Divorce, Dissolution of Marriage, and Legal Separation Near You in Ohio

Divorce Lawyers in Columbus, OHThe award-winning divorce attorneys at the Joslyn Law Firm can help you decide which method or process is appropriate for your family’s situation. As a multi-year winner of 10 Best law firms for client satisfaction, our legal team knows that each client has a unique situation that requires advocacy and compassion. Over the years, our firm has developed a reputation for being one of the top family law firms in Ohio. As a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (The National Trial Lawyers Association) and Rising Star (Super Lawyers), managing attorney Brian Joslyn will use his extensive knowledge and vast experience to help you endure through difficult times and move forward in the best position possible for your unique set of legal issues. For more information about how a divorce attorney can provide legal assistance to you, call our office today at (614) 420-2424 to schedule your free consultation or contact us online.

Overview Of Divorce, Dissolution, And Legal Separation Near You In Columbus Ohio

  1. What Is Divorce And Is It Right For Me?
  2. What Is Dissolution And How Is It Different From Divorce?
  3. Dissolution Without Court Intervention
  4. Dissolution After A Divorce Proceeding Has Started
  5. How Do I Know Whether Divorce Or Dissolution Is The Right Approach?
  6. What Is Legal Separation?
  7. What Are Requirements And Legal Process For Legal Separation?
  8. What Are the Benefits And Drawbacks Of Legal Separation?
  9. Hiring An Attorney For Your Ohio Divorce, Dissolution, Or Legal Separation

What Is Divorce? Do I Need To Hire a Divorce Lawyer?

When couples are married and want to separate, they must notify their local Ohio county court of their intent to separate. The end of their relationship signifies the end of their mutual legal obligations as married partners. Although most people collectively call this process “divorce,” there are three ways to end a relationship in Ohio. These include

  • legal separation,
  • dissolution, and
  • divorce.

Although they all result in terminating the relationship, their differences become important when filing documents, as each approach is a separate legal process.

Divorce, Dissolution, Legal SeparationAn Ohio divorce proceeding is what most people think of when they learn that a friend or family member is permanently separating from a spouse. Like other states, Ohio has “fault” and “no-fault” divorces. Today, no-fault divorces are much more common than fault divorces, which tend to be used in more unique circumstances. In no-fault divorce proceedings, both spouses agree that they are incompatible and that divorce is the right solution. In fault-based divorces, a spouse can allege that the other spouse is the reason or is at fault for the divorce. Reasons for fault include:

  • Adultery;
  • Willful absence of one spouse (Abandonment);
  • Extreme cruelty;
  • Fraudulent contract;
  • Gross neglect of duty;
  • Habitual drunkenness;
  • Imprisonment of the other spouse;
  • Living apart for at least one year;
  • The other spouse filed for divorce in another state, and as a result, is released from their marital obligations; and
  • The husband or wife of the spouse who filed a complaint was alive at the time of marriage where divorce is now requested.

If any of the above reasons are alleged in a complaint, the spouse who filed the petition must sufficiently prove them with evidence. For example, if one spouse has repeatedly suffered domestic violence and wants to use the violence as a reason for divorce, the spouse must prove this reason through documentation, witnesses, or other evidence. Fault divorces can also be used as a way to receive more property when marital assets are divided. For example, proof of adultery may be used to support the reason that the unfaithful spouse should be obligated to pay spousal support.

Whether a divorce is based on fault or no fault, the spouses still have disputed issues that they cannot settle. Any unresolved issues will proceed to trial, and ultimately a judge will issue a court order that either grants or denies the divorce. If granted, the judge will decide the remaining issues and underlying reasons for his or her decisions.

Because these cases remain disputed until a judge decides the outcome, something to consider when hiring a divorce lawyer is that they typically require much more time and money than dissolutions and legal separations.

Dissolution of Marriage: What Is Dissolution And How Is It Different From Divorce?

A dissolution of marriage in Ohio and divorce can have significant overlaps, depending on how a case progresses. Like divorce, at least one spouse must live in Ohio for at least six months before filing a petition for dissolution. The ultimate difference lies in whether the spouses involved have come to a complete agreement and do not need the court’s involvement to resolve any further issues. Our dissolution lawyers can help.

Dissolution Without Court Intervention

Spouses who hope to resolve their disputes without court intervention may never need to set foot in a courtroom. Either through mediation or a collaborative divorce process, spouses can completely resolve marital disputes before either party has even filed the divorce petition. Instead, the spouses will include a full separation agreement with their dissolution petition for the court to review.

Dissolution After A Divorce Proceeding Has Started

Often, spouses who have filed for divorce ultimately reach a full agreement on their marital issues. In these situations, spouses may have already attended court hearings and conferences but try to resolve matters informally before trial. In other situations, spouses may attempt mediation and successfully resolve their issues.

