Q: I want to end my marriage, but my
husband and I cannot agree on terms, so I am planning to go to court to
obtain a divorce. What can I expect?
A: You, your husband, and
the court will review and value all of your debts and assets, including
marital and separate property. The court will divide and assign the
assets and debts to you and your husband, and may award spousal
support. If you have minor children, the court will decide where the
children will live, how visitation and vacations will be shared, how you
and your husband will handle decision-making involving the children,
how you will support them financially, and who will claim them as
dependants for tax purposes.
Q: What do I need to do first?
A: You may formally ask the court to end your marriage by filing a document called a “complaint.”
Q: What is a complaint?
A: It is essentially a
request you make to the court that your marriage be terminated. You must
have been an Ohio resident for at least six months immediately before
filing the complaint. In addition to asking the court to end your
marriage, you also may ask for spousal support, child support, child
custody, certain property, and attorney fees and expenses, depending on
your circumstances. Once you have filed the complaint, you, as the
initiating party of the divorce, will be called the “plaintiff” and your
husband, as the responding party, will be called the “defendant.”
Q: What happens once I file the complaint?
clerk of courts will prepare and issue a “summons” to notify your
husband (the defendant) that a complaint has been filed and that he must
file a response with the court (called an “answer”) after he receives
the complaint and the summons.
Q: What would my husband include in his answer to my complaint?
In the answer, your husband responds to your complaint by admitting or
denying each statement contained in the complaint. Your husband may
also file a “counterclaim.” In the counterclaim, your husband also may
ask the court to end your marriage, and perhaps to award him certain
items such as spousal support, child support, child custody, certain
property, and attorney fees and expenses.
Q: While I am going through the divorce process, how do I handle matters with my husband?
or your husband may ask the court to issue “temporary orders” to deal
with immediate issues and help control the parties’ conduct while the
divorce case is pending.
The issues that are typically addressed
in temporary orders include: (1) spousal support; (2) use of the
marital residence and automobiles; (3) debt maintenance; (4) health
insurance; (5) custody/parenting time; and (6) child support.
Generally, the court tries to maintain status quo as much as practical
while the divorce is pending. Either of you may also file a motion for a
restraining order asking the court to keep the other person from doing
certain things, including harassing the person who filed the motion;
selling, encumbering, or disposing of assets; changing beneficiaries;
and withdrawing, encumbering, and disposing of funds.
Q: What is the process for granting temporary orders?
court may hold a temporary order/status conference with you and your
husband or may grant temporary orders based on “affidavits” (statements
sworn to be true) that you and your husband have filed. During the
conference, a judge or magistrate may address the following: (1) you
and your husband’s special needs; (2) the need for temporary order
affidavits and time frames for filing them; (3) narrowing the issues of
disagreement between you and your husband; (4) determining how you and
your husband will exchange information (known as “discovery”) about the
case; (5) exploring the need for experts; and (6) any other issues
raised by you, your husband or the court. Often, the judge or magistrate
will make the temporary orders effective from the date the temporary
orders motion was filed to account for the time lapse. Temporary orders
may be modified, and they do not necessarily indicate how the final
divorce will be decided.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar
Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Allison K. Tracey, an
attorney with the Columbus law firm of Collins & Slagle Co., LPA.