GENERAL OVERVIEW OF YOUR BUTLER COUNTY DISSOLUTION, DIVORCE, OR LEGAL SEPARATION
DISSOLUTION: If both spouses wish to end the marriage, and agree to the disposition of ALL issues of the marriage, they may seek a Dissolution of Marriage.
- The spouses file a Petition for Dissolution, along with a Separation Agreement, which address all issues of the marriage. BOTH spouses must agree on ALL issues. They must have exchanged affidavits of income, expense, and property, sworn under oath, so that both spouses are aware of all assets, debt and income of the other spouse.
- If there are minor children, one of the parents is designated legal custodian and residential parent in the Separation Agreement or, if the parents intend to share the parenting rights and responsibilities and both be legal custodians for the child(ren), they may submit an agreed Shared Parenting Plan.
- The final hearing is scheduled no less than 30 days and no more than 90 days from the date the Petition is filed. This timetable required by law. Both spouses MUST appear for the final hearing.
- Prior to the final hearing, the spouses must submit an approved and signed Decree to the Court, which adopts the Separation Agreement. The Decree will be filed with the Clerk of Courts after the final hearing; the spouses’ marriage will be dissolved upon filing.
DIVORCE: If the spouses cannot agree on all issues, but one of the spouses wishes to end the marriage, they must sue the other spouse by filing a Complaint for Divorce with the Clerk of Courts. A Divorce is similar to any other lawsuit in many ways.
- The Plaintiff (the spouse wishing to end the marriage), submits a Complaint for Divorce to the Domestic Relations Court Case Management Section for approval for form. The Complaint includes motions for temporary orders, which must be supported by a sworn affidavit. This includes temporary orders regarding any minor children.
- Service must be perfected on the other spouse (ie: the must receive a copy of the Complaint and any temporary orders or motions filed with the Complaint). The service must be by personal service by someone not related to the case in any way, by certified mail, or by other means listed in the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure.
- Once they are served, the Defendant (the other spouse) must file an Answer to the Complaint within 28 days of the time they are served (not the date the Complaint was filed). This is because the Defendant is entitled to know that they are being served, and have an opportunity to be heard by the Court.
- If the Defendant DOES NOT file an Answer or respond within 28 days after service, the Court will set a “default hearing”, or “uncontested divorce hearing”. The Plaintiff must prepare a Decree that resolves all issues of the marriage (including parenting of any children) and is consistent with the law and the Court’s Local Rules, submit the Decree to the Court for approval, and mail a copy of the Decree to the Defendant at the address where they were served at least 14 days before the default hearing.
- The Plaintiff must bring a witness to the default hearing to testify on their behalf for the divorce.
- If the Defendant (other spouse) FILES an Answer, the Court sets the matter for a SCHEDULING CONFERENCE two to three weeks after the Answer is filed. This date can vary depending on the Court’s available docket time and the parties’ and/or attorneys’ schedules.
- The SCHEDULING CONFERENCE is the opportunity for the Court to meet with the parties (spouses) and/or their attorneys, and review any issues involved in that particular case, to set deadlines for the exchange of documents and evidence, including the affidavits of income, expenses, and property, and to order the parties and their attorneys to conduct a SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE to try to resolve most or all of the issues that are not agreed. The Court also schedules a PRETRIAL, which is a report back to the Court.
The Settlement Conference is not your final hearing. Evidence will not be taken at this hearing. Scheduling conferences are procedural, and only take about 15 minutes.
- COMPLETION OF DISCOVERY – Discovery is a legal term that means there are no secrets in divorce cases. All issues surrounding custody and support of children, support of the other spouse (including income), all assets and debts held by either party during the marriage, and the nature of those assets must be disclosed through discovery.
- SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE- This is ordered at the Scheduling Conference, and is a meeting between one spouse and their attorney (if they have one) and the other spouse and their attorney (if they have one), and is usually conducted after discovery is completed.
The goal of the Settlement Conference is to settle all or some of the issues in the divorce. The Settlement Conference typically occurs at an attorney’s office (if attorneys are involved), but can occur at any mutually agreeable place.
- PRE-TRIAL – The parties and/or attorneys report back to the Court to inform the Court of any agreements, unresolved issues, including the failure of either party to comply with discovery or complete the required affidavits of income, expenses and property.
- The Pretrial may be used as a final hearing if all issues are resolved at the Settlement Conference. If all issues are not resolved, the Court sets the case for final hearing, or trial. Testimony and other evidence are not presented at the Pretrial unless all matters are resolved by agreement and the agreement is reduced to writing.
- If the parties have minor children, or agree on all issues, they must appear at the Pretrial.
- THERE MAY BE ISSUES IN YOUR CASE WHICH REQUIRE ADDITIONAL HEARINGS AND TEMPORARY ORDERS PRIOR TO THE TRIAL/FINAL HEARING.
- TRIAL – This is the final hearing. The parties present evidence on all issues which are not agreed. The evidence includes testimony of the parties, and any experts or other witnesses. The parties must appear at the final hearing, and be prepared to present exhibits and testimony. Even if not represented by an attorney, the parties are responsible for knowing how to present evidence according to the law and all state and local rules.
- DECISION ON UNRESOLVED ISSUES - The Judge will issue a written Decision on all litigated issues, typically within 30 days of the final hearing. The Decision will include a deadline, referred to as a SHOW CAUSE hearing, for a Decree to be approved and filed that includes any agreements of the parties, as well as the Decision of the Court on any unresolved issues.
- DECREE OF DIVORCE – This is the final Divorce paperwork, and is the full body of all agreements of the parties and/or final orders from the Court regarding all property, support, and parenting issues, as applicable. The Decree must be prepared in accordance with state law and Local Rules.
- FOR WOMEN: If you wish to be restored to a former name, that change must be included in the Decree of Divorce or Dissolution, and expressed at the final hearing. The Decree will serve as the documentation necessary to effectuate your name change.
LEGAL SEPARATION: The procedure for Legal Separation is similar to the procedure for Divorce, but the Complaint is for Legal Separation rather than Divorce. In a Legal Separation, the assets, debts, and other issues of the marriage are resolved by agreement or Court’s Decision after trial, but the parties remain legally married.
DISCLAIMER: THIS DOCUMENT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. THIS IS A GENERAL OVERVIEW OF TYPICAL EVENTS IN A DIVORCE PROCEEDING. IT IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY REGARDING PROCEDURE. YOU SHOULD CONSULT AN ATTORNEY FOR LEGAL ADVICE REGARDING YOUR DISSOLUTION, DIVORCE, OR LEGAL SEPARATION, AND ISSUES WHICH MAY BE SPECIFIC TO YOUR CASE.