Understanding the Divorce Process in Ohio

It’s my goal as a divorce attorney to help each of my clients resolve their divorce in a matter that’s truly in their best interest. If you’re considering divorce, what really is in your best interest? What should a divorce attorney do for you? Although every case is unique, the answers are the same. Your legal rights must be protected, and your kids’ needs (if applicable) must be kept at the forefront of your case. Feel free to download the "Understanding the Divorce Process in Ohio" eBook above to learn more.

Divorce is a complicated matter. Sometimes, it’s about money. Many times, kids are involved. And most of the time, couples have just reached a point in their marriages where staying together would be more detrimental to everyone involved than separating ever could be.

Divorce is never a simple choice; it’s usually wrought with tension, disappointment, fear, and a mixed sense of relief. But, really, the emotional roller coaster extends far past that. But, if you’re reading this book, you are already far too familiar with the many stresses that come along with divorce. For this reason, getting a divorce can become a long, drawn out process. After all, it’s your life, and you know what’s best for you and your family. You’ll fight to get the best outcome possible, no matter how difficult the process. But, when a divorce can be settled amicably, both parties can typically save themselves tremendous time and money, and move on to their fresh starts much quicker.

Is Divorce the Right Option For You?

Are you really ready for divorce? Your marriage is falling apart and there don’t seem to be any easy fixes to the problems that exist. Getting a divorce is the obvious answer, right? Maybe you’ve been thinking about getting a divorce for a while, planning everything out in your head. Maybe, you’ve found yourself the unsuspecting spouse, only hearing about divorce for the first time. Are you just now admitting to yourself that divorce could be the next step? No matter the position you’ve found yourself in, you certainly have a lot to think about.

Before getting a divorce, it’s wise to prepare yourself for what lies ahead. It can be tempting to rush through the decision to divorce, simply to move on more quickly and start fresh. Well-meaning friends and family, those who feel your hurt, may even encourage you to make some hasty decisions about your marriage and divorce. But, it’s important that you and your soon-to-be-ex be on the same page if you want to see the best possible outcome from your divorce.

Before you get divorced, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I really want a divorce? What’s my reason why?
  2. Is your decision for a divorce an emotional response, or a well-thought out decision?
  3. Are you ready and willing to deal with the difficult consequences of divorce?
  4. Have you made peace with your decision to get divorced?

If you’ve decided that divorce is the best option for you and your failing marriage, then take some time to prepare yourself for what’s ahead.

Divorce, Annulment, Legal Separation, and Dissolution of Marriage: What’s the Difference?

You may be married on paper still, but in reality, your marriage ended a while ago. So, now you’ve made the decision to end your marriage legally. But, with multiple legal steps available, what is the best option for you to explore?

Before getting a divorce, it’s wise to prepare yourself for what lies ahead. It can be tempting to rush through the decision to divorce, simply to move on more quickly and start fresh. Well-meaning friends and family, those who feel your hurt, may even encourage you to make some hasty decisions about your marriage and divorce. But, it’s important that you and your soon-to-be-ex be on the same page if you want to see the best possible outcome from your divorce.


Legally, a divorce is simply ending a marriage before one spouse dies. This is very common, as there are nearly a million divorces in the U.S. every year. One person files the motion for divorce from the other party, and the courts play a role in helping you divide up your assets and separate your lives permanently.


An annulment is a legal decree that your marriage is null and void. It treats your marriage as if it never took place to begin with. Your marriage would have to meet some very specific criteria in order for an annulment to be a valid option for you and your spouse, so consult a divorce attorney to learn more.

Legal Separation

With this option, you and your spouse remain legally married, but live separate lives apart from each other. You’ll separate your finances, divide up your property, and outline parenting arrangements as necessary, similar to the decisions made during a divorce.

Dissolution of Marriage

If you and your spouse have mutually decided to end your marriage, and agree on every aspect of your separation, then dissolution of marriage may be the best option for you. This option is not adversarial in any way, allowing your separation to end faster and cost less. You’re just asking the courts to approve the end of your marriage.

