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A divorce is a civil proceeding that terminates the marital relationship. This process is generally used when a husband and wife cannot agree on how to resolve the division of their assets and debts, spousal support, and, if there are minor children, child custody, parenting time (visitation), and/or child support. In such case, it is the Court that makes the decision for them.

Filing a Complaint for Divorce

The first step in the divorce process is the filing of a complaint for divorce. There are a few basic rules for filing a divorce complaint. First, the spouse who is filing the complaint, called the Plaintiff, must have been a resident of Ohio for at least six months prior to filing the complaint. Second, the complaint must generally be filed in the county where the Plaintiff has been a resident for at least 90 days. Finally, the complaint must allege on of the statutory “grounds” for seeking the divorce

After the complaint is filed and served, the other spouse, called the Defendant, has 28 days in which to file an answer that responds to the allegations in the complaint. The answer may be accompanied by a counterclaim that sets forth the responding spouse’s grounds for divorce. A counterclaim is useful in situations where the complaint is dismissed for some reason and the Defendant desires to continue the divorce action.

Temporary Orders

During the early stages of the divorce proceeding, either spouse may request temporary orders concerning child custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support, the division of household expenses and payment of debts/expenses. These types of orders will be in effect for the pendency of the divorce proceeding. The spouse who is served with the request must file a response within 14 days of the date he or she is served. After 14 days has elapsed, the court may enter the temporary orders, without a hearing, based solely upon the documents filed.

Temporary restraining orders may be issued against the other spouse to stop certain conduct that is detrimental to the legal rights of the requesting spouse or the children. A temporary restraining order may, for example, restrain a spouse from disposing of or hiding assets; annoying or abusing the other spouse or children; changing the beneficiaries of life insurance policies as well as other conduct.

Discovery

During the divorce, the parties may seek financial and other information from the other spouse or other sources in a process known as discovery. Discovery includes written requests for specific documents or answers to specific questions. Discovery may also include a deposition, which allows the attorney to ask a party or witness questions, under oath, outside of Court.

Division of Property

The division of property is a process where the assets are identified, classified, valued, and divided between the spouses. The assets and debts acquired during the marriage are generally deemed marital property. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, assets that are inherited or received by gift during the marriage typically are not marital property to be divided. Also, assets that a spouse has before the marriage are not considered marital property to be divided. Determining whether an asset or debt is marital or separate is often complicated.

Once all of the assets and debts have been identified, classified and valued, the court will divide them between the spouses. Ohio law requires an equitable division of martial property. While generally the division is equal, there are situations where an equal division would not be equitable.

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