Don't opt for a legal separation as a way to get out of having to go to court if you live in Ohio. Filing for separation in Ohio is almost a mirror image of filing for divorce in Ohio. If you and your spouse are battling about finances, family support, property division or child custody/visitation issues, those battles will not go away in a court proceeding for legal separation. All must be resolved.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Filing for separation in Ohio involves preparing a summons and complaint, similar to filing for divorce.
Legal Separation Definition
A legal separation looks a lot like a divorce in Ohio, but at the end of the long and winding road of the court procedure, the spouses remain married to each other and unable to marry someone else. As in a divorce, all property division issues are resolved, family support is ordered, child custody and visitation orders are put in place, and the judge rules on any other contested issues.
Who would opt for this procedure rather than seeking a divorce in Ohio? Legal separation is the choice of spouses who don't want to co-habit any longer but want to stay married legally. This can be for religious reasons, tax reasons or even employee benefit reasons. For example, if one spouse has an employee benefit plan that gives the other spouse excellent insurance, the couple may be hesitant to give it up by ending the marriage. But many policies take this into account these days, so look before you leap.
Filing for Separation in Ohio
Filing for separation in Ohio involves the same summons and complaint procedure required for a divorce action. You need to set out the name and birth information about each spouse and each minor child in the complaint.
You also must allege "grounds" for separation, and these look a lot like the grounds for divorce in Ohio set out in Section 3105.17 of the Ohio Revised Code. These range from innocuous grounds like incompatibility, to more serious grounds like extreme cruelty, gross neglect of duty, habitual drunkenness and adultery.
When you are filing for separation in Ohio, you need to deal with all of the matters that are usually addressed in a divorce complaint. This includes property and debt division as well as support issues and child custody matters. You must file the complaint with a summons, then have both documents personally handed to your spouse by a third party.
Separation Agreement in Ohio
If both you and your spouse are ready to separate in Ohio, you can simplify the process by hashing out the issues outside of court and signing an agreement for the terms of a legal separation. Note that this is not the same thing as a "separation agreement." A separation agreement in Ohio is one procedural step in the divorce process, while an agreement for legal separation resolves property and child custody issues for a judgment of legal separation.
You may be tempted to work through the issues of a legal separation on your own to save legal fees. But this isn't always wise. Your rights and obligations, as well as those of your spouse, are governed by the agreement or order, which is enforceable through the court. Either party is free to ask for a divorce but generally, absent agreement between spouses, the property and debt division agreed to and/or ordered in a legal separation won't be modified by the court at any later point.
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