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If spouses do not agree on whether to divorce or how to handle property, parenting and support issues, one spouse may file a Complaint for Divorce. The person filing the Complaint (the “Plaintiff”) must have lived in Ohio for six months before filing and, generally, in Cuyahoga County for 90 days. The person being sued for divorce (the “Defendant”) has 28 days after being served with the Complaint to file an Answer if he or she intends to contest the divorce. If the Defendant wants the divorce to be awarded to him or her, the Defendant may counter sue by filing a Counterclaim with the Answer.

Under Ohio Revised Code §3105.01 a divorce may be granted for the following reasons:
  • Either party had a husband or wife living at the time of the marriage from which the divorce is sought
  • Willful absence of the other spouse for one year
  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Fraudulent contract
  • Any gross neglect of duty
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Imprisonment of the other spouse in a state or federal correctional institution at the time of filing the complaint
  • Procurement of a divorce outside this state, by a husband or wife, by virtue of which the party who procured it is released from the obligations of the marriage, while those obligations remain binding upon the other party
  • Living separate and apart from your spouse without cohabitation for one or more years
  • Incompatibility, unless denied by either party.

If the Defendant fails to file an Answer after being served with the Complaint, an “uncontested” trial will be scheduled. The Plaintiff must testify about the grounds alleged for the divorce, and bring a witness to corroborate his or her testimony. The Plaintiff must also provide evidence about the value of assets, debts, support, and the parenting needs of any minor children. Generally, assets and debts will be divided and parenting and support issues decided according to the Plaintiff’s request. This process takes about two months.

If the Defendant files an Answer, or an Answer and Counterclaim, the case is considered “contested”. One or more conferences will be scheduled to determine what actions must be taken before trial and to narrow the issues to be heard. At trial the Court will hear evidence on all issues the parties have been unable to resolve by agreement. "Contested" cases can be very time-consuming and expensive. Often, the parties eventually reach agreement on some or all issues. If the parties can settle all issues they will sign a separation agreement or an in-court agreement which states the terms of the settlement which the Court will order into effect.