The divorce process can take 4 to 12 months if you don't have children, or up to 2 years (or more) if you do have children. While this article will help you understand the process, you may want to consider getting a lawyer to help you.
If you're looking for information on a specific step in the divorce process, use the links below to jump to the step you need:
In order to get divorced in Montgomery County, you must meet these requirements:
- You or your spouse currently live in Montgomery County and have lived there for at least 90 days.
- You have lived in Ohio for at least 6 months.
- If you or your spouse are pregnant, you can't finalize the divorce until the baby is born.
You do not have to be legally separated before getting divorced.
If you and your spouse live in different counties, you can choose which county you file in. You can file in a county where you have lived for more than 90 days or the one where your spouse has lived more than 90 days.
In order to file, you must fill out detailed forms describing your income, expenses, what you own and any debts. You will need to think through your finances carefully to ensure that you complete these forms truthfully. Any information that's not accurate can make things more complicated later on in the divorce process. Learn how to get organized for a divorce.
Divorce is often a long process. To decide what happens while you wait for the divorce to be finalized, you can file "requests for temporary orders." These "temporary orders" can set out who will be responsible for important things in your life, like custody of your children or payment of debts, while you're waiting for the divorce to be final. See more about temporary orders.
To find and complete the divorce forms for Montgomery County, go to:
- Once forms are completed, print them. You can print your forms at:
- Any Dayton Public Library Branch for 10 cents per page
- Montgomery County Law Library for 20 cents per page (the Law Library only accepts cash or a check as payment)
- After you print your forms, you will need to sign your documents in front of a notary. You can find a notary by searching on your browser for “a notary near me.” You can also wait to sign your papers until you get to the Court. The Court has staff who can notarize your forms for you.
- Drop off your completed, signed and notarized forms at the Court Navigator's Office. The Navigator's Office is in Room 222. To find the Navigator’s Office, get off the elevator on the second floor and go around the corner to the right. The Navigator’s Office is the second window past the Sheriff, in front of the stairs. There is a bin for drop off and pick up.
- The Compliance Office will contact you after their review is complete. They will tell you if you need to make changes to your forms. Note: They usually contact you by phone, so make sure they have your correct phone number. If you need to make edits to your forms, they may ask you to come in to make the changes or may send you a letter describing the changes you need to make.
- If you need to make edits to your forms, read the letter from Compliance carefully and make the requested changes. Compliance allows you to make the edits directly on to the printed document by using white out and writing in blue ink the updated response or filling in ink a missing response. Do not cross out anything already on your forms, you must use white out to make corrections. You can also log back in to your MCDRC account and make the changes online and reprint your packet.
- After you make your changes, drop off your forms for review at the Compliance Office in Room 261 in the Courthouse. If you need to resign and notarize your forms, the Court has staff who can notarize your forms for you.
- Once your forms are approved for filing, you will get a call from the Compliance Office. Your forms will be available for pick up in the “pick up” bin at the Compliance Office.
- If you have questions, you can contact the Compliance Office at (937) 225-4782.
- When you pick up your forms, the Compliance staff will give you log-in information and direct you to a computer kiosk next to the Compliance Office. You will log-in and enter the basic case information into the Court’s computer system. This case information will be included in your printed packet of forms on the form named “Primary Party Questionnaire.” Please refer to the Questionnaire as you enter your information into the system.
- Once you have submitted your Primary Party Questionnaire on the Court’s computer, take your forms to the Clerk of Court’s Office. The Clerk of Court’s Office is located on the first floor in Room 104 of the Common Pleas Court Building, at 41 N. Perry Street. The Domestic Relations Court is connected to the Common Pleas Court Building through an indoor walkway, so you do not need to walk outside to get to the Clerk of Court’s Office.
- Give the clerk your forms to file.
You have to pay a fee to file for divorce — $475 for a divorce with children or $375 for a divorce without children. If you have a low income and can’t afford the filing fee, you can choose to add a Poverty Affidavit to create an additional form to file with your packet of documents. This form asks that you be allowed to file without paying a fee upfront. You may still be responsible for paying the fee at the end of the case.
The Court has to tell your spouse that you have filed for divorce. This is called “serving” divorce papers. One of the forms that you will have to fill out asks you how you want the forms to be served. The preferred method in Montgomery County is “Service by Clerk,” which means the Clerk of Courts will send your spouse the papers via FedEx. You will need to check back with the clerk to make sure that your spouse got the papers. See more about “serving” divorce papers.
