Ohio Divorce and Abandonment Laws

By Beverly Bird
your rights, divorce, Ohio

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Increasingly, in the last fifty years, states have begun allowing no-fault grounds for divorce. In Ohio, this means that spouses have either lived apart for a period of one year, or they agree that they are incompatible. The majority of states continue to offer fault grounds as well. Ohio's range of fault grounds is wider than most, and three of them meet some or all of the criteria for abandonment.

Residency Laws

The person initiating a complaint for divorce in Ohio is called the plaintiff or petitioner, and he must have been a resident of the state for a minimum of six months prior to filing.

Service Requirements

If a spouse cannot be personally served with a complaint for divorce, Ohio provides for "constructive" service, meaning that service can be made by publication. The law allows that in this case, the court can determine the outcome of all issues with the exception of rulings on property existing outside the state.

Ohio Fault Grounds for Divorce

If spouses agree going in that they are incompatible and that they are not going to quibble about cause, and if they have already resolved all issues between them, this is called a dissolution of marriage in Ohio as opposed to a divorce. Otherwise, Ohio will grant a divorce only once grounds have been established. While these include the no-fault grounds, Ohio also offers nine separate fault grounds. Those not associated with abandonment or desertion are based upon fraudulent actions--either one of the parties already had a spouse at the time the marriage and that spouse is living, or he entered into the union under some other misrepresentation. Adultery, extreme cruelty, habitual drunkenness or the incarceration of the adverse party at the time of filing all serve as fault grounds in Ohio.

Abandonment in Ohio

Three grounds for divorce in Ohio address abandonment issues. One cites the specific absence from the marital home of the defendant or respondent (the party not filing the complaint) for a period of at least one year. Also provided for are grounds of gross neglect of duty, which involves the defendant abandoning the responsibilities of the marriage even if he remains in the home. The incarceration ground can also be considered a form of abandonment in that the adverse party is removed from the home, though for punitive reasons rather than willingly.

General Definition of Abandonment

Most states define abandonment as meaning that a spouse has left the marriage for no reasonable cause and is not intending to come back. In some states, "abandonment" is distinguished from "desertion." The first requires only an absence from the home. The second carries with it the criteria that the act of leaving was intended with the express purpose of ending the marriage. In Ohio, it is sufficient that the defendant has only left the home for a period of one year without citing what his intentions might have been at the time.

Laws Regarding the Appellate Process

If either party is unhappy with the court's decisions, Ohio offers them the right to appeal. However, there must be grounds for an appeal, such as the judge misapplying points of law or abusing his power. The appellate process does not provide for another trial but is basically a rehashing by a different court (the Appellate Division) of the initial judge's interpretation of applicable case law.

About the Author

Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.

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