Deciding which legal action would be the right one for you and your spouse can sometimes be a complicated decision to make. Be sure to have an experienced attorney explain the specifics of each option in greater detail to determine which is the best choice for you.

Preparing to File For Divorce

What exactly does getting a divorce in Ohio look like? Every state has different laws or requirements regarding divorce, all of which impact what your divorce experience looks like. Whether this is your first time getting a divorce, or you’ve been down this road before, it’s good to have a clear understanding of what the process is going to look like from start to finish.

  1. First, determine if you’re eligible for divorce: In Ohio, you must have been a resident of the state for a minimum of six months before you can file for divorce.
  2. Decide where you’ll file: If you’re getting divorced, you must file for divorce in the County Court where the plaintiff (the person filing for divorce) lives. Even counties have residential requirements, too. You, or your spouse, must have lived in the county you’re filing in for at least 90 days in order to file for divorce.
  3. Stating your grounds: Once you’ve figured out what county you’re filing for divorce in, you have to declare why you’re getting divorced. Ohio has a range of specific grounds that can be used as cause. You’ll have to consult your attorney to determine what grounds you’ll choose, as this may impact other aspects of your divorce proceedings.
  4. Gather your forms: There are numerous forms and worksheets that will need to be filled out prior to officially filing for divorce. These forms must be filled out completely and properly to avoid delays and complications throughout the rest of the divorce process. Be sure to make copies of everything, too, so you can keep a record of everything happening throughout your divorce.
  5. File with the courts: Once you’ve got your packet of forms completed, it’s time to officially file with the courts. Your case will be opened, and your spouse will be served with divorce papers. Then, you’ll begin the process of separating your married life together into two individual lives.

Do You Need a Mediator?

A mediator is a neutral third party that serves to help you and your spouse work through the divorce process and resolve each of the issues relevant to your case. A mediator can be an especially helpful resource if there are children involved. Involving a mediator in your divorce can help you and your spouse settle your divorce in a rational, amicable method that’s fair for both of you, as well as your children. If you’re looking to complete your divorce in a cost-effective, timesensitive manner, utilizing a mediator can help you accomplish this goal.

You might consider mediation if:

  1. You have property (assets and liabilities) that need to be divided
  2. There are questions of child custody and visitation/parenting time to answer (the details of parenting styles, rules, and potential blended family circumstances can become very emotional and painful. A mediator can help you work through the difficulties.)
  3. You need to determine fair child support and related expense arrangements
  4. You have retirement plans and other savings accounts to divide
  5. There are tax-related issues that need to be resolved before your divorce is finalized

Working through a divorce can be filled with extreme tension, anxiety, and frustration, even in the most ideal circumstances. If you and your spouse cannot resolve your divorce amicably, involving a mediator can be a wise choice to help you both along the way.

Property Division After Divorce: What’s the Law?

One important question that couples commonly have during a divorce is, “How do we decide who gets what property?” You’ve worked hard throughout your marriage, whether at a job that provided for your family, or at home caring for your family. You shouldn’t have to spend the final months of your relationship prior to your divorce being finalized fighting for what you deserve. In Ohio, the answer to the question, “Who gets what?” is determined by several factors.

Ohio is an Equitable Distribution state. This means that both spouses are considered to contribute equally to the marriage. So, all marital property must be divided equally or equitably (when necessary) between both spouses. It’s the court’s job to decide how that happens.

Marital property includes:

Any personal property acquired by either spouse, or both, during the marriage.

Any accounts including: bank savings or checking accounts, retirement plans, pensions, etc…

All income and appreciation value on either spouse’s separate property due to the contribution of either spouse, or both, during the marriage.

There are some exemptions as to what exactly qualifies as marital property, so a divorce attorney will help you protect what’s truly yours during the property division.

As always, anytime you and your spouse can amicably divide up your property on your own, then this process will go much more smoothly. If the courts are involved, they will look at many different factors such as the length of your marriage, the assets and liabilities of each spouse, any parental custody arrangements, or even any costs related to selling property prior to division, to determine what would be equitable and fair.

Your Parental Rights and Shared Custody: What Does This Mean For You?

