Frequently Asked Divorce Questions

How long does divorce take in Ohio?

The length of a divorce proceeding depends on the type of divorce being pursued, and how agreeable the spouses are.  The fastest route is a dissolution of marriage.  Dissolutions require fully cooperative spouses, and can be finalized about 30 days after court filing.  The longest route is likely a contested divorce, which might not be resolved for years.

These time-frames are from filing date to court decree.  If a spouse wishes to modify the divorce decree (or appeal it), the spouses will find themselves in court again.  In this way, some divorces have several rounds, especially those involving child custody or property division disputes.

What type of divorce is right for me?

The divorce procedure you select should give your marriage the most efficient path to termination.   Many attorneys suggest starting with a dissolution, which may end the marriage on good terms with a grand bargain.   If the spouses cannot agree to a dissolution, mediation may help them find agreeable ground.  If the spouses still can’t agree, your attorney may suggest converting the dissolution to a divorce.  This way, the divorce is nudged along by court imposed deadlines.

Divorce, like relationships,  are dynamic.  Be prepared for the process to change.

How much does divorce cost?

The cost of a divorce proceeding depends primarily on how long it lasts.  Short, inexpensive divorces require cooperative spouses and will likely cost a few thousand dollars.  Long, expensive divorces involve angry spouses who disagree on custody allocation, property division, or spousal support.  These divorces can cost tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes more.

What costs are involved in a simple divorce?

Simple divorces involve court costs and – unless you proceed without an attorney – attorney fees.  Court costs are fixed and unavoidable. Attorneys often request a deposit of a few thousand dollars, called a retainer.  The lawyer sets aside the retainer, and draws their hourly fee from that amount.  If the divorce concludes, and the retainer has not been exhausted,  the balance is typically returned to the client. Ask your attorney for an engagement letter, which will detail their fees.

In some circumstances, a judge will require one spouse to pay the other’s attorney fees.

What costs are involved in a long divorce?

Complex divorces involve court costs, attorneys fees, and possibly many others.  Custody disputes can incur guardian ad litem fees.  Property division disputes can require lengthy negotiation. Spousal support may also require lengthy negotiation.  Business interests may need valued.  Retirement accounts (IRA’s, or 401k’s) may need divided.  The court, or a spouse may request mediation to help resolve any of these disputes.

Are flat rates available?

Flat rates may be available for those pursuing a dissolution, or other circumstances where the divorce’s length is very predictable. Ask your attorney if a flat rate is suitable for your divorce.

What happens to my property in a divorce?

Your property will first be classified as either marital property or separate property.  Separate property will be kept by its owner.  Marital property will be divided between the spouses according to Ohio law.  Ohio law requires the division of marital property to be “equitable.”

What’s the difference between spousal support and alimony?

Spousal support means a support payment made by one spouse to another, regardless of their gender.  Alimony refers specifically to payments paid by the husband to the wife.

Will I have to pay spousal support?

Yes, if the court thinks it’s appropriate and reasonable for you to pay spousal support.

In deciding if it’s appropriate and reasonable for a spouse to pay spousal support, the court weighs all of the following factors, which have been paraphrased from Ohio law:

  • The income of the parties, from all sources, including property obtained from a divorce decree;
  • The relative earning abilities of the parties;
  • The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the parties;
  • The retirement benefits of the parties;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The extent to which it would be inappropriate for a party to seek employment outside the home because that party will be custodian of a minor child of the marriage;
  • The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
  • The relative extent of education of the parties;
  • The relative assets and liabilities of the parties, including but not limited to any court-ordered payments by the parties;
  • The contribution of each party to the education, training, or earning ability of the other party, including, but not limited to, any party’s contribution to a spouse’s obtaining a professional degree;
  • The time and expense necessary for the spouse seeking spousal support to obtain skills necessary to obtain appropriate employment;
  • The tax consequences, for each party, of an award of spousal support;
  • The lost income production capacity of either party resulting from that party’s marital responsibilities;
  • Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable;

Note: this underlined provision gives judges broad authority to look beyond the points bulleted above.  

Will I receive spousal support?

You will receive spousal support if the court finds it reasonable and appropriate for your spouse to pay it.  See the paragraph immediately above.

Will I have to go to court?

Yes, both spouses must appear in court for either a dissolution or a divorce.  Dissolutions typically require the spouses appear in court only once. Depending on the nature of your divorce, spouses may find themselves in court more regularly.

How do I get my maiden name back?  (How do I get my old last name back?)

Your attorney must include this request in the relevant court filings. The court generally grants it freely. If you forget to ask for this provision before the divorce is finalized, there are other methods of changing your name.

Do I need an attorney for my dissolution or divorce?

Yes. Your attorney not only contributes legal knowledge, but also procedural tactics, and negotiating skills. Attorneys also provide their clients with objective, practical advice in an otherwise very emotionally difficult period.

Can I obtain a divorce by myself?

Yes, though you may be at a significant disadvantage, especially if your spouse has retained an attorney. See the paragraph immediately above.