The decision to terminate a marriage is a difficult one under the best of circumstances. If you are like most people who find themselves in this situation, you have more questions than answers regarding the impact the termination your marriage will have on your family and finances. It is important to ask the proper questions and have answers before you begin the process of terminating the legal relationship with your spouse.
Once you have exhausted all the relevant resources to resurrect your marriage (couple counseling, anger management, substance abuse counseling, church counseling, etc.) you must determine which method is best for you and your spouse to terminate your marriage, divorce or dissolution. Many people use these terms interchangeably, however they follow very different paths to reach the desired result.
Ohio provides for the termination of marriage by dissolution or dissolving the marriage by contractual agreement. When both parties are in complete agreement regarding the division of the marital assets and debts and a parenting plan (if applicable) they may draft their own custom agreement to meet address their specific situation when terminating the marriage.
A dissolution has several advantages over a contested divorce. Generally a dissolution is the quickest method to terminate a marriage and only requires a minimum 30 day waiting period. When the parties agree to the terms of division of property and custody, there is often less emotional and financial stress. Because of the shorter period of time to complete, and less disagreement, the dissolution process is less likely to have a negative impact in the children, as they are not placed in the middle of a long embattled custody case.
When determining if a dissolution is possible, one must ask themselves if their spouse will cooperate with process. Will they truthfully and completely disclose all of their assets and debts without the need for court intervention? Are both parties in a sound emotional state to be able to negotiate an amicable settlement to avoid an acrimonious court battle? Are both parties physically available to appear in court to ratify the documents under oath? If they are unable to answer in the affirmative to all of the above, then they have little option but to file for divorce.
A divorce is similar to other civil litigation as it begins with one party filing a lawsuit against the other alleging grounds to terminate the marriage. One of the parties must establish residency in the State of Ohio for at least 6 months and the county in which the file for a minimum of 90 days before bring a divorce action in the Court of Domestic Relations.
Before filing for divorce it is important to prepare (as much as possible) with your attorney to ensure you are ready for success. You should discuss and draft road map to obtain your goals for the litigation, and make sure both you and your lawyer are on the same page. The initiating party should take advantage of filing first by collecting all the financial documentation (tax returns, earnings statements, retirement statements, investment accounts, life insurance policies, etc.) and reviewing with their counsel before any action is brought. The outcome of the divorce and success will be determined by who is more capable of documenting and presenting their case.
Obviously, these basic questions are the first step in the analysis you should review with your lawyer before you begin what may be a smooth or long entangled process. The outcome of the termination of your marriage will, more than any other factor, be determined by the decision you make when hiring counsel to assist you during this difficult time. Consult with family and friends, interview multiple attorneys, then make a wise, informed decision.