When you’re getting divorced in Ohio, you can choose between a no-fault and a fault divorce. However, the existence of no-fault grounds means that a spouse can obtain a divorce without the need for mutual consent. Specifically, under Ohio law, a marriage can be dissolved on grounds of incompatibility unless denied by the other spouse. Because it isn’t feasible to legislate a harmonious marriage, courts primarily focus on ensuring a fair and equitable resolution of divorce-related issues such as property division, alimony, and child custody, rather than deliberating on the possibility of reconciliation. By learning the differences between fault and not-fault and how they work in Ohio, you can decide which one to file for when you’re ready to start the divorce process.
Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce
Ohio recognizes two kinds of divorce: fault and no-fault. Fault divorces involve wrongdoing by one spouse, such as adultery, extreme cruelty, habitual drunkenness, or gross neglect of duty. If you file for a fault divorce, you’re required to provide evidence of your spouse’s wrongdoing.
No-fault divorces center less around wrongdoing than simply irreconcilable differences. Both you and your spouse would agree that you are incompatible and tell it to the court. The grounds for divorce have no effect on how the court decides on key issues in the divorce, like the division of assets and property or child support.
Once you decide which type of grounds for divorce you’re going to file for, you’ll then decide whether your divorce is contested or uncontested.
Contested and Uncontested Divorces
Many, if not most, divorces are uncontested. In an uncontested divorce, the two spouses agree on the terms of their divorce, including the division of assets and property, spousal support, child custody, and child support.
A contested divorce involves a disagreement between the spouses on the terms of their divorce. Because of this, they go to trial, and the judge decides the issues in the divorce. Contested divorce is the most expensive, most contentious, and longest type of divorce process available.
Reasons to Contest a Divorce
Spouses can contest a divorce for a variety of reasons, including:
- Division of marital assets. If you and your spouse can’t agree on how best to divide property or which items qualify as marital assets, you will likely need a judge to determine this on their behalf.
- Spousal support. You and your spouse may not agree on whether spousal support should be payable, who should pay it, and in what amounts.
- Child support and custody. If you and your spouse have children, one or both of you may fight very hard for a type of preferred arrangement, whether it’s full custody or visitation rights. Additionally, you both may not agree on the amount of child support that will be required.
- Prenuptial agreement. Just because a prenuptial agreement exists doesn’t automatically make it uniformly enforceable. For instance, Texas holds that a pre-marriage agreement is unenforceable if the court determines there was coercion.
- Grounds. Although Ohio allows no-fault divorce, you or your spouse may still choose to use grounds for the divorce (such as adultery or abandonment), which the other spouse must agree to, or it must be proven at trial.
Why Couples Avoid Contested Divorces
A contested divorce is filed in court, and both spouses usually hire attorneys who spend months negotiating, collecting evidence, and representing their clients in numerous court appearances. Eventually, the case gets scheduled for a trial that can take several days, spread out over several weeks. The judge then makes the final decisions about every issue involved in the divorce.
The longer a contested divorce proceeds, the more expenses accrue. You can expect to spend several thousand dollars—the average cost of divorce ranges between $15,000 and $20,000, but a highly contested divorce usually costs more. In addition to attorney fees, spouses often hire experts to evaluate issues and testify about them.
A contested divorce may last many months or more than a year, meaning time away from work or family as you meet with your attorney and appear in court. In addition to monetary costs, a long and hard-fought contested divorce can drain everyone involved both mentally and emotionally. For this reason, it’s common that divorces that start contested eventually settle.
Property Division in Ohio Divorce
In Ohio, property division during a divorce follows the principle of equitable distribution. This doesn’t necessarily mean equal division but rather a fair distribution based on various factors. The court considers each spouse’s earnings, the duration of the marriage, and contributions to marital assets, including homemaking and child-rearing. Separate property, such as inheritances or gifts solely to one spouse, is typically excluded from division. The aim is to reach a just and reasonable division of marital assets and debts, ensuring both parties exit the marriage on equitable financial footing.
Alimony Considerations in Ohio
Courts in Ohio determine alimony—legally termed as spousal support—based on several factors. The court assesses each spouse’s income, earning abilities, age, physical and emotional health, and the length of the marriage. The court also considers the standard of living established during the marriage, the time necessary for the spouse seeking support to acquire education or training for employment, and the ability of the other spouse to pay. The objective is to ensure financial fairness post-divorce, with alimony being temporary or permanent, depending on the specific circumstances of the marriage and divorce.
Child Custody and Parental Responsibilities
When Ohio courts decide on child custody, they factor in issues like:
- the child’s relationship with each parent
- the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community, and
- the mental and physical health of all parties involved
The court also considers each parent’s willingness to facilitate a loving, continuous relationship between the child and the other parent. Custody decisions can result in joint or sole custody, with a focus on ensuring stability and a nurturing environment for the child.
How an Experienced Divorce Attorney Can Help
An experienced divorce attorney can guide you through your process, whether your divorce is being contested or not. They can help you with issues like property division, alimony, and child custody. They can help you prepare and file necessary legal documents, represent you in court, and negotiate for you when it comes to asset division and spousal support. Your attorney can help you identify and value marital assets, understand tax implications, and make sure you comply with all legal procedures.
Get in Touch With Richard P. Arthur
Richard P. Arthur, Attorney at Law, can help you deal with your divorce process, whether contested or not. You can call 937-254-3738 for a consultation. He has more than three decades of experience helping clients in Dayton and Trotwood, as well as Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Clark, and Warren counties.