By Robert L. Mues   |   February 8th, 2020

Everything You Need To Know About Legal Separation In Ohio [But Were Afraid To Ask!]

legal separation divorce court orderEnding a relationship can be frustrating. Likewise, understanding the process involved can be confusing. In Ohio, there are only three ways legally to terminate a marriage: divorce, dissolution, and annulment. While those three ways are the only methods to terminate a marriage legally, a couple can also seek what is known as a “legal separation.”

What is a legal separation?

Black’s Law Dictionary  defines separation as “an arrangement whereby a husband and wife live apart from each other while remaining married, either by mutual consent (often in a written agreement) or by judicial decree.” A legal separation involves a court order where the spouses remain married but live separately. The court order allows the court to issue orders concerning division of property, spousal support, and visitation and custody when there are minor children involved. With a legal separation, unlike a divorce or dissolution, the marriage is still intact.

How do I get a legal separation?

A common misunderstanding is that individuals can simply declare they are separated and do not need to file anything in court when they wish to pursue a legal separation. Though understandable, this is not the case.

In Ohio, the grounds for filing for a legal separation are governed by Ohio Revised Code § 3105.17. To initiate a legal separation in Ohio, either party to the marriage must file a complaint for legal separation. The complaint must allege one or more of ten grounds for why the separation should occur, which can include, but is not limited to, adultery, incompatibility, extreme cruelty, and/or habitual drunkenness.

However, the filing of a complaint for legal separation by one party does not bar the other party from filing a complaint or counterclaim for, and potentially obtaining, a divorce or annulment.

Divorce vs Legal Separation: What’s the difference?

The main difference between a legal separation and a divorce is the effect on the marriage. A legal separation leaves the marriage intact, while a divorce ends the marriage. Additionally, the couple must reside in Ohio for at least 6 months before they can file for divorce or dissolution. This residency requirement is not required to file for legal separation. Another difference is the “un-do” process. With a legal separation, the couple can reverse their legal separation, but generally with a divorce, the final divorce decree is what it says: final.

Despite these key differences, there are several similarities. For example, the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure apply in both actions for divorce and legal separation. Additionally, issues addressed during a legal separation and a divorce proceeding are relatively similar. The couple takes very similar action to if they were to file for a divorce when they file for a legal separation.

When would you want a legal separation?

It is important to note that, in the eyes of the law, the marriage is not legally terminated. As such, a legal separation can end up costing you more time and money if you later decide to file for divorce.

For example, since the marriage is still intact, a legal separation does not allow a spouse to remarry because the previous marriage has not ended. A legal separation would not be ideal for a couple who know they will want to remarry because there is little to no chance of reconciliation with their current spouse.

Below is a list of examples of when a legal separation may be preferable:

  • Spouses who believe there is a chance for reconciliation but wish to live apart from each other at the moment. Why is it ideal? The “un-do” process for a legal separation is easier!
  • For spouses with personal or religious beliefs that may cause them to want to keep the marriage intact.
  • For spouses who want to live separate and apart from each other, but also want an enforceable court order to protect their rights and define their obligations.
  • Unlike with a divorce, spouses may still be entitled to certain benefits.
  • For spouses who want to keep the marriage intact while they figure out what they really want.
  • If spouses are not yet eligible to file for a divorce, but still want an enforceable court order. What is an example of not being eligible to file for divorce? If the 6-month residency requirement in Ohio is not met yet!

Deciding what is best for you and your family are hard decisions to make. Fully discussing your options with an experienced family law attorney will help you determine what is best for your situation. The attorneys at Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues are dedicated to helping each client determine what is the “best” decision for him or her! Contact our office at 937 293-2141 to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our dedicated divorce attorneys today!

PUBLISHERS NOTE: I want to thank Ashlyn O’Brien, a third-year law student at the University of Dayton School of Law, for all of her assistance in drafting this blog article. Excellent job Ashlyn!

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog. Mr. Mues has also been a dog owner for 55+ years, and just recently, he and his wife are the owners of "Ralph", a rescued mixed Wire Hair and Jack Russell Terrier.

Legal Separation in Ohio: What Does it Legally Mean?

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