The end of a marriage is typically a difficult time. During this tough time it is imperative that you have a compassionate, experienced domestic relations lawyer on your side to advise you on all your options and look out for your best interests.
So you’ve made the decision to end your marriage. Now what? In addition to the obvious emotional stress associated with such a decision, there are the questions of what legal steps need to be taken. In Ohio, there are four ways to legally end a marriage: 1) contested divorce; 2) uncontested divorce; 2) dissolution; and 4) annulment. The following briefly discusses each of these options.
Often times, couples think divorce is the only way to legally end their marriage. As a legal concept, a full-blown contested divorce is only necessary when the parties cannot agree on the terms of how to end their marriage. These diasgreements generally revolve around issues of division of marital assets, custody of children, child support, and spousal support (alimony). A divorce proceeding is similar to a trial in that each party calls witnesses and presents evidence supporting his or her position. The judge then makes a final determination. If at all possible, it is preferable to avoid a contested divorce because it is expensive and emotionally draining.
II. UNCONTESTED DIVORCE
An uncontested divorce generally happens when both parties have agreed to the details of the divorce such as: property distribution, child custody, and child and spousal support. This agreement will typically happen after one party has filed a complaint for divorce against the other, and the parties are able to come to an agreement before a contested divorce becomes necessary. An uncontested divorce can also be used when one a party has been served, meaning he or she receives notice of the divorce proceeding, and then chooses not to participate in the divorce. Finally, an uncontested divorce can be used when a person does not know there spouse’s whereabouts. In this situation, the filing spouse publishes notice of the divorce proceeding in a local newspaper. After the publication is complete, the Court will grant the divorce without the other spouse being present.
A dissolution occurs when the parties agree to the terms on which the marriage will end in a separation agreement and submit to the court all the necessary paperwork detailing the division of property, child custody and child and spousal support. The parties can submit all the necessary paperwork to the court, or they can agree to use a private judge, which is a person (usually a former judge) who has the authority of the court to review the documentation and end the marriage. Using a private judge eliminates the need to go to court as that person will come to the office of one of the attorneys.
Legally speaking, an annulment means the marriage never happened. In Ohio, however, annulments are very difficult to obtain. Ohio law allows annulment only in a limited number of circumstances including fraud or coercion, mental incompetence, one party already being legally married, failure to consummate or one party being under the age of consent. If the marriage meets any of these requirements, the court can annul it, but the court cannot make any determination on division of property, child custody or support.
Choosing the correct path to end your marriage requires experienced legal counsel. Arenstein & Andersen Co., LPA is a Dublin, Ohio law firm that provides comprehensive representation in all areas of domestic law including: divorces, dissolutions, annulments, shared parenting plans, and post-decree matters such as child support, alimony, and visitation modifications.