trial can be held for at least six weeks after the defendant receives the divorce papers. During this time, the judge handling the case may order you and your spouse to undergo counseling aimed at resolving the issues that led to the divorce filing. Such court-ordered counseling must be completed before a ruling in a divorce trial will be issued.
Disclosure and Pretrial Orders
Early in the cooling-off period, the defendant spouse must respond in writing to claims made in the divorce papers. This is also the period during which each spouse is required to inform the court of all their financial assets, personal and shared property, and interests in maintaining custody of the children. Consulting with an experienced Ohio divorce attorney can help you avoid problems created by not fully disclosing assets and also enable you to protect assets that are not subject to disclosure and division.
The cooling off period is also a time when the judge can issue pretrial orders regarding protection from harassment and abuse, temporary child custody and visitation, and support for a custodial or low-income spouse who lacks sufficient financial resources to maintain a household on his or her own. Each pretrial order may result from a hearing before the judge.
Negotiations and Mediation
Divorcing spouses can often agree between themselves to settle most, if not all, of the issues raised by ending a marriage. Negotiations and mediation can even constitute the entirety of the post-filing divorce process, resulting in a mutually acceptable agreement that a judge must only approve and witness the signing of.
Our family law attorneys explain mediation here. The judge handling the divorce can order that couples try this when he or she suspects that deciding a matter of custody, visitation, or property division in court will serve neither spouse as well as an agreed conclusion. Importantly, your attorney can advise you before, during, and after each negotiation or mediation session, and those discussions are generally protected by confidentiality rules.
Final Hearing and Issuing of Divorce Decree
Matters that cannot be settled by negotiation or mediation are decided by the judge. The court’s decision can be appealed by either party to a three-judge panel. When a court’s decision is considered final, both spouses must sign the resulting divorce decree to make its provisions fully enforceable.