The Center for
Principled Family Advocacy
The end of a marriage is a matter of public record
in Ohio. Still, in many cases, you can keep details
of your private life out of
anyone could read and repeat them. Dissolution and
no fault divorce are two approaches offering some
Ohio divorce law and practice has
evolved to accommodate different approaches to
terminating marriage. Sometimes your approach is
pre-determined by circumstances. In most cases, with
a little cooperation from your spouse, you can take
steps to maintain your privacy.
However, if the divorce is
contested and one spouse intent on causing the other
discomfort, you can expect to read and hear all
about yourself in court filings and proceedings. In
addition, depending on who you are and how
spectacular your excesses, you might also hear about
yourself in the media.
Privacy is just another reason that
most divorcing couples, even if they can now barely
stand mention of each other, are better off reaching
agreement without resorting to litigation.
Dissolution provides the most privacy
protection in Ohio
In Ohio, divorce and dissolution
are distinct legal actions. Couples ending their
marriage cooperatively can file for
Working with each other, couples
negotiate a settlement of all marital issues outside
of court. Typically, they seek assistance from their
attorneys and possibly
arbitrators, mediators, counselors and clergy or
other advisors. Whatever works.
Once all the issues are settled as
required by Ohio law and the terms described in a
separation agreement, you file for dissolution. The
details of what led to the end of the marriage need
not be included in the public record.
The separation agreement must be
completed before the dissolution is filed.
Additional forms will be required and the separation
agreement must be approved by the court. Both
spouses must physically attend the dissolution
hearing or the petition cannot be granted.
Divorce is based on one or more of 11
Dissolution requires cooperation.
Divorce is adversarial. If a couple wants to
terminate their marriage but cannot settle their
issues, one spouse must file for divorce.
The divorce complaint must allege
at least one of nine “fault” or two “no-fault”
grounds. Divorce on fault grounds is granted only if
at least one witness supports the alleged fault.
Because corroboration is required, details of the
fault or faults will become public record.
The fault grounds are adultery,
bigamy, willful absence for more than a year,
extreme cruelty, habitual drunkenness, gross neglect
of duty, fraudulent contract, imprisonment in a
state or federal penal institution and gaining a
divorce in another state.
“No-fault” divorce in Ohio
Clearly, citing a fault ground
against your spouse in the public record can work
against your interests. You could reveal something
that makes it difficult for them to maintain
employment or move on to a new life, two things you
might desperately want.
When one spouse files for divorce,
usually the other spouse files what is known as an
answer. Sometimes the filing of a complaint and
answer motivates a couple to reach agreement out of
court. If they are successful in coming to terms,
the court will allow them to withdraw the answer and
move the case to judgment incorporating their
However amicable the eventual
resolution, the listing of faults and detailed
allegations in an initial complaint remain in the
public record. The damage is done.
If you prefer to live your new life
peacefully, you can elect a less revelatory strategy
in Ohio: no-fault divorce.
Nine fault grounds, two blameless
The term “no-fault” does not appear
in Ohio family law. In practice nearly every divorce
in the state is filed on a no-fault basis.
No-fault refers to citing one of
two non-blaming grounds for divorce found in the
Ohio Revised Code: incompatibility and voluntarily
living separately for at least one year.
You can file on a no-fault basis
even if the real reason for divorce is one of those
nine less pleasant “blame” faults. And with
cooperation, you can keep between yourselves the
real cause and details of the end of your marriage.
This is true even if you go on to contest bitterly
in court the division of assets, parental rights or
the divorce itself.
No matter how you feel, start with
You give up nothing by filing on a
no-fault basis. You can amend your complaint later
to add a fault. Alternatively, you can list a
no-fault ground “plus unspecified others to be
introduced at trial” in your initial complaint.
Even if you do prove at trial that
your spouse committed without shame one of the nine
fault grounds, in Ohio you will not get a bigger
slice of the property. However, there can be
reductions in parental rights if the fault involved
criminal or other behavior harmful to others.
Some contend you create negotiating
advantage by omitting the real cause from the
initial complaint. The potential for disclosure of
harmful or embarrassing behavior might motivate
cooperation. Whether such leverage should be used at
all, or ever for destructive purposes, is an
Fortunately, at this point, most
people simply want to complete the process and move
on. To do that, they must comply with the
requirements of their chosen no-fault strategy.
If the divorce complaint cites
incompatibility, both spouses must affirm it before
the court. If one insists at the judgment hearing
that the two of you remain perfectly suited, the
divorce will be denied.
If the no-fault ground cited is
living apart for one year, the separation must be
voluntarily. For example, you can’t ditch your
spouse because the armed forces extend their tour of
The separation must also be
uninterrupted and without cohabitation. Couples
sometimes reconcile only to reaffirm their desire to
divorce. However brief the reconciliation, legally
it means 12 more months before they can cite living
apart as grounds. If you cannot abide waiting 365
more days, you can cite incompatibility.
Usually revelation of personal
behavior has far less impact than people fear or
estimate. Still, no one can guarantee that. If you
prefer keep what happened in your marriage between
you and your soon-to-be ex, the best advice is find
it within yourself to cooperate on resolving the end
of your marriage.
Attorney members of the Center for Principled
Family Advocacy can guide spouses seeking divorce to
the end of marriage of strategy best suited to their
needs and desire for privacy.