Divorce, Dissolution, Annulment in Stark County, Ohio – How They Differ

Stark County Ohio DivorceA divorce is a civil lawsuit which ends a marriage.  It is a complaint filed by a husband or wife, or both, in the Domestic Relations Division of the Stark County Family Court.  (In the Family Court, divorce is governed primarily by Local Rule 32.01.  Divorce laws in Ohio are primarily covered by Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3105).

The complaint must allege, and the party filing for a Stark County divorce must later prove legal grounds for the divorce of which the most common, according to the Stark County Family Court, are incompatibility and living separate and apart for one year without cohabitation.

Other less common grounds to file for divorce in Stark County, Ohio are:

  • Bigamy
  • Willful absence
  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Fraudulent contract
  • Gross neglect of duty
  • Imprisonment of a spouse

If a divorce is contested, the party cannot settle the issues between them and may need the help of a mediator, legal counsel, or a judge.  In a Stark County divorce that is going forward (contested), a “status conference” is set within six months of the filing of the case and the case will be heard on that date.  A pretrial conference is then scheduled with the judge, parties, and the attorneys to negotiate a settlement.  If this is unsuccessful in settling the case, the issues are identified and a trial is scheduled.

An uncontested divorce is one in which one of two things has usually happened—the divorcing couple agrees on every major issue or the Defendant does not file an Answer or Counterclaim to the Divorce Complaint, possibly because he or she cannot be found, is incarcerated, or does not respond to communications from the spouse or divorce lawyers.

In a Stark County divorce, this type of case is set for an uncontested hearing which takes place at the “status call” (status conference).   These hearings are scheduled with a magistrate. If there are disputed issues, they are set for pretrial.

In dissolution of marriage, (governed by ORC 3105.62-65), the husband and wife file a joint petition.  Both are requesting the court to terminate their marriage and approve the separation agreement they have prepared which is a complete settlement of all support and property issues.

With dissolution, fault is not an issue.  There are no grounds listed on the petition for dissolution.  The parties generally schedule a hearing 30 days after filing their petition for dissolution, but the hearing must take place no more than 90 days from the date of filing the dissolution.  At the hearing, the Court reviews the separation agreement.  The parties testify under oath that they have lived in Ohio for six months; that they are satisfied with the separation agreement and that they are voluntarily seeking dissolution of the marriage.

In Stark County, parties who wish to change their petition for divorce to a petition for dissolution can do so within 30 days of filing for divorce.  Likewise, either party seeking a dissolution may change it into a divorce proceeding.

Some advantages to a filing for dissolution, besides not having to designate reasons (grounds) for the end of the marriage, include:

  • Expense
  • Time (maximum time for a dissolution in Stark County is six months and it can be much less)
  • Privacy (you do not have to go before a judge and “air dirty laundry”)
  • It is more practical, particularly if there are no minor children and no significant assets

An annulment (governed by ORC 3105.31-32) differs from divorce or dissolution.  It is a court order that dissolves a marriage, and states that the marriage was never legal or valid.  The court order is formally known as a decree of nullity. To obtain an annulment in Stark County, you must file in the Stark County Family Court, Domestic Relations Division and provide required proof of residency.

As with divorce, you must prove grounds for the annulment.  According to state statute, the following could be a basis for annulment.  (There are different statutory time limits according to the grounds identified for seeking the annulment.):

  • One party is under the age of legal consent
  • One party is already married
  • The marriage was never consummated
  • One party is mentally ill and it affects the marriage
  • The marriage was based on fraud or force

For more information and specific forms, go to the Stark County Family Court website at www.familycourt.co.stark.oh.us .  There you will find more information to help you understand the divorce, dissolution and annulment process.

For specific legal advice or to speak to a divorce lawyer experienced with the divorce procedure, the petition of dissolution and the annulment process in Stark County, Ohio, contact the law offices of Slater & Zurz LLP at 1-888-760-8958 or contact us through our website:  dissolutionanddivorce.com.  

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About slaterzurz

Slater & Zurz LLP is an Ohio law firm of highly experienced and respected attorneys. Over the last 40 years, we have developed a reputation for getting positive results for clients. We've been trusted with handling over 20,000 personal injury cases and our clients have received more than $120,000,000.

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