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Divorce, Dissolution or Legal Separation

You have three main options if you want to end your marriage: dissolution, divorce or legal separation. Learn the differences between them and decide what option is best for you.

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Understanding the Basics

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There are two main ways to legally end a marriage in Ohio: dissolution and divorce. Both will end up with the same result: you are no longer married. The difference is in the process. A dissolution requires you and your spouse to agree on everything before you file. With a divorce, a Judge will make decisions about ending the marriage if you cannot agree with your spouse. 

You do not have to be legally separated before you file for divorce. 

Dissolution 

A dissolution is sometimes called an "uncontested" way to end your marriage. You and your spouse need to agree on all parts of what will happen after the marriage ends—custody and visitation of children, child support, spousal support, dividing up your property and debts and anything else. You will both need to show up for a hearing. 

A dissolution is faster and may be less expensive than divorce. You can end your marriage in about one to three months after filing. However, if you and your spouse start to disagree about any of the terms after you file, the Judge may ask you to start the process over with a new dissolution or change your current case into a divorce.

Learn more about the process for dissolution and how to start completing the forms.

Divorce

Divorce is the most common way to legally end a marriage. It takes longer than a dissolution—usually between 4 to 12 months after filing. You and your spouse do not have to work out the terms of the divorce before filing. 

The Judge will decide anything that you and your spouse can't agree on based on the information that you both give the Court.

If you and your spouse disagree, you may have to show your side of the story at a court hearing. This can be complicated. In a divorce, it can be very useful to have a lawyer. 

Learn about the process for divorce. Or, start the process to:

Legal Separation

Legal separation does not legally end your marriage. It just allows you and your spouse to put legal agreements in place about how you will handle no longer living together. 

Some people choose legal separation because they don't want to divorce for religious or other reasons. You do not have to be legally separated before you file for divorce. 

The process and forms for legal separation are very similar to the process and forms for getting a divorce. You will need to make all the same kinds of decisions and agreements that go into finalizing a divorce. This will include dividing your property and debts, determining child support and spousal support, and child custody. After you complete this multi-step process, you will still be married.

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