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Ohio Legal Separation
Legal Separation in Ohio

Ohio makes an express provision for legal separation based on any of the same grounds as for a divorce and subject to the same processes. Filing a separation gives the respondent a chance to counterclaim for divorce. In a legal separation, the separating couples must divide jointly owned property and liabilities and arrange for the care of minor children.

Usually, in Ohio, legal separations are sought in lieu of divorce because the spouses do not meet the six-month residency requirement for a divorce.

In both divorce and separation actions, courts aim for an equitable distribution. Marital property includes all real estate and personal property acquired by either spouse during the marriage except for inheritances or gifts to one spouse. Ohio is an equitable distribution state, which means the spouses can try to come to agreement about the division of their marital property, but if they cannot, the court intervenes and considers a variety of factors to determine an equitable division.

The court considers many of the same factors when deciding spousal support, which allows each spouse to maintain approximately the same standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, subject to his or her other income. When awarding support, the court considers the spouses' income and assets, not simply marital property. Courts agree to a proposed property settlement that is fair and reasonable.

Ohio courts can award both alimony and child support in any separation case. In determining support payments, Ohio courts take into consideration a number of factors, including the parent's income, education and any physical or mental disabilities. Child support is awarded in accordance with the state guidelines and based on the income of the parents and the actual cost of medical insurance and other necessary care. In a separation, the courts enter orders deciding custody of the children based on the gold standard of child welfare - the best interests of the child, whether or not the parents or guardians agree.

The court does not deviate from the child support guidelines unless it would be manifestly unjust not to do so. Typically, courts agree with any proposed parenting plan unless it finds the agreement not to be in the best interests of the children. Before finalizing a legal separation, the court decides the parental rights of each spouse. The court considers, but is not bound by, the child's wishes.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legal binding contract signed by spouses, which is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. This can be a very complex and detailed document depending upon the unique situation of the marriage. Many spouses consult an attorney to provide this or they decide to prepare their own.


Ohio grants a legal separation for any of the same grounds as divorce. These include bigamy, willful absence of the non-filing spouse for at least one year, adultery, extreme cruelty, fraud in the inducement to marriage, gross neglect of duty, habitual drunkenness, or incarceration in a state or federal correctional institution. Spouses who have been physically separated for one year can be granted a no-fault separation, but the no-fault option, incompatibility, only works when both spouses agree. The spouse who is served with a complaint for legal separation can respond with a counterclaim for divorce or annulment; when the grounds for the separation are sufficient, the respondent can elect to terminate the marriage rather than simply separate.


To file for a separation, a party must be a legal resident of Ohio for the six continuous months immediately preceding the filing, and a resident of the county of filing for the immediately preceding 90 days. However, a victim of domestic violence, filing first for a restraining order, can be exempt from the residency requirement.

Initial Procedure

The separation papers must be served on the respondent.

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