The answer to the question seems simple. Everyone knows what a divorce is, right? Well… maybe not. In its simplest—but most legally technical—form, a divorce in the State of Ohio is an adversarial legal action between two individuals who are legally married, the purpose of which is to terminate their marriage contract.
The end product of a divorce is a court-issued document referred to as a Judgment Entry of Divorce (aka a Divorce Decree). The Judgment Entry of Divorce legally terminates the marriage and sets forth the final terms on all issues applicable to the particular matter, such as child custody, the division of marital property and, if appropriate, the award of spousal and child support. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, their case will be heard and decided by judges and magistrates, usually in the Domestic Relations Divisions of the relevant county’s Court of Common Pleas.
The Mechanics of a Divorce
The Complaint for Divorce
In order to commence a divorce proceeding, a spouse simply files a document with the Domestic Relations Court aptly referred to as a Complaint for Divorce. A Complaint for Divorce is usually a brief and standard filing, which merely sets forth certain information necessary to initiate the divorce action. It’s important to note that many times, a Complaint for Divorce will include requests which appear more contentious then they actually are. For example, many Complaints for Divorce will include requests for sole custody of the minor children, spousal support, child support and payment of his or her attorney fees. But to be clear, these are simply boilerplate requests made to preserve claims so that if they later become factually and legally appropriate, they will not be waived. They do not mean that the filing party is intending to be a hyper-aggressive litigant.
Request for Temporary Orders
In connection with the Complaint for Divorce, a party can also request, where appropriate, that the court issue various temporary orders during the pendency of the matter, such as temporary restraining orders, a temporary child support award, or a temporary spousal support award. The purpose of such orders is to maintain the status quo of the marriage while the divorce proceeding is pending.
The Answer and Counterclaim
After the Complaint for Divorce is filed with the court, it then must be served on the other spouse. Within a specified duration following service of the Complaint for Divorce, if the other spouse wants to contest the divorce proceeding, he or she must file an Answer to the Complaint for Divorce. In the Answer, the opposing spouse must simply admit or deny the various claims and information set forth in the Complaint for Divorce. In connection with the Answer, the opposing spouse also has the opportunity to file a Counterclaim for Divorce, which is, in essence, a counter-suit for divorce against the spouse who originally initiated the divorce action.
Once the opposing spouse files his or her Answer, the divorce action is considered contested. All that usually means is that the matter will proceed through the court. In that case, if the parties cannot reach a resolution on their own (or with the assistance or counsel), then the divorce action will go through the various stages of litigation.
During the litigation process, both parties are entitled to seek and obtain information from the other party. This process is generally referred to as discovery. This may include asking written questions, asking for documentation and even taking testimony under oath in the form of a deposition. The purpose of discovery is to obtain the necessary information for the parties and counsel to be able to make informed decisions about how to proceed with resolving the case – whether by agreement or at trial.
While every effort will be made to settle the divorce case, there are some cases that simply must be tried to the court. In Ohio, all domestic relations trials occur in front of a judge or magistrate. There is no jury. The judge or magistrate listens to testimony, makes evidentiary rulings and, ultimately, must prepare the Judgment Entry of Divorce. But as any experienced litigator will tell you, there is risk, both emotionally and economically, in seeing a divorce action through to trial. It’s simply a fact of life that there is no precise way to predict the outcome from a trial.
Divorce is never easy. If you go through it, you will spend a great deal of time battling the unknown (e.g. Where will I live? When will I see my kids? Will I have enough money to support myself and my children?). But KJK Family Law can help navigate you and your family through all issues regarding divorce and dissolution, including issues pertaining to child custody, division of property and child and spousal support. If you need assistance on these or other domestic relations matter, please contact John Ramsey at email@example.com or Janet Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (216) 696-8700.
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