Surviving Ohio Divorce Laws: Splitting Up in the Buckeye State

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Welcome back to Mom Versus the World, where we are sharing an extensive guide that elucidates everything you need to comprehend about Ohio Divorce laws to be able to grasp the concept of getting a divorce in Ohio without an attorney. But heads up, because I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. I went through a five-year divorce. I had three attorney’s over that time, which cost me everything I had, plus I ended up $300,000 in debt, yet I still had to represent myself for the last year, which was through my entire divorce trial. Much of this was due to default, then COVID-19 shutting down courts, then default again, then non-compliance with discovery, and a whole slew of other issues, creating the masterpiece “Murphy’s Law” of divorce. However, I learned some very hard lessons along the way, so you don’t have to. Again, I’m not an attorney, I’m a single, divorced mom, who is currently unemployed, living off of alimony. Oh… you caught that did you?

The ABCs of Ohio Divorce Laws & Key Legal Issues

So, you’re in Ohio and you’re thinking of calling it quits, huh? Well, you’ve got options, my friend. You can go for a divorce, dissolution, or annulment. And if you’re not ready to fully commit to uncommitting, there’s also legal separation. It’s like the dating phase of divorce.

Ohio is a “choose your own adventure” state when it comes to breaking up. You can either say, “We just can’t even” and go for a no-fault divorce, or you can get specific and say, “You did WHAT with the babysitter?” Yep, we’re talking fault-based divorce, complete with adultery, cruelty, and even abandonment. It’s like a telenovela but with more paperwork.

Marital Property in Ohio: The “Not-So-Equal” Equitable Distribution

Now, let’s talk assets, or as I like to call it, “Who gets the good silverware?” Ohio is an equitable distribution state, which sounds fair but let me tell you, it’s not a 50-50 split. It’s more like a “let’s see who can make the best case to the judge” kind of deal. NJ, which is where I’m from, is also an equitable distribution state and the only thing this does is create an opportunity for the judge to make biased decisions and prolong the divorce process severely.

What it is really supposed to mean is that property is divided fairly and equitably, but not necessarily equally. In other words, how much sweat equity or other contributions were put into a business or assets, and about a million other considerations that the judge has the power to rule on.  According to Ohio statutes, marital property is defined as all real and personal property owned by either or both spouses and retirement benefits of the spouses that were acquired during the marriage. But there are so many other variables that could be considered in unusual situations.

Separate property is not considered marital property and will not be included in a division of assets. Separate property can include inheritances left to one spouse, any real or personal property acquired before the marriage, certain kinds of passive income, any property acquired after a legal separation, any property excluded by a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, personal injury settlements, and any gifts that are clearly proven to be given to only one spouse.

A judge will take many factors into consideration when attempting to create a so-called “fair distribution”  of assets in a divorce. Some of these factors may include the age and health of each spouse, how long the marriage lasted, the income and property each spouse brought into the marriage, whether alimony will be awarded, the financial requirements for the custodial parent if children are involved, and what the possible future needs of each spouse will be following the divorce. I may sound jaded here, but I actually received the more favorable side of the final decision. My gripe is with the process, which is seriously broken.

“Who Gets the Credit Card Debt?” Debts Section

So in my case, he got the absurd amount of credit card debt; however, in our amendment, I took it back because he will really never pay it off. He has never actually abided by a single court order, which is not equitable or just, but its reality. If I let the original judgement remain, I would never be able to repair my credit, and he wouldn’t care. The judge knew this, yet still counted it as part of my “equitable share.” Are you getting this now? Ohio courts are very similar, if not the same entirely, but they treat debt division on a case-by-case basis, so it’s hard to really make that determination. Don’t assume you’ll split the debts down the middle like a bad dinner date. Judges have a smorgasbord of options: they can divide debts equally, proportion them based on income, or even stick one person with all the debt because, well, life’s not fair. But if their name isn’t on it, will they really ever pay it, or hold it above your head for the rest of your life, like they tried to do to me?  Here’s the kicker: You might end up with a debt you didn’t even rack up. Yep, if your name’s on the account, you could be holding that financial hot potato, whether you ordered it or not. So, if you’re contemplating divorce, maybe also contemplate freezing those joint accounts, eh?

Spousal Support and Child Support In Ohio: Alimony

Spousal support in Ohio is like a game of financial hot potato. It can go to the current spouse, the ex, or even some random third party who’s somehow involved. The courts can award this in cold hard cash, property, or a combo of both. And get this, it can be a lump sum or doled out in payments like a bad installment plan. If he/she actually pays the support is a whole other story and a whole other set of problems.

Child Support

In Ohio, there are official guidelines for child support, including charts, and probably some ancient runes involved. The amount is usually set in stone unless you can prove that it’s as unreasonable as pineapple on pizza. The guidelines are used to determine the amount of support one or both spouses must pay in a divorce.

Custody and Visitation

When it comes to the kiddos, Ohio’s got a rulebook thicker than a triple-layer chocolate cake. The state follows the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which is a mouthful to say and even more to understand. The bottom line? The courts want what’s best for the kids, even if the parents can’t agree on what Netflix show to watch.

If you and your ex can’t play nice and figure out a custody plan, the court will do it for you. Trust me, you’d rather hash it out yourselves than let a judge decide when you get to see your mini-mes.

Domestic Violence

If there’s domestic violence involved, that takes precedence over everything. Ohio doesn’t mess around with this. Your immediate safety and that of your kids come first, period.

Health Insurance

In Ohio, you can’t just think about who gets the house or the car; you’ve also got to think about who gets to keep their health. Child support agreements must include healthcare coverage for the kiddos. So, you might be splitting more than assets; you could be splitting medical bills too.

Infidelity and Adultery

Cheating might spice up a soap opera, but in Ohio, it can also spice up your divorce proceedings. While it won’t affect child custody, it could influence alimony and whether you even get that divorce finalized.

Military Divorces

If you or your spouse are in the military, the rules are pretty much the same as civilian divorces. The only catch? One of you needs to either live or be stationed in Ohio. So, no trying to file papers from an overseas base to escape the mess.

Congratulations You’re Divorced: Now What?

 Navigating a divorce in Ohio is like trying to assemble IKEA furniture: complicated, frustrating, and you’ll probably need a drink afterward. But hey, knowledge is power, and now you’re armed with enough info to make it through. Just remember, when in doubt, consult a legal pro. Because the only thing worse than going through a divorce is screwing it up legally. So there you have it, your guide to the nitty-gritty, the good, the bad, and the “I can’t even” of Ohio Divorce Laws. Stay strong, stay informed, and for the love of all things holy, stay single.

Footnotes / Resources

  1. Separation agreement provisions: Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.63 (2022)
  2. Time of court appearance after filing petition: Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.64 (2022)
  3. Power Of Court: Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.65(C) (2022)
  4. Divorce Causes: Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.01 (2022)
  5. Residency Requirement: Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3105.03 and 3105.62 (2022)
  6. Residency Requirement Plaintiff, Ohio Divorce OH ST § 3105.03 
  7. Case Law: Jurisdiction In Ohio For Alimony OH ST § 3105.01; see also Rousculp v. Rousculp, 244 N.E.2d 512 (OH App. 1968)
  8. Awarding and Modifying Spousal Support OH ST § 3105.18(D)-(F)
  9. Ohio Judicial System Divorce With Children