Grisi & Budde’s Roadmap for Ohio Divorce
Table of Contents:
- First Steps: Gather Your Financial Documents
- Meeting & Hiring an Attorney
- Prepare the Personal Affidavits
- The Parties in the Divorce Case
- Filing the Complaint for Divorce and Motion for Temporary Orders
- Mutual Restraining Order
- The Answer (28 Days after service)
- Temporary Hearing (30-60 days after filing)
- Discovery Requests & Depositions (3-9 months after filing)
- Final Pretrial / Settlement Conference
- Divorce Trial (9-24 months after filing)
- Post-Decree – Appeal (30 day deadline)
- Post-Decree Wrap-up
First Steps: Gather Your Financial Documents
Financial documents are the backbone of the division of assets portion of your divorce case. Tax returns, bank statements, mortgages, etc. are all going to be needed. So the first step is to collect as many of these documents as you can so you will have them in the future (and before your spouse can remove them from the house to give to his or her divorce lawyer)
You can view our complete list of documents to gather at this link.
Meet and Hire Your Divorce Lawyer
Whether this is a consultation or a full intake meeting, this is your opportunity to meet with your attorney and tell your story.
Your attorney will review the financial documents you have collected. the attorney can give you an opinion regarding how your assets and debts will likely be divided, what your spousal or child support will look like, and what your visitation schedule is likely to be.
After this meeting, you should feel comfortable that your attorney is a right fit for you, that he or she will be able to guide you and inform you through this process, and “has your back” regarding your case.
Once you know what attorney you want to hire, you will submit a retainer, which is a deposit to the attorney to pay for his or her future fees in your case.
Prepare the Personal Affidavits
There are financial disclosure affidavits that you will be required to complete and that require your notarized signature. You should complete these as soon as you can and return them to your attorney. If there are minor children involved, there are additional parenting affidavits that will need to be completed.
Once completed, you will return these affidavits to your attorney to be filed along with your Complaint for Divorce.
Your attorney will provide you with the affidavits and forms required for your county, or you can download the statewide forms from the Ohio Supreme Court at this link.
The Parties in the Divorce Case
A divorce case is a lawsuit. In most divorces there are just the two parties – each of the spouses. Whoever files first will be the Plaintiff, and the other party will be the Defendant. Ohio is what is known as “no-fault” state, so it generally does not make any difference which party files first.
In more complicated divorces, there will be additional parties to the case, known as “Third Party Defendants.” For example, if one spouse owns a business, that business is often named as a third party defendant. For high income earners with complex executive compensation packages, that party’s company may be named in order to restrain distributions of bonuses, stock options, or other income. Sometimes banks or retirement plans are named as third party defendants to restrain access to or distribution from those accounts.
Filing the Complaint for Divorce and Motion for Temporary Orders
Your attorney will prepare the Complaint for Divorce and file it with the completed personal affidavits. If you are seeking temporary orders, such as a temporary child support or spousal support order, or a motion for exclusive use of the residence, your attorney will also file these motions at this time.
After filing, your spouse will be served with the divorce papers by process server, certified mail, or Fed Ex.
Mutual Restraining Order
Once the case is filed, most courts in Ohio will automatically issue a Mutual Restraining Order, which applies to both parties. The Mutual Restraining Orders differ from county to county, but generally, the orders prohibit the parties from dissipating or disposing of marital assets, from harassing each other or the children, from canceling insurance policies that affect either party, and from changing beneficiaries on life insurance policies or their Last Will & Testament.
Once issued, be sure to read your Mutual Restraining Order carefully and be sure to follow Order to avoid allegations of contempt.
The Answer (28 days after service)
The Defendant (the party who did not file first) will have 28 days to file an Answer to the complaint for divorce after they are served. Typically, the answer will also contain a Counterclaim for Divorce. The Counterclaim is the Defendant suing the Plaintiff for divorce (so now both parties are suing each other).
Temporary Hearing & Orders (30-60 days after filing)
If either party requests a temporary order, the court will schedule a “Temporary Hearing” to receive information about what the temporary orders should look like. Some courts do not hold a hearing, and instead make a determination based upon documentation submitted to the court. Other courts have a hearing to receive statements of counsel to determine the appropriate Temporary Orders.
