Divorce, Dissolution and Legal Separation
In Ohio, there are three basic actions that involve the termination or alteration of a legal marriage: (1) divorce, (2) dissolution and (3) legal separation.
DIVORCE A "divorce" action is, in essence, a lawsuit - a lawsuit where one spouse sues the other spouse seeking to end the marriage, divide up the marital property and marital debts, and determine child support and child custody issues. The party seeking the divorce must prove grounds for the divorce. Where the parties can reach an agreement on all issues the court must decide in a divorce the parties can instead file for dissolution of marriage. A dissolution is less costly than a divorce and tends to be less damaging to the future relationship of the parties. It is important to remember that a divorce or dissolution only ends the relationship of husband and wife. The parties continue to be parents. It is important that the father and mother have a good working relationship because they will be involved with each other for many years to come because of the children. They will both want to attend school activities, graduations, weddings and so on and it is important that they get through the termination of their marriage without causing further ill feelings that will make it hard for them to cooperate in the future.
DISSOLUTION A "dissolution" is not like a typical lawsuit that begins with a complaint and answer. It is nevertheless a legal proceeding in the domestic relations court - a legal proceeding which seeks all of the same things as a divorce. In a dissolution, the husband and wife file a joint "petition" for dissolution together in the same document. Attached to this "petition for dissolution" is another document called a "separation agreement." A separation agreement is a contract between the husband and wife that settles all of the issues relating to the termination of the marriage (the division of the marital debts and assets, and the allocation of parental rights regarding offspring). When the husband and the wife file the petition for dissolution (with the attached separation agreement), the domestic relations court sets up a dissolution hearing in about 30 to 60 days. At that hearing, the domestic relations judge or a magistrate will ask both the husband and the wife if they still want to end their marriage, and will further ask if they both want the termination of their marriage to be on the terms set out in the separation agreement they attached to the petition for dissolution. If the answer to these questions is yes, the court will grant them a dissolution and will adopt the separation agreement as a court order in the decree.
LEGAL SEPARATION A "legal separation" is similar to an action for divorce except the spouse who files for legal separation action does not seek the termination of the marriage. Instead, that spouse seeks to live completely separate and apart from the other spouse, seeks to divide up the marital debts and property, often seeks spousal support, custody of the children and child support - all without actually ending the marriage. This is frequently done so that one spouse can continue to be covered under the medical insurance plan of the other spouse or for religious reasons where one or both of the parties do not believe in divorce. A legal separation can be converted into a divorce action if one of the parties files a motion requesting such a conversion.
LEGAL FEES The costs of these actions can vary greatly. The more you can agree on, the less you will pay in lawyer fees. More fighting means more legal fees. The more things you can agree on the less cost and stress you will have, so every effort should be made to reach an agreement on all or as many issues as you can.
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104 East Main Street P.O. Box 40
Fayette, OH 43521