Few decisions are as challenging as deciding to end your marriage and go your separate ways. That choice becomes even more difficult when you have children together. Making a decision that will forever change your life, as well as the lives of your children, can be stressful and overwhelming. The last thing you want is to be part of a long, contentious legal battle with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, fighting over matters such as the division of property, child custody and support, and alimony. However, when you and your spouse can’t agree on these crucial issues, you may be left with no other option than to pursue a contested divorce.
A contested divorce is just as it sounds – a divorce in which one or both spouses contest or dispute the terms of their divorce. To ensure the best possible outcome in such a divorce, it is essential to hire an experienced contested divorce lawyer – one who will effectively advocate on your behalf and fight diligently to protect your and your children’s best interests.
Our skilled divorce attorneys at Slater & Zurz have over four decades of experience helping spouses navigate their divorces and obtain a resolution that is best for them and their families. We understand this chapter of your life is an extremely challenging one and want you to know that you can count on us to fight diligently to achieve the results you need.
If you have decided to end your marriage, we highly recommend contacting our office to schedule your free, confidential consultation. One of our attentive family law attorneys will listen to your situation, goals, and concerns, explain what you can expect during the process, and go over what legal options will likely yield the best results.
Grounds for Divorce in Ohio
Ohio law recognizes both fault and no-fault divorces. No-fault divorces are much more common because there isn’t a need to explain or prove to a judge why your marriage is ending. In most cases, a divorcing couple will pursue a no-fault divorce by citing incompatibility, meaning you and your spouse no longer get along. However, the process can be delayed if one spouse denies incompatibility. The second basis for a no-fault divorce in Ohio is living separately for at least one year without any interruption or cohabitation.
Ohio Revised Code 3105.01 sets forth the acceptable grounds for a fault-based divorce. If a spouse disagrees with the cited grounds for divorce, the other spouse will need to prove the grounds in court by presenting evidence and witness testimony. In Ohio, grounds for a fault-based divorce are as follows:
- Either party had a husband or wife living at the time of the marriage
- The adverse party was willfully absent for one year or more
- Extreme cruelty
- Fraudulent contract
- Any gross neglect of duty
- Habitual drunkenness
- The adverse party was imprisoned in a state or federal correctional institution at the time the complaint was filed
- The procurement of a divorce outside of Ohio by a husband or wife by which the party who procured it is released from the obligations of marriage, while the other party’s obligations remain
As previously stated, a spouse may be required to prove their position should the other spouse dispute them. However, providing proof does not mean that a spouse will be either punished or awarded a disproportionate share of the marital assets. Proving grounds for divorce solely allows for the successful termination of the marriage.
Steps in a Contested Divorce
Although uncontested divorces are easier, quicker, and less expensive, a couple will likely need to go through a contested divorce when they are unable to reach an agreement on the various matters relating to the termination of their marriage.
The process begins when a spouse files a divorce petition with the court. After the complaint is filed, the spouse must hire a neutral third party to hand-deliver it to the other spouse. Once he or she has been served, they will have a certain amount of time to answer or file a counter-complaint.
Once the divorce is officially initiated, the matter will typically enter the discovery phase, where spouses can formally request information from one another. During discovery, the parties must complete financial disclosures and provide supporting documentation. This allows both parties to have a clear and accurate picture of the assets and liabilities subject to the equitable distribution when the divorce is finalized. The financial disclosures will include information based on the following:
- Bank statements
- Mortgage statements
- Tax returns
- Retirement account statements
- Stocks or investment account statements
- Credit card statements
- Vehicle loan information or appraisal
- Business financial statements
The ultimate goal in a contested divorce is to turn it into an uncontested one. To resolve or minimize areas of conflict, mediation may be ordered by the court or voluntarily initiated by the spouses.
Mediation is a process in which both parties meet with a neutral third party to discuss and resolve some, if not all, of their divorce-related disagreements. Mediation is generally an effective way to resolve disputes without the costs and time associated with litigation. However, when issues remain unresolved after mediation, the couple may ultimately need a judge to decide the remaining matters on their behalf.
Contested divorces can take an especially long time to resolve. So, what happens in the meantime when spouses don’t agree on issues such as alimony and child custody and support? These issues can be resolved temporarily by requesting a temporary order from the judge. During a brief hearing, the judge will review the request, typically ask the parties a few questions, and issue his or her decision on the matter. Temporary orders in a divorce resolve issues, such as:
- Spousal support
- Child support
- Child custody and visitation
- Possession of marital assets, such as the family home or car
At any point during the contested divorce process, spouses can resolve their areas of conflict and reach a settlement agreement. However, when unresolved issues remain, the case will need to proceed to a divorce trial. As in other trials, both sides will explain their position, present evidence, and call witnesses. Once both sides present their case, the judge will create a final order to settle all divorce-related disputes. The document will then be filed, making the divorce final.
In most divorces, a judge will honor a custody agreement decided upon by the parents. However, if the spouses can’t reach an agreement, the court will consider the following factors:
- The parent’s desire to have child custody
- The child’s preference
- The mental and physical health of the parents
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s current personal and educational situation
Consult with an Ohio Contested Divorce Lawyer
At Slater & Zurz, we understand contested divorces and other family law disputes can prove to be some of the most difficult situations an individual can face. If you and your spouse have decided to go your separate ways, our attorneys are here to help.
During this time, you are likely experiencing significant stress and frustration. Our dedicated legal team can help alleviate that stress and frustration by guiding you through each step of the process while working diligently to find an amicable and beneficial resolution for you and your family. To get started, we welcome you to contact us to schedule your free consultation. We have offices located throughout Ohio, including Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus. Call 888.534.4850 today or fill out our online form.