Next Page Mediation

Seeking a dissolution of marriage in Cleveland, Ohio? Here are some top considerations to keep in mind

By Jim Robenalt

When electing to file for a dissolution in Cleveland, Ohio, there are a myriad of rules and considerations to keep in mind. The Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court has informative rules and forms that provide helpful guideposts along the way.

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers:

Am I filing for a “dissolution” or a “divorce”?

 

A dissolution of marriage allows a couple to legally conclude their marriage without providing reasons, or “grounds”, for their separation. In order to secure a dissolution, a couple must first resolve the terms of their separation – that is, arrive at agreement on all aspects of property division, a parenting plan, child support and spousal support. They must memorialize their agreements by completing a separation agreement and, if applicable, a parenting plan.  Once they have completed the task of documenting their agreements, they can then file a petition for dissolution.  

With a divorce, a couple does not resolve the terms of their separation before filing. Rather, one spouse (the “plaintiff”) files a Complaint for Divorce, stating their grounds for separation and relief requested. The spouse being sued for divorce (the “defendant”) files an Answer and, oftentimes, a Counterclaim. The couple then arrives at a resolution on the terms of their separation through the litigation process – either through a negotiated attorney-led settlement or by order of the court.

Couples mediating with Next Page Mediation will be – in almost all cases – pursuing the path of dissolution. That is, a couple will negotiate (with the guidance of attorney/mediator, Jim Robenalt) the terms of their separation with attention to property division, parenting plans and support and then file a petition for dissolution.

What are the requirements to file for dissolution in Cleveland, Ohio?

The requirement is rather simple: Ohio law mandates that at least “one of the spouses” shall have been a resident of the state of Ohio for at least six months immediately before filing the petition for dissolution.

The parties must file, among other matters, a petition for dissolution, a waiver of service of process (often included as part of the petition), a separation agreement, and, if applicable, a parenting plan and parenting proceeding affidavit.

In Cuyahoga County, there is also a filing fee: $200 if you have children; $150 if you do not.

 How long will it take to secure a dissolution?

 
The most laborious task of the dissolution process is working through all aspects of your property division and, if applicable, a parenting plan. This stage of preparation may take weeks or even months of negotiation. The petition for dissolution, itself, is simple and only requires that you provide basic biographical information about yourself and your marriage.

Once you file a petition for dissolution with attached agreements, a hearing will be scheduled between 30 and 90 days after filing. The court will issue a notice of hearing at least 14 days before the hearing is scheduled to take place.

What can you expect at a dissolution hearing?

You and your spouse must appear at court for a dissolution hearing. You should be prepared to answer questions under oath verifying that you voluntarily entered the separation agreement attached to your petition, that you are satisfied with its terms, and that you seek dissolution of your marriage. You might also have to verify that, if applicable, your parenting plan is in the best interest of your children, that you were a resident of the state of Ohio prior to filing a petition for dissolution, and that you are not pregnant. Wives will also be asked whether they want to change back to their maiden name.

What is included in a “separation agreement”?

The separation agreement is a signed, written agreement which identifies how assets and debts are to be divided, and whether there will be ongoing spousal support payments. With this agreement, you will address what you have elected to do with the: (i) family home, (ii) automobiles, (iii) household goods and furniture, (iv) checking/savings accounts, (v) stock/bonds/securities accounts, (vi) business interests; (vii) retirement accounts, (viii) life insurance, (ix) “other” property; and (x) debts. A separation agreement will also address spousal support – whether there will be support, the amount and duration.

In order to complete a separation agreement, a couple must first fully disclose to each other and to the court all marital and separate property. That is, each spouse must have the opportunity to value and verify all property.  Marital property acquired during the marriage is generally divided equally unless there is a written reason as to why an equal division would not be fair. 

What do parents of minor children need to complete when filing for a dissolution?

 
If parents to a dissolution are seeking shared parenting time, then they must complete and submit a shared parenting plan that addresses all factors relevant to the care of their children including, among other matters, physical living arrangements, parenting time, medical and dental care, school placement and child support obligations. A shared parenting plan can be carefully tailored to the needs of children and the schedules and capacities of the parents.

If the court approves a shared parenting plan, the approved plan will be incorporated into a final shared parenting decree and appended to the final decree of dissolution.

Do I have to take a parenting class?

Yes. In addition to a parenting plan, the parents of minor children must also complete a divorce seminar within 30 days before or after the filing of a petition of dissolution.  The seminar will focus on the needs of children, the effects of divorce on a family, recognizing the signs of stress, and behaviors to avoid.

What standard will a court apply at a dissolution hearing?

The court, when considering your proposed Separation Agreement, must decide whether it is fair, just and equitable. The court will want to understand the value of your assets and debts and how they are being divided. 

As for a proposed parenting plan, the court’s primary concern will be whether the plan is in the “best interests” of the children. A determination of “best interests” is a factored consideration, as outlined in section 3109.04(F)(1) of the Ohio Revised Code.

What document will the Court issue to finalize a dissolution?

 
In dissolution of marriage cases where the parties have entered into a separation agreement, the parties must present a judgment entry to the Court’s Information Center two weeks before the hearing date. At the hearing, the court will use this judgment entry, otherwise known as a “decree”, to legally terminate the marriage and make the separation agreement and shared parenting plans official court orders.

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Next Page Mediation helps couples resolve all aspects of their separation – both finances and parenting — so that they are prepared to file for a dissolution of marriage. Contact attorney/mediator, Jim Robenalt, to discuss your situation and what you can expect from mediation. 

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