What Do You Have to Do to Get Ready for a Divorce in Ohio?

It can be a bit daunting to decide to call a divorce attorney to talk about how to end your marriage.  At first, you probably just want to know what you need to do to prepare for a divorce and a bit about what the divorce process is like.  The first consultation with a divorce attorney is an opportunity to get all of your questions answered about the specific things that have to be done in order to get a divorce and about the process for what the court system is like for getting a divorce and how long it takes.  The attorneys at Harris & Engler help individuals in Central Ohio end their marriage and have heard it all when it comes to divorce.  Here are some general answers to some of the most common questions asked by people thinking about getting a divorce.

Answers to the Most Common Questions You Will Ask Your Divorce Attorney

1.  Do we have to live separately before we can get a divorce?

It depends.  In Central Ohio, it depends on what county you live in  The divorce attorneys at Harris & Engler only handle divorce cases in Central Ohio; and in Franklin County, a couple must have lived separate and apart (in different houses) at least 30 days prior to the final hearing of the divorce.  (This requirement is listed in Franklin County Domestic Relations Local rule 5).  However, if you have an attorney, then you may be able to get the 30 day requirement in Franklin County waived.  In Delaware County, on the other hand, there is no specific requirement that you live separate and apart for at least 30 days before the final divorce hearing.

Additionally, there are different "grounds" or "causes of action" by which you can file for divorce from your spouse.  One of those grounds in Ohio is that you have lived separate and apart for at least 1 year.  If you use this cause of action of living separate and apart as the basis of your divorce then you obviously have to actually live separate and apart.  However, you can simply list a different cause of action as the basis of your divorce if you are still living together, such as incompatibility.

Lastly, if you are wanting a divorce, then you are going to have to figure out how to live separately at some point (if you are not already living separately).  If you are worried about the finances of living on your own then some of those questions may be answered by reading further below.  If you can afford it, then it is usually a better idea to live separately while the divorce is ongoing for at least a few reasons: (1) you will have actual knowledge of your new monthly living expenses as a single person, which can be used to help with the financial aspects of your divorce; (2) you will not have to deal with your spouse on a daily basis and at home while you go through the difficult legal process of a divorce.  Despite the preference by attorneys that you be living separately from your spouse while the divorce is ongoing, it is usually best to hold off on purchasing a separate home until after the divorce is final.  Accordingly, if you are financially able, then the most ideal situation would be to be able to move into a rental while the divorce proceedings are ongoing.

The additional cost of living separately usually begs the next question asked to a divorce attorney, which is:

2.  How will I be able to afford living on my own after a divorce?

One of the first questions a person thinking about getting a divorce will ask a divorce attorney is whether or not they are eligible for spousal support (also known as alimony).  Spousal Support is available in Ohio if it is "appropriate and reasonable" under the circumstances.  Generally, if you had a short marriage (under 10 years) and you had roughly equal income as your spouse, then most of the time you would not be eligible for Spousal Support in Ohio.  If your marriage was over 10 years and your income was much different than your spouse's income, then you might be eligible for Spousal Support.  So you will want to talk to a divorce attorney about your relative chances of being able to get Spousal Support awarded as part of your divorce proceedings and about how long those Spousal Support payments might last.  (you can read more about Spousal Support by clicking here). 

As part of your divorce you might be dividing up retirement and savings accounts which might help you with expenses (you can read more about what kind of assets get divided up in a divorce by reading below).  Otherwise, you will simply have to live within your means and plan appropriately in selecting a place to live in order to be able to live within your means after a divorce. 

3.  How will I pay for a divorce attorney?

If you are worried about your ability to make do while the divorce is ongoing, then you can talk to a divorce attorney about the possibility of obtaining "temporary orders" that would award spousal support or other payments to begin taking place while the divorce is ongoing.  However, even if you are ultimately successful in getting a monetary award from your spouse in the court issued temporary orders, you still have to be able to get the money together to pay for an attorney and the filing fees to start the divorce case.  Some people are in the unfortunate situation where the other spouse is the breadwinner and that spouse has kept control of all of the finances.  This essentially leaves one spouse "locked out" of the finances leading up to the divorce.  In this situation, you should know that all assets acquired during the marriage (including income) are marital property; that is, property of both spouses.  There are exceptions to this rule for things like gifts and inheritances.  So even if a bank account is only in one spouse's name, the law would consider it to be both spouses property.  With that said, if you are unable to afford an attorney, then you may be able to use a credit card and then have your divorce attorney gain access to your spouse's finances once the divorce complaint is filed by asking the court for "temporary orders" or financial payment to the dispossessed spouse while the divorce is ongoing.  You can also request money for attorney fees in the temporary orders which are filed after the divorce lawsuit process is started.  You may also choose to discuss how to manage the legal fees of a divorce with your spouse before proceeding with a divorce.  Usually each person will need their own attorney. Otherwise, you may have to borrow money from friends or family.  If neither you nor your spouse have the money to obtain a divorce and you are otherwise unable to borrow the money and you qualify within the poverty guidelines, then you may be able to get assistance in gaining a divorce by contacting the Legal Aid Society of Columbus by calling (614) 224-8374 or the Legal Aid Society of Delaware Ohio by calling (740) 369-3059.