If you asked for temporary orders, your spouse will get 14 days to file their own documents to either agree or disagree. If your spouse doesn't respond in that time, the Court will issue the temporary orders that it approves.
If your spouse responds in time and asks for something different, the Court will schedule a hearing to discuss the temporary orders and make a decision on what the temporary orders should be. This hearing is usually held about 4 to 6 weeks after you file the paperwork. You must attend the hearing.
Once the Court decides on the temporary orders, you need to do what they say until your divorce is finalized.
Once your spouse has been served with your divorce “complaint” – the formal document where you ask for a divorce, your spouse will have 28 days to file their own response. This response is called an “answer.” Your spouse also may file a “counterclaim” to ask for something else in the divorce.
If your spouse files an answer in time, it means your case is “contested,” or challenged. The Court will set a meeting called a pre-trial hearing about 30 to 45 days after your spouse was served. The Court’s Assignment Office will contact you about the time and location of your hearing. You must attend the hearing. If you can’t make it to a hearing, you can file a Motion for Continuance to ask the Court to reschedule it.
If your spouse doesn’t file an answer, then the case is “uncontested,” or not challenged, and the Court will set a final hearing about 6 weeks after your spouse was served with your divorce papers.
A pre-trial hearing is where you and your spouse discuss the terms of the divorce. The Court may ask you to work with a mediator to come to an agreement. Prepare for this meeting by bringing information about your income, expenses, property and debts.
In the pre-trial hearing, you will tell the Judge what you and your spouse agree on and what you don't. The Judge may ask for more information so they can make a fair decision. If you and your spouse can agree on all the terms of the divorce at your pre-trial hearing, you may be able to submit your finished plan to the Court. If the Judge agrees with your plan and thinks that you have given all the information they need, you may be able to finalize your divorce right away.
You must either agree on or prove the "grounds," or reason, for your divorce during the pre-trial hearing. Couples can agree that they are “incompatible,” which means you no longer get along. If your spouse does not attend the hearing, does not agree that you're "incompatible" or if your grounds for your divorce are something other than "incompatibility," you may need to do more. You will need to call witnesses and present evidence to support your reason for divorce.
You may have to exchange information with your spouse in a process called “discovery.” This may include answering written questions, answering questions in front of a court reporter or giving documents like tax returns or bank account information. Be sure to follow any requests for discovery; otherwise you could get in trouble with the Court.
If you can't agree on everything, the Court will tell you when your next hearing will be. The number of hearings in your divorce will depend on how many issues you and your spouse cannot agree on and how long it takes you to come to agreement.
If you and your spouse have minor children together, you will need to complete a seminar called “Helping Children Succeed after Divorce.” The Court will send you an Order if this is required in your case. When you get the order, you can register for seminar on the Court’s website or contact the Parent Education Department if you have any questions or special needs. You won’t be able to have your divorce finalized until you attend the seminar.
At least 21 days before your final hearing, you must submit a “Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce” that says what you and your spouse have decided. You can use this form for a divorce with children or you can use this form for a divorce without children.
You can find step-by-step instructions on how to fill out and submit the final decree in articles on this site:
Submit your completed packet of forms to the Court’s Compliance Office for review. Bring your packet in person to Room 261 in the Courthouse.
If you don’t submit this form, your case could be dismissed. If you have an agreement that you reached in mediation, attach that agreement to your form.
The Compliance Office will contact you after the review is complete. They will tell you if you need to make changes to your forms. Note: They usually will contact you by phone, so make sure they have your correct phone number. Follow their instructions and make any changes they tell you to make.
Once your decree is ready for submission, the Compliance Office will submit it to the Judge.
Bring your prepared Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce to the final hearing. Dress professionally for the hearing. Don’t wear shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, halter tops or other clothing that could seem unprofessional.
If you and your spouse have agreed on all the issues, the Judge will read your written agreement and confirm it is acceptable under Ohio law. The Judge will then approve it and sign it.
If you and your spouse have not agreed, the Judge may say that they need time to review all the evidence and make a decision based on Ohio law. The Judge will end the hearing and issue a written decision later. The Judge is responsible for making sure there is a fair agreement for all the issues involved in ending the marriage, including child custody, support, property, debts and more.
Your divorce is not finalized until the Judge has signed the “Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce” and it is filed with the Court. This is usually filed automatically after the Judge approves the divorce. The Court will also mail a copy to you.