If you have children under the age of 18, you’re probably familiar with the term child custody. But in Ohio, this is known as Allocated Parental Rights and Shared Custody. Based on the arrangements made through the courts, you will either be named as the resident parent of your children, or you and your spouse will be granted shared parenting rights.

The courts look at many factors when determining what the best living situation is for children in the event of a divorce. The goal of the courts is to keep the children’s best interest at the forefront of the divorce, and any decisions made will be determined through careful consideration.

The courts will look at:

  1. The parents’ wishes: does one parent desire to raise the children while the other is willing to minimize or relinquish their rights; are both parents fighting for custody; is one parent absent from the picture entirely?
  2. The wishes and concerns of the children: if the child, or children, are old enough to be interviewed in chambers, then the court will ask them some questions regarding allocation rights, living arrangements, and what the child would most like to see happen. Although this isn’t the only significant factor to be considered, it is one that plays an important role in determining allocation rights in some circumstances.
  3. The child’s relationship with parents and siblings: What kind of relationship do you (and your spouse) have with your children? If there is evidence of neglect, abuse, or absentee parenting, the court will take these factors into consideration.
  4. Parental stability: Which parent is most capable of providing an atmosphere of stability, support and care on a full-time basis for the children? The courts will look at your finances, type of job and work hours, any past criminal offenses, place of residence, and character references, among other factors.

Again, the main goal of the courts is to allocate parental rights based on which solutions would keep the children’s rights and best interest as the priority. A divorce attorney will make sure that the courts treat you fairly during this process, so be sure to find an experienced attorney that will advocate for your rights during this emotional time.

Divorce and Your Children: Understanding Their Rights

Sadly, children often get placed in the very difficult position of being caught between two parents during a divorce. The effects that this can have on children are frequently detrimental to their psychological, physical, behavioral, and developmental health. Too many times, they are the silent victims of divorce. That’s why it’s extremely important that children’s rights be advocated for, and protected along the way.

During a divorce, your children’s rights include:

  1. The right to have and maintain an independent relationship with each parent
  2. The right to be free from conflict existing between parents
  3. The right to be financially supported by both parents, no matter the visitation time allotted
  4. The right to be free from having to take sides with, defend, or downgrade either parent
  5. The right to be physically safe and supervised when in the care of each parents
  6. The right to expect each parent to comply with all aspects of the outlined residential plan
  7. The right to be taught, cared for, supervised, disciplined, and nurtured, by each parent, without the interference of the other parent
  8. The right to know, communicate with, and spend time with both parents consistently, on vacations, and on holidays, unless otherwise ordered by the courts

During a divorce, it’s necessary to remember that your children are not just your right; they are your responsibility. Always act in such a way that keeps their best interest in mind during, and after, your divorce.

Spousal Support: Does This Apply to You?

Formally known as alimony, Spousal Support refers to the court ordered payment from one spouse to another after a divorce. Although not always the case, typically spousal support is awarded to the wife in the event of a divorce.

Spousal support is awarded once the income of all individuals has been evaluated. In many cases, one spouse was allowed the opportunity to pursue a career, and advance in position, throughout the course of the marriage while the other spouse sacrificed a career to remain the primary caregiver and home manager. In an effort in equalize the income disparity, the courts may order the working parent to pay the non-working parent spousal support. This may be awarded as a lump sum payment, an interim/temporary arrangement, or regular payments without an end date.

There is not a specified spousal support amount automatically ordered by the courts during a divorce. Instead, the judge will take numerous factors into consideration, including but not limited to:

  1. The income of all parties
  2. The length of the marriage
  3. Non-working spouse’s potential earning abilities during and after the marriage
  4. Any future working restrictions due to raising children
  5. Any tax considerations attributed to spousal support

If you feel you are entitled to spousal support due to the specific circumstances of your marriage and divorce, then you need to be able to establish a strong case to justify your need. Your attorney can help you with this and advise you through every step of the process.