4.  How long will my divorce take?

This depends on whether you are able to accomplish things as a dissolution or if you have to do it as a divorce and it also depends on what county in Ohio you file in.  You are only eligible for a dissolution if you and your spouse can agree on every single aspect of the separation, including property division and child issues.  If you can do this, then with a dissolution all the paperwork is signed and agreed to before filing things with the court.  Then, once you file things with the court, a hearing is scheduled usually about 45 days after you file, and then depending on whether you file in Delaware County, Franklin County, or elsewhere, you could be done between 45 and 90 days after you file.

If you file for a divorce instead of a dissolution, then the timeline really depends on how contentious the divorce is.  If you and your spouse cannot agree on anything relating to the divorce then it could ultimately end up taking a couple years in the court process before getting things resolved.  If there are only a few relatively minor disagreements then the divorce could be completed anywhere in the ballpark of 3 months to 1 year after filing.

5.  How much will my divorce cost?

The filing fees are different in every county in Ohio and the filing fees are usually different depending on whether you file for a divorce or dissolution.  In Franklin County, the filing fee for a divorce is $250 and $200 for a dissolution.  In Delaware County, the filing fees range between $485 for a divorce with children down to $355 for a dissolution without children.  In Union County, the filing fees range between $560 for a divorce with minor children to $400 for a dissolution without children  In addition to court costs there will be expenses for attorney fees.  There are possible other expenses depending on how complicated the divorce case is, such as deposition and other discovery related expenses. 

6.  What do I have to do to get a divorce?

In order to file any divorce or dissolution action in Ohio, both you and your spouse will have to fill out affidavits that disclose your income, expenses, property holdings, and debts.  If you have minor children, then you will have to fill out additional affidavits about your health insurance and a parenting proceedings affidavit.  If you have minor children then you will both have to take a parenting class before you can obtain a divorce.  If you are filing in Delaware County, then you will have to also prepare a supplemental affidavit disclosing your education history.  Most people find the affidavits to be a complicated task.  Other than the affidavits, your attorney will take care of most of the details.  In order to get a divorce, there has to be a complaint that is filed against your spouse and then they usually file an answer.  If your spouse does not participate in the divorce process, then you may be able to obtain an unconstested divorce.  However, every divorce is different and it is not fair to compare your divorce to your friend's divorce, because each one is based on the unique circumstances presented by the two people actually involved in the divorce.

7.  Will I have to give up half of everything I own?

Generally, yes.  Most people have a very hard time with this aspect of divorce.  In Ohio, all assets acquired during the marriage are to be divided "equitably."  "Equitably" does not necessarily mean equally or 50/50, but it means "fair."  So if one person keeps one asset of value, then the other spouse will have to be allocated something else of roughly equivalent value.  Assets of the marriage include anything that was acquired or gained value during the marriage.  Assets acquired before marriage do not count.  Assets acquired through inheritance or certain gifts do not count.  Things like retirement accounts are usually divided 50/50 for the marital period (for example, if the retirement account already had $10,000 before the parties got married, then that portion (the pre-marital portion) is excluded from division)).  Equity in a home is usually divided 50/50.  This usually means that one spouse refinances the home in their sole name in an amount sufficient to buy out the others' equity stake, or the home is sold.  Additionally, debts acquired during the marriage are usually divded 50/50, regardless of who incurred the debt.

8.  Can I still get a divorce even if my spouse does not participate or if I don't know where they live?

Yes.  If you know where your spouse lives and you serve them with divorce papers, but they choose not to participate in the process, then you can obtain an uncontested divorce in Ohio.  If you don't know where your spouse lives then it can get a bit more complicated.  In that case, you have to basically put a notice in the local legal newspaper for a certain number of weeks before you can get a divorce.

Still have questions or want to talk further with a divorce attorney?

You can call a divorce lawyer at Harris & Engler by calling (614) 610-9988.  The divorce lawyers at Harris & Engler handle divorces in Columbus, Delaware, and greater Central Ohio.
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Disclaimer:  Harris & Engler offers this website and the content on it for informational purposes only, as a service for our clients and friends.  The contents of this site are not considered legal advice for any purpose, and you should not consider them as such advice or as legal opinion on any matters. 

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