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Is Ohio a “No-Fault” Divorce State and Does It Even Matter?

Is Ohio a “No-Fault” Divorce State and Does It Even Matter?
June 25, 2019 Shannon Dawes
Divorce Discovery Process in Ohio

In the not-too-distant past, the concept of a “no-fault” divorce or dissolution of marriage was a foreign concept. Individuals (mostly women) could be forced to remain in unfulfilling and abusive marriages unless they could come up with enough proof to show their spouses were committing some atrocious act. Within the last 60 years, though, a majority of states have adopted “no-fault” divorce laws. These laws generally permit either spouse to file for divorce (provided certain conditions are met) and obtain a dissolution of his or her marriage so long as both spouses agree that they are incompatible.

Ohio is a No-Fault Divorce State

Ohio, like many states, has adopted no-fault “dissolution of marriage.” Filing for a no-fault dissolution of marriage is appropriate where both spouses do not contest that they are incompatible, have been living apart for some time, and do not many disagreements between them regarding the remaining issues of property division, child and/or spousal support, and restoration of name. The precise requirements for a no-fault dissolution of marriage require that the spouses have lived separate and apart from one another for at least one year.

There are Still Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce in Ohio

Just because Ohio has adopted a no-fault divorce law does not mean that it has done away with fault-based grounds for divorce. These fault-based grounds for divorce are “reasons” why a divorce should be granted that assign blame for the marriage’s dissolution to one party or the other. These fault-based grounds for divorce are (1) adultery; (2) habitual drunkenness; (3) imprisonment; (4) willful absence for over one year; (5) gross neglect; (6) extreme cruelty; and (7) fraudulent inducement to marry.

If one spouse elects to file for divorce using a fault-based ground, then that spouse has the burden of proving that those circumstances exist by a preponderance of the evidence. For example, if one spouse seeks a divorce based on the other spouse’s affairs, the spouse seeking the divorce would need to prove that it is more likely true than not that the other spouse has been unfaithful. If he or she failed to do so, then the divorce petition may be denied and the spouses would remain married.

What is the Purpose of Alleging a Fault-Based Ground for Divorce?

With the existence of no-fault dissolution of marriage, fault-based grounds for divorce may seem antiquated and unnecessarily difficult. However, filing for divorce and alleging one or more fault-based grounds can prove beneficial to the innocent spouse, if he or she is able to prove the fault-based ground exists. For example, when determining spousal support, the court may consider any misconduct of one spouse or the other in the marriage. Or again, when deciding with whom the child will primarily reside, the court will consider one spouse’s abandonment or cruelty toward the other.

So, therefore, while it may be more work to file for a fault-based divorce, proving such fault-based grounds exist may put the innocent spouse in a better position once the divorce is finalized.

Thinking of Filing for Divorce? Dawes Legal, LLC Can Help

It is important to know your options in Ohio when you are considering divorce. Dawes Legal, LLC can be your trusted guide through this uncertain and unsettling time. We will review with you the potential grounds for divorce and advise you as to the best option considering your situation and your goals. We may also be able to recommend legal separation as an alternative to divorce. Whatever is facing you in your marriage or relationship, know that Dawes Legal, LLC is here to help you. Call our office at (614) 733-9999 and set up your consultation today.