Steps to Take Before Filing Divorce

If you’re unfamiliar with the complexities of divorce, you may be tempted to think that you can get your divorce finalized “quick and easy” and simply move on with your new, single life. And, although an amicable divorce where both spouses work together to settle separation does help to relieve some of the stress, divorce still remains a complicated process. But, there are a few things you can do before filing for divorce that can help to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Educate yourself. What are your legal options? Do you need a divorce attorney to help you through the process? Knowledge is power, and educating yourself on divorce in advance can help you be prepared for any curveballs that might get thrown your way.
  2. Become a “numbers person.” Determine specifically what all the relevant numbers are pertaining to your divorce. What is your income, or potential income if you’ve been out of the workplace for some time? How much money does your spouse earn? What are you living expenses? How much does it cost to run your household each month? What are your financial assets (bank accounts, retirement plans, pensions, investments, etc...) business asset, and personal assets (house, car, property, etc…)? Do you own any life insurance policies? How much debt have you accumulated? Make copies of everything and vow to become more organized than you’ve ever been before.
  3. Conduct an inventory of your valuable possessions. Do you own artwork, expensive jewelry, antiques, or collectibles? Do you have a safety deposit box? If it has a value of $300 or more, inventory it. This will help to protect your rights and keep things equitable and equal when everything is distributed between you and your spouse.
  4. Modify your credit cards if possible. Are you capable of making changes to your jointly held credit cards? If so, consider reducing any spending limits so you or your spouse cannot run up the bill much further. If you have the ability to cancel any cards, do so and consider opening up another card or cards in your name alone.
  5. Protect your private property. If you have belongings that are yours alone, such as birthday presents given solely to you, possessions from your life prior to marriage, or any inheritance gifts that are identified as yours alone, considering storing these items elsewhere until your divorce is finalized. This can help minimize the confusion as you sort through your joint possessions with the courts.
  6. Stay invested in your children’s lives. This is perhaps the most important point, and the primary point to take away. Your children are not a commodity that can be passed around before, during, and after your divorce. Spend time with your kids. Invest in their lives and show them that, even though your marriage is ending with the other parent, your love and commitment to them will never go away. This helps protect their emotional security during the divorce, and it helps to reinforce your case during a custody dispute.
  7. Get an attorney. Although you do have the ability to obtain and fill out divorce papers on your own, obtaining an attorney can prove very helpful during a divorce. Your attorney can help make sure you aren’t taken advantage of during a time when you’re perhaps at your most vulnerable state. Your attorney can make sure every detail is laid out from the start, and that you have everything you need to obtain the best possible outcome after your divorce.

The successful divorce that you hope for will be directly related to the amount of work and preparation you put into your divorce process from the start. Don’t leave yourself unprepared for what will inevitably come your way throughout your divorce and after.

So, What Happens Next?

Going through the complete legal process of getting a divorce can be very taxing on you, mind, body, and soul. Your feelings about the situation can change constantly, so give yourself a break and allow yourself some time to heal and find some inner peace. You’ve been one half of a couple for the length of your marriage. Now you are faced with living independently from your spouse. Whether you were married for one year or 20, the transition can be extremely challenging. But no matter how hard this process can become for you, there are a few things you can do to help you along your journey toward a fresh start.

If you feel you are entitled to spousal support due to the specific circumstances of your marriage and divorce, then you need to be able to establish a strong case to justify your need. Your attorney can help you with this and advise you through every step of the process.

How Can Michael E. Bryant Help You Through Divorce?

Michael E. Bryant proudly serves the good people of Toledo and Northwest Ohio by helping them work through every aspect of the difficult process of divorce and advocating for their full legal rights. He provides legal counsel for individuals in the following areas:

Experienced and compassionate, Michael E. Bryant understands what the judges or magistrates look at during a divorce and he’s dedicated to helping his clients focus on each area as needed for the best possible outcomes. Knowledgeable about even the most challenging of divorce cases, Michael E. Bryant has a wide range of resources available to help his clients successfully navigate through such difficult times.

If you are facing the possibility of divorce, Michael E. Bryant may be able to help you find the answers to your questions and offer you the legal support and advocacy you need to legally end your marriage in a fair and just way. Contact his law office, conveniently located in Downtown Toledo, by calling 419-243-3922 or fill out an online information request form at mebryantlaw.com for a free initial consultation and learn how to get started with your divorce process.