Family Law

Ohio Family Law: An Overview

At some point, you may need to turn to an attorney for legal help with a family issue. Whether it's for an issue regarding adoption, child support, marriage or divorce, there are Ohio laws that provide a fair legal basis for highly emotional issues. Ohio's family laws govern a variety of topics like alimony, legal separation, marriage license application and custody.

Whether you have a family law case in Toledo, Cleveland or Cincinnati, LawInfo is your source for information and legal help. LawInfo's Ohio Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family. Ohio family law attorneys can assist you with any of the following topics (and many more).

Ohio Marriage License

Before getting married in Ohio, couples must apply for a marriage license. A license officiates a marriage in Ohio, guaranteeing the married couple all of the rights and privileges reserved for married people. To apply for a marriage license, a couple must meet these requirements:

  • Both parties must appear before an Ohio Probate Court. If one or both parties are Ohio residents, they must appear before the court in one of the districts they live in. If both parties are from out-of-state, they must appear before the court in the district where they will be married.
  • Parties younger than 18 years of age but 16 years or older must obtain parental or guardian consent and proof of marriage counseling.
  • Both parties must not be “nearer of kin than second cousins.” This means both parties cannot be parent and child, siblings, uncle/aunt and niece/nephew or first cousins.
  • Neither party may be currently married to another party. Proof of divorce must be presented. A death certificate for a deceased spouse is not required.

Unlike most states, Ohio doesn't impose a waiting period in which couples are not allowed to marry once a marriage license is issued. After a couple receives the license, the license is valid for only 60 days.

Ohio Divorce and Dissolution Grounds

If your marriage has reached an unfortunate end, know that there are two ways to end it in Ohio: through divorce or dissolution. A dissolution is an often faster and less expensive version of divorce where both spouses mutually agree to the terms of their separation, such as property division and child support. In a divorce, one spouse may dispute the grounds for the separation or the aforementioned terms in court.

While a dissolution is often viewed as a “no-fault” divorce, a normal divorce relies on fault grounds. One spouse can file a petition for divorce against the other spouse if he/she can prove one or more of the following grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Fraudulent misrepresentations or promises made before marriage, e.g. falsified identification (a.k.a. fraudulent contract)
  • Willful abandonment for one year or longer
  • Uninterrupted separation for one year or longer
  • Bigamy
  • A gross neglect of duty
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Imprisonment in a state or federal institution
  • One spouse is divorced outside of Ohio while the other is still bound to the marriage
  • Incompatibility (this is often used for no-fault divorce grounds)

Distribution of Marital Property in Ohio

When couples get divorced, they may dread splitting their property. This is typically due to the prevalent idea that divorcees get half of everything, which makes for drawn-out, heated legal battles. The 50/50 split of marital property isn't a reality in most states, including Ohio.

Ohio instead employs an equitable distribution of property. Unlike “community property” states which enforce a 50/50 split, Ohio's equitable distribution divides property fairly and proportionately according to several different factors. This means that one divorcee could get a larger share of the property, should the court decide it's equitable.

These are the factors that the court may use to determine the equitable distribution of marital property:

  • How long the marriage lasted
  • Each spouse's assets (property) and liabilities (debts)
  • Whether the spouse with sole or majority custody of the children wants to stay in the family home—the court could award the family home to this spouse, if desirable.
  • The property's liquidity
  • Whether keeping an asset or an interest in an asset intact, i.e. not dividing a set of valuables, is economically desirable
  • The tax consequences related to the division of the property
  • If a property needs to be sold to be equitably divided, the costs of that sale must be considered
  • The division and distribution of property that a spouse voluntarily contributed to separation agreement
  • Whether a spouse has retirement benefits, excluding social security benefits
  • Other relevant and equitable factors

When Do I Need an Ohio Family Law Attorney?

Whether you need a family law attorney depends on a number of factors specific to your case. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Few couples need a lawyer to get married but attorneys may be required if there's a prenuptial agreement involved.

Individuals often benefit from hiring an attorney when dealing with divorce, child support, and especially child custody matters. Because emotions can run high during some divorces, hiring an attorney to negotiate and resolve difficult issues can be invaluable.

Many lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it may be worth your time to speak with an experienced Ohio family law attorney if you have additional questions.