In the past, Domestic Relations Courts required married couples seeking divorce to provide a reason for ending their marriages. This reason was a legal basis, or grounds, for legally terminating a marriage and would require one party to prove the other did something wrong.
Today, things are different. All states, including Ohio, now recognize some form of no-fault divorce. This means spouses can now allege that they are incompatible rather than stating that their spouse is at fault in order to end their marriage.
Although many divorcing spouses opt for no-fault divorces, Ohio law still allows for fault-based divorce. Our attorneys at Grossman Law Offices explain no-fault and fault-based grounds for divorce below, and how a finding of fault may or may not factor into a divorce case and related proceedings.
No-Fault Divorce in Ohio
Ohio recognized both fault- and no-fault grounds for divorce.
Incompatibility, which means you and your spouse no longer get along, is the no-fault basis for divorce in Ohio.
In many cases, citing incompatibility is reason enough for the court to grant a divorce. However, it is possible for your spouse to prevent or delay a divorce by arguing you are not actually incompatible. If one spouse denies incompatibility, the spouse would have to prove to the court that they are incompatible.
Though this may seem like an unlikely scenario, it is a reason why many people choose to cite other grounds in addition to incompatibility. One of the most common involves living apart:
- Spouses have lived separate and apart for 1 year: Spouses can get a divorce in Ohio if they have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for at least one year. You can prove you have met separation period requirements by showing you and your spouse maintained separate homes.
Fault-Based Divorce Grounds
Section 3105.01 of the Ohio Revised Code outlines all acceptable grounds for in Ohio. In addition to incompatibility and living separate and apart for more than one year, there are nine distinct fault-based grounds recognized by statute.
If you choose to include a fault-based grounds for your divorce, you should know it can create the potential for dispute. If your spouse disagrees with the grounds you’ve chosen, it will be your burden to prove them in court through the use of witness testimony and evidence. However, in almost every case, the parties ultimately agree that they are incompatible.
(A) Either party had a husband or wife living at the time of the marriage from which the divorce is sought;
(B) Willful absence of the adverse party for one year;
(D) Extreme cruelty;
(E) Fraudulent contract;
(F) Any gross neglect of duty;
(G) Habitual drunkenness;
(H) Imprisonment of the adverse party in a state or federal correctional institution at the time of filing the complaint;
(I) Procurement of a divorce outside this state, by a husband or wife, by virtue of which the party who procured it is released from the obligations of the marriage, while those obligations remain binding upon the other party. How Will Grounds or Fault Affect a Divorce?
Choosing a fault-based divorce can require a spouse to prove their grounds should the other party raise a dispute, but it generally will not result in either spouse being “punished” or awarded a disproportionate share of assets simply based on how they contributed to the end of a marriage. The remedy awarded by the court for marital misconduct is to terminate the marriage.
However, Domestic Relations courts do have discretion in how they decide important aspects of a case, and can consider many factors in their determinations. For example:
- Evidence of abusive behavior, domestic violence, criminal convictions, and extreme cruelty can be considered by the court when issuing temporary orders or making determinations about the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, including parenting time and decision-making authority.
- Evidence of financial misconduct can factor into decisions regarding property division and the equitable distribution of assets and debts, especially if it concerns a spouse concealing marital property.
- Courts can consider the behavior of either party during the divorce, including refusals to follow court orders, when enforcing orders or making determinations.
How an Attorney Can Help
Most divorces are no-fault divorces filed by spouses who are incompatible and wish to equitably divide assets and debts and designate a legal custodian for any minor children. However, that does not mean they are without risks or the potential for dispute and unfavorable outcomes.
Whether a divorce is based on incompatibility or fault, working with legal representation can ensure you have advocates in your corner who can help you understand your rights, options, and how to best navigate your legal journey.
At Grossman Law Offices, our nationally recognized legal team includes four Ohio State Bar Association Board-Certified Family Law Specialists who care deeply about helping clients protect their rights and futures. If you have questions about divorce and how we can help, contact us to speak with an attorney.