The purpose of the Temporary Hearing is to establish a parenting schedule, living arrangements, assign responsibilities for expenses, and to establish temporary child support and temporary spousal support to be in place while the case is pending (cases last from 9-12 months).
The court will issue the Temporary Orders (often called “Temp Orders”) a few weeks after the hearing. It is important to note the the criteria the court uses to set temporary support orders is NOT the same as the criteria used to establish permanent, long-term support orders at the end of the case.
Discovery Requests & Depositions (3-9 months after filing)
During the discovery phase, each party will issue written Request for Production of Documents and written Interrogatories to the other party to gather financial information and other information relevant to the case. The Interrogatories are written questions that will be answered under oath.
During this phase, the parties will often issue subpoenas to banks, employers, and other institutions to obtain records and other documents that will be used as evidence at trial.
Also during this phase, the deposition of the parties and important witnesses may be taken. During a deposition, a party is sworn in and is asked questions under oath, similar to being on the stand during a trial. The answers are recorded by a court reporter, and a transcript will be available. Attorneys use a deposition to determine how each party will answer questions at trial, and to ask questions to investigate issues and discover more about the issues in the case.
Final Pretrial / Settlement Conference
About a month before the trial date, the Court will schedule another pretrial conference. Some courts treat this as a settlement conference. The purpose of this hearing is to allow the court to review what issues remain unresolved for trial and discuss those issues with the attorneys and the parties.
Divorce Trial (9 – 24 months after filing)
If the parties do not settle all issues prior to the final hearing date, there will be a trial, and the court will ultimately decide all of the remaining issues.
At trial, both parties will testify and documentary evidence will presented to the court. Other witnesses may be called as well, as necessary. Third party witnesses typically include experts (appraisers or psychologists), the Guardian Ad Litem if there is one, and sometimes police officers, family members, or teachers.
Documentary evidence typically includes tax returns, paystubs, employment information, bank statements, retirement account statements, appraisal reports, real estate purchase documents, mortgage documents, expense receipts, report cards, the Guardian Ad Litem report, etc.
After all the evidence has been presented to the court, the judge will issue a written decision on all remaining issues, called a Final Judgment Entry: Decree of Divorce.
The issues that the Court will rule on in the Divorce Decree are:
- A determination of what property is marital and what is separate;
- A determination of the value of assets, if the value is in dispute;
- A division of the marital property between the parties;
- Allocation of marital debt between the parties.
- Spousal support, if necessary;
- If minor children are involved:
- Custody and residential parent status;
- Custody and residential parent status;
- Child support.
Post-Decree – Appeal (30 day deadline)
Either party may appeal all or part of a judge’s ruling by filing an appeal within 30 days of the date the judgment is issued.
In an appeal, both parties issue written appellate briefs arguing their position as to why the judge was right or wrong in its decision. After the written briefs are submitted, both parties will attend oral arguments before the appellate court to argue their position. Typically, the appeal process takes about 9 months from the filing of the notice of appeal through the date the appellate court makes a decision. The appellate court can affirm (approve) the trial court’s judgment, or it can reverse the trial court and send it back to the trial court for further proceedings.
Post Decree Wrap-up
After the Divorce Decree is issued, there are usually a few more steps to complete the divorce case. If child support is ordered, the parties will have to establish automatic payments through the Child Support Enforcement Agency. Retirement accounts and pension plans will need to be divided, usually through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) or a Division of Property Order (DOPO). If there is real estate that needs to be sold, it will be done during this phase.
Additionally, if either of the parties are not complying with the terms of the Divorce Decree (failure to pay support, failure to sell the house, etc.), the non-complying party may find themselves in contempt of court and subject to penalties for non-compliance.
Finally, modification of support or the parenting time schedule may be required post-decree if either parties’ circumstances change significantly, such as losing a job, starting a new job, getting a pay raise, or significant changes in monthly expenses such as health insurance or child care costs.