If spouses settle and no longer need court intervention, they can easily convert a divorce proceeding into a dissolution proceeding. Couples can attach their separation agreement to their petition for a judge’s review and approval.

How Do I Know Whether Divorce Or Dissolution of Marriage Is The Right Approach?

If you and your spouse have communication struggles that prevent you from having settlement discussions, or you know there are major disagreements, divorce might be more appropriate for your situation. However, it may seem easy for high-conflict couples to be in a hurry to file for divorce. While understandable that couples might want to terminate their relationship as quickly as possible, filing for divorce as quickly as possible does not necessarily result in the best outcome. Instead, a family law lawyer skilled in high-conflict cases can explain the law and provide you with options and strategies that make sense for your situation. Before making a hasty decision that you cannot undo, you should always speak to an attorney first before any type of court filing.

What Is Legal Separation?

A legal separation attorney will explain to you that, unlike divorce and dissolution, a legal separation does not terminate a marriage. Legal separation under Ohio law can still define and divide property, determine custody labels, and outline parenting time schedules. In other words, a legal separation does everything that dissolution and divorce do, except legally terminate the marriage. Instead, it severs legal obligations that are associated with marriage. Thus, legally separated spouses cannot marry anyone else.

Legal separation is far less common than divorce and dissolution since most people in this situation also want to terminate their marriage. Legal separation is more commonly used for religious reasons, such as for spouses whose religion prohibits divorce. Legal separations are also more common in older generations. Spouses may want to live apart indefinitely but, for personal reasons, do not want to terminate the marriage.

Some believe that legal separation is part of the divorce process or a “stepping stone” that can make divorce or dissolution easier. This is not true. Legal separation is a legal process in itself. If spouses ultimately decide to divorce or end their marriage through dissolution, either or both spouses will need to separately start the divorce or dissolution processes.

What Are The Requirements And Legal Process For Legal Separation?

Legal separations can be contested or uncontested. If spouses mutually agree to live apart and stay married, they can jointly submit a written agreement to the court for approval. The agreement must address all issues that would normally pertain to a divorce or dissolution, including:

  • Custody;
  • Parenting time schedule;
  • Child support;
  • Spousal maintenance;
  • Property distribution; and
  • Allocation of assets and debts.

If the legal separation is contested, it is treated similarly to a divorce, and the judicial hearing officer will decide those issues on which the spouses cannot agree. In contested cases, either spouse can file a complaint for legal separation with the local Court of Common Pleas in their county. According to Ohio legal separation statute, the spouse filing the complaint must allege that the other spouse committed or has participated in one of the following acts:

  • A living spouse at the time of the marriage where legal separation is now requested;
  • A spouse has willfully left the marriage for at least one year;
  • Adultery;
  • Extreme cruelty;
  • Fraudulent contract;
  • Gross neglect of duty;
  • Habitual drunkenness;
  • Imprisonment at the time the complaint is filed;
  • Lived separately for at least one year, without interruptions; and
  • Incompatibility.

The other spouse has the right to respond to the claim for legal separation. The case then proceeds like a divorce case. Unlike dissolution and divorce matters, spouses do not need to live in Ohio for any length of time before filing for legal separation.

What Are The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Legal Separation?


Legal separation can be a great alternative for people who do not believe divorce is right for them, now or in the future. Perhaps they do not believe in divorce for moral or religious grounds, or the thought of divorce just does not feel right for another reason. Legal separations can be helpful if spouses want to live separately for a while and take time to decide what is best for their futures. If they decide to reconcile, the spouses can restore their legal obligations or “un-do” the legal separation with relative ease and quickness. This is far different from dissolution or divorce cases, whose outcomes are permanent and cannot be undone.


The greatest drawback to legal separation is that they will need to start over with a divorce or dissolution if they decide to separate permanently. If they spend a lot of time and money on legal separation, they will need to spend even more time and money on divorce or dissolution. Problems with time and money can be mitigated, though, if both spouses already agree on some or most issues.

Contacting Columbus Divorce Lawyers Near You In Ohio – Divorce, Dissolution, Or Legal Separation

Although separating from your spouse can feel difficult and overwhelming, it is essential to discuss which legal process is the best approach for you and your unique situation. The Columbus Ohio divorce attorneys at the Joslyn Law Firm specialize in divorce, dissolution of marriage, child custody, and legal separation cases. Call a divorce lawyer at Joslyn Law Firm office today at (614) 420-2424 to schedule your free consultation or contact us online. We serve many areas such as Franklin County, Pickaway County, Delaware County, Licking County, Madison County, Union County, and Fairfield County.

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This page was last updated by Brian Joslyn

(614) 420-2424
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