What is the difference between a divorce and dissolution in Columbus, Ohio?

With such a high incidence of divorce in America, it seems marriage vows hold little weight. Perhaps in an attempt to preserve the sanctity of the vows and encourage couples to stay together, states have laws in place that throw obstacles in the way of marriage termination. In Ohio, the two ways to sever a marriage are by divorce or dissolution. Each method has its own criteria that must be met before the marriage can be ended. If you need questions answered, please call the experienced family law attorneys at Goldman & Rosenthal.


A divorce is commenced by the filing of a divorce complaint in the Court’s domestic relations division. In Ohio, the filing party must be a resident of the state for at least six months prior to filing the complaint. The complaint must state a valid legal ground for divorce, which can include:

• Separation of at least one year due to the willful absence of the adverse party
• Gross neglect of spousal duty
• Imprisonment of the adverse party
• Habitual drunkenness
• Adultery
• Extreme cruelty

A divorce pursuant to any of the above grounds is based on fault which must be both alleged by the complainant and supported by a witness. A divorce will not be granted unless the fault is proved.

Both parties should hire their own divorce attorney. The complainant, or plaintiff, should do so to make sure the complaint states the appropriate legal grounds for divorce that can be proved in Court. The respondent, or defendant, should hire an attorney to answer the complaint and to invoke and defend legal challenges. Both parties will benefit from the attorney’s advice regarding property division, support and child custody issues.

No-fault divorce

As a divorce attorney could tell you, there is a no-fault divorce option in Ohio. If the husband and wife agree to end the marriage and have lived separate for at least one year without lapse and without being intimate with each other, a no-fault divorce can be granted. If one spouse seeks divorce claiming incompatibility with the other spouse and the claim is not refuted, that, too, is a ground for a no-fault divorce.


By contrast, dissolution is a mutual action available when both spouses agree to end the marriage. Neither spouse has to cite fault or have grounds for terminating the marriage. They simply sign a legal settlement agreement covering the division of assets, spousal support, child custody and related matters. They should hire a dissolution attorney to handle the paperwork and ensure it complies with Ohio laws. The dissolution attorney will file a joint Petition for Dissolution, to which the signed agreement will be attached. This attorney, however, can only represent one party to the dissolution, and is prohibited from providing the other party with any legal advise. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that both parties to a dissolution obtain their own attorney.

In addition to requiring agreement on all issues, Ohio law requires that at least one spouse be a resident of the state for at least six months prior to filing for dissolution.