In order to terminate a marriage in the State of Ohio via a divorce proceeding, the party seeking to terminate the marriage must meet certain requirements as to residence of the parties. By law, if a party is seeking a divorce from the other party in Ohio, one of the parties must have been a resident of the State of Ohio for more than six (6) months and a resident of a particular County for more than ninety (90) days preceding the filing of the Complaint for Divorce. By contrast, if the parties in a marriage seek to terminate their marriage by a dissolution proceeding, one of the parties must have been a resident of the State of Ohio for more than six (6) months before filing their Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. By statute, Ohio Revised Code (“ORC”) Section 3105.62 reflects the following language:
“One of the spouses in an action for dissolution of marriage shall have been a resident of the state for at least six months immediately before filing the petition. . . .”
The difference in the jurisdictional requirements for filing a Complaint for Divorce versus filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Ohio provides the affected parties with some “leeway” or “wiggle room” as to where to file their initial pleadings. Why would parties or their counsel “care” where the pleadings are filed? Does it make any difference to the parties as to which County ultimately “hears” the parties case or proceeding?
The answer to the latter question is “yes”……it does or can make a difference in the outcome of a case. I offer the following scenarios as examples:
Scenario #1: The clients want to have a particular parenting time schedule. They want to have shared parenting with each parent having 50/50 time with the child or children. Some of our Courts welcome shared parenting plans with each parent spending equal or nearly equal time with their offspring. However, some of our local Courts will not endorse a nearly equal division of time between Mother and Father believing that it doesn’t provide enough stability for the child(ren). Given a choice of whether to file in County A or County B, the attorney would select the County known to endorse a nearly 50/50 split or division of time.
Scenario #2: The clients are on a tight budget and want to do the dissolution proceeding for the least amount of money. If given a choice between Warren County and Montgomery County, it would be less expensive to my clients for us to file the dissolution pleadings in Montgomery County, as I can be in Court from my office in approximately fifteen (15) minutes. If I am to appear in Court in Warren County, Ohio, I have an approximate forty-five (45) to sixty (60) minute commute one way to get to and from Lebanon, Ohio, for the final hearing. As I have said and written before–time is money! It will be much more affordable for my clients to pay for a total of thirty (30) to forty (40) minutes of travel time versus one and a half (1.5) hours to two (2) hours of travel time.
Scenario #3: There may be some other issue involving child support, spousal support, division of property, etc., on which the parties place a great deal of importance for their particular situation. The attorney knowledgeable regarding the written and unwritten policies and philosophies of various courts can be of tremendous assistance to the parties in selecting a forum that will best meet the needs of the parties!
The Judges in the various counties view certain aspects of family law in very different ways. When there is child support to be paid, the Court by law retains continuing jurisdiction to modify it in the future if there is a significant change in circumstances. The same often holds true with spousal support. So it is important to look at both the immediate as well as future implications of which Court will be hearing your case. This nuance can be very important. Do not just assume that your dissolution case must be filed in the County of your residence!
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.