The only way in Ohio to end a valid marriage, other than death, is by divorce or dissolution, both of which are started with an action filed in the Domestic Relations Court. The primary difference between the two is that dissolution begins with the spouses filing a separation agreement in which they agree to dissolve the marriage based on the terms of the agreement. Dissolution is not adversarial in nature and the parties have control over the final outcome.
In a divorce, one of the spouses must file a complaint to end the marriage. Reasons for divorce in the state of Ohio include incompatibility, adultery, and fraud, among others. The plaintiff (the initiator of the divorce) and the defendant (the spouse) work through the details of the divorce in a formal process, often with lawyers, beginning with the ‘answer to the complaint,’ moving to a discovery, on through pretrial, and finally settlement. The court often determines the final outcome such as custody and spousal support payments.
There is another option available to you in the state of Ohio if you want to separate from your spouse, but you do not want it to end in a divorce. A legal separation is an agreement between the court and you and your spouse, whereby you address issues of property division, spousal support, child support, custody and visitation, the same as if you were getting divorced. An action for Legal Separation is then filed instead of filing an action for divorce.
The grounds for legal separation are the same as for a divorce. Such a case proceeds primarily as a divorce action, with the exception being that you remain married in the end.
The court must look at many factors when determining which parent will be the residential parent, the parent with primary responsibility for the child, and which will be the non-residential parent. Primarily, the court must focus on the “best interests of the child.” They will look at factors such as the wishes of the child, wishes of the parents, the child’s ability to adjust to school and community, and the parent most likely to honor court requests.
Once the custody is established, the court must then consider similar factors in determining the visitation schedule for the non-residential party.
Shared Parenting is the term that Ohio uses for what is commonly known as joint custody. The court allocates the parental rights and responsibilities to both parents, where each is named the residential parent. The agreement does not mean that the children are with each parent half of the time, rather, a visitation schedule will be agreed to by the parents. Shared parenting also does not negate the need for child or spousal support.
Child support is normally paid by the non-residential parent (obligor) to the residential parent (obligee). The Court is required to calculate the amount of child support following a standard established by the state of Ohio. Considerations for the amount include the gross earnings of both parents, day care fees, health insurance, and other children for which a party may be paying support. The law requires that if a child support obligor receives regular wages, the support must be deducted from his paycheck by way of a wage attachment.
The Court has the right to modify child support based upon the changed circumstances of any party. Failure to pay court ordered child support is a contempt of court, which can result in a jail sentence. Chronic cases of non-payment can result in the filing of felony criminal charges.
Marital property is subject to division between the parties at the time of divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree to the division of your property, there are specific guidelines to be followed by the court. Marital property is property that was acquired during the marriage. Any property that you brought into the marriage or that you inherited during the marriage remains with you in most cases, and is not considered to be marital property.
Retirement accounts and pension plans are considered to be marital assets. The amount of those accounts that were earned during the marriage is subject to division at the time of divorce. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a court order that is entered at the end of the case and is directed to the administrator of the pension plan and ensures that the marital portion of the account will be appropriately divided at the time of retirement.
Review the information on our Web site to learn about the family law representation we provide to our clients in the counties of Summit, Portage and Medina, Ohio. Please contact us or call us at (330) 785-3337 for more information.