The difference in cost can be and often is enormous, especially when the parties are fighting over the custody of their children. Generally, an "uncontested" divorce means that one of the parties does not disagree with or "contest" the claims made by the other party. However, an "uncontested divorce" can also refer to the situation where one party files for divorce and the other party does not even bother to respond to the divorce or appear in court. In this respect, an "uncontested divorce" should not be confused with a dissolution, in which the parties formally agree ahead of time about every issue relating to the termination of marriage, including custody and visitation, support, and division of property. Typically, the parties will enter a written agreement called a "separation agreement" that details each issue and attach the separation agreement and any other custody agreement to the petition for dissolution. Depending on the particular court, the dissolution process usually takes about six weeks from beginning to end; in Ohio, a dissolution cannot be granted less than 30 days after filing nor more than 90 days after filing. Because a dissolution process is fairly predictable, many attorneys are willing to accept a flat or fixed fee for the service rather than a traditional hourly fee. This helps control the cost of an otherwise expensive legal proceeding. In an annulment, one party claims that some legal reason exists that should nullify, rather than terminate, the marriage, as if the marriage had never happened. For example, if a couple marries and at the time of the marriage, one of the parties is currently married to someone else, then the other party can apply to a court to have the marriage nullified. The major difference between a divorce and an annulment is that the annulment process does not involve a division of property or spousal support, because the law treats the marriage as if it never took place. Many people seek an annulment rather than a divorce for social or religious reasons. Most actions for annulment are subject to time limitations, depending on the legal basis for the annulment. Typically, no. Adultery is a ground for divorce, but beyond that it rarely becomes relevant to issues of custody, support, or division of property. Typically no, although the court often requires prior notice from a relocating custodial parent. A decree may place certain restrictions upon where a custodial parent may move with respect to the residence of the noncustodial parent, such that relocation involving great distances may require court approval. In Ohio, a dissolution must be granted within 90 days of filing, but the process is generally complete within six weeks. For an "uncontested divorce" where the other party does not respond to the divorce, the court must wait at least 28 days before scheduling the case for an uncontested hearing, although some courts will schedule an uncontested hearing before the expiration of 28 days and then cancel the uncontested hearing in the event the other party responds to the divorce complaint. The person seeking a divorce must prepare and file a complaint for divorce setting forth basic jurisdictional information about the marriage, the grounds for divorce, and the names and birth dates of the children (if any). The complaint is then filed with the appropriate court together with various other documents as required under the local rules of that particular court. For example, in Ohio, where a divorce involves minor children then the person filing the divorce must also file a "parenting proceeding affidavit" that contains certain information required by law; without a parenting affidavit, a court is likely to refuse to accept the filing in the first place, or it will later dismiss it. Once the divorce is filed, the court will serve a summons upon the other spouse, and once service is received or "perfected," the divorce will go forward. At some point in the proceedings the couple may choose to settle some or all aspects of the divorce rather than subject themselves or their children to a bitter and expensive trial. In Ohio, an unwed mother is considered the sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child(ren), and the father has no parenting rights, even if he acknowledges paternity. The only way a father can establish his parental rights is by requesting them from a juvenile court. However, even if a father has not requested a determination of parental rights, the father will still be obligated to pay child support to the mother or to a third-party having custody of the child(ren). The answer depends on which party filed for divorce or if there is a counterclaim for divorce also filed. If a signature is required by the court, refusal to sign by the party who filed the divorce may result in dismissal of the case or possibly a finding of contempt, depending on what needs to be signed. If the estranged spouse did not file a counterclaim, then a court could elect to proceed with the divorce even if that spouse refuses to sign documents. The answer to this question is likely to depend on specific facts or circumstances, such that a "general" answer may not be accurate. In Ohio, the filing spouse must appear in court and bring at least one witness who can provide corroborating testimony as to the grounds for divorce. The spouse will then testify as to the division of assets and issues related to the minor children. However, without specific wage information for the non-appearing spouse, the spouse seeing the divorce may have difficulty in establishing a proper award of child or spousal support. Most states have both fault and no-fault divorce laws. In Ohio, "fault" grounds include adultery, habitual intoxication, incarceration at the time the divorce is filed, extreme cruelty, gross neglect of duty, and a number of others. Ohio's "no fault" grounds include each spouse living separately from the other without any cohabitation for at least one year, and of course incompatibility. Ohio law sets forth 13 specific factors (and one "catch-all" provision) that a court must consider when awarding spousal support (Ohio's term for "alimony"). While no one factor has greater significance than another, the factors most frequently considered are the length of the marriage and the relative earning ability of the spouses. While each court may generally have its own "rules of thumb" when considering spousal support, all courts must base the award on the specific factors set forth in the spousal support statute.
Some provisions in a decree of divorce will be limited in time, such as child and spousal support awards. Furthermore, the law allows a court to modify its decree at any time for child custody and support issues; generally speaking, property division and spousal support cannot be modified at a later time. Generally, a court will divide marital assets in an equitable manner, which usually but not always means 50/50. All property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be marital property.Contrary to popular belief, a spouse does not need to wait until he or she has gathered all relevant information regarding the marriage before filing for divorce. The divorce complaint itself is a relatively simple legal pleading that does not require a great deal of specificity. A legal separation allows a couple to put a "time out" on the marriage. Frequently called "alimony only" actions, a spouse seeking legal separation may ask the court to award spousal support, and if there are children, the court will also issue child custody and child support orders that are legally enforceable. A court does not typically divide marital property in a legal separation; however, a legal separation may serve as an ending point for the marriage in the event that the couple proceed directly from the legal separation to a divorce without reconciliation in between. Furthermore, any property acquired by either spouse during a period of legal separation will often be considered that spouse's separate property not subject to division. Sometimes a legal separation is preferable to a divorce during periods of marital difficulty since one spouse may continue to remain on the other spouse's health insurance policy during the separation, depending on the terms of the particular policy providing such insurance.