When you’re staring into a future that includes ending your marriage, nothing is certain. That’s why unhappy spouses scour the Internet looking for answers. They hit the search button on questions such as: How long does a divorce take? What is the timeline for ending my marriage? How do I end my marriage?
Hopefully, we can help answer some of those questions for you. Keep reading to understand the timeline for your divorce or dissolution, and tips for helping the process unfold more smoothly.
The divorce proceeding begins when a complaint, the legal document outlining the reason the spouse is seeking to end the marriage, is filed. The complaint must include a “no fault” or “fault” grounds, or both. The spouse who files is the “Plaintiff” while the other spouse is the “Defendant.”
Grounds for divorce in Ohio include:
“No fault” grounds
The petition for divorce also outlines how the plaintiff wants to have financial assets divided, how the child custody issues should be resolved and other integral issues of the separation.
While the case is pending, either spouse can request temporary orders. A temporary order aims to preserve the family’s personal and financial status quo. Temporary orders can also include bill payment, child support, spousal support (i.e., alimony), parental rights and responsibilities (commonly referred to as temporary custody or parenting rights) and restraining orders.
Following a complaint’s filing, divorce “papers” are served to the opposing party. Typically a special process server is hired to serve the paperwork, although certified mail and sheriff’s service are occasionally used.
Next, the Defendant files an answer, either admitting or denying the claim. The Defendant may also submit any defenses or counterclaims. If the Defendant fails to answer, the court will presume that the matter is uncontested, but will still require the Plaintiff to show grounds and to demonstrate the fairness of the proposed final resolution.
Now that the divorce is filed, each spouse begins developing his or her case by securing information including earnings history, assets, liabilities and monthly expenses. Each party has a right to find out about all property, marital or not, owned by either or both parties. This is especially critical where a small business is at stake.
Lacking a prenuptial agreement, professionals are often brought in to determine the value of assets such as real estate, businesses and pension plans. This in-depth process can be expedited by having books and records that are organized and easily available.
Now that the two parties have substantial information to understand all of the relevant facts, both sides come together to try to reach an agreement on some or all of the issues. During this process the court will schedule one or more pretrial conferences to make sure the parties are working toward a resolution or to learn what is preventing a settlement agreement. Both parties and their counsel will analyze discovery findings and work toward resolving financial issues and, if applicable, a parenting plan when minor children are involved. If custody issues are not resolved by agreement frequently the court will require the parties to participate in mediation or will appoint a Guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the children and make recommendations to the court.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on all issues each side must present their case to a judge, who will then attempt to make a just and equitable resolution. There are no jury divorce trials in Ohio.
If one or both parties are unhappy with the judge’s decision, an appeal may be filed with the court of appeals where a three-judge panel will review the court’s decision.
Finally, a decision, called a Decree, is issued and the divorce becomes official.
The steps to a Dissolution are much less formal than, and sometimes the opposite of, a divorce. In fact, the entire discovery period takes place before any paperwork is even filed. No grounds are necessary. The parties need only confirm to the judge at the hearing that both wish for the court to end the marriage. All issues must be resolved by agreement. If only one issue remains unresolved, there can be no Dissolution.
Spouses that may qualify for a Dissolution fall into one or more of these terms:
Once the spouses reach a total agreement, a contract is drafted known as a Separation Agreement. This contract is filed with the Clerk of Courts along with a Petition for Dissolution, sworn affidavits disclosing assets, liabilities and income, and affidavits relating to the children if minor children are involved. The matter must come on for hearing between 30 and 90 days after the Petition is filed, but it must take place between 30 and 90 days after filing.
At the hearing, the parties must testify that they are satisfied with the agreement; that they have made full disclosure of all assets and liabilities; that they have voluntarily signed the agreement; and that they both want the marriage dissolved. The court must review the agreement and once it finds the agreement to be fair and equitable, the court will sign the Decree of Dissolution terminating the marriage and making all of the agreements in the Separation Agreement orders of the court.
Ending a marriage is one of the toughest decisions you can make—and it comes with much uncertainty. That’s where we come in. We’re here to help every step of the way, from filing your complaint to getting you the settlement you deserve.
If you have more questions about the timeline for your divorce, reach out to the Ohio family law attorneys at Babbitt & Dahlberg by calling 614-228-4200 to schedule a confidential consultation.