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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Ohio

Divorces and Annulments are two of the legal options for exiting a marriage in Ohio. While divorces end legally valid marriages, annulments legally invalidate a marriage. This means that a divorce dissolves a legally acknowledged marriage, while an annulled marriage is treated as though it never existed in the first place. In Ohio, divorce and annulment cases are handled by the Court of Common Pleas located in each county. Addresses, directions, and contact addresses of these courts may be found on the court directory page provided on the Ohio Judicial System's Website. Generally, the Courts of Common Pleas adjudicates divorces, annulments, or marital dissolutions brought before the court judges based on the legal standards set by the Ohio Divorce Laws.

What is an Ohio Divorce Decree?

In Ohio, a divorce decree is a court-issued document stating the divorce court's final judgment regarding a divorce case. According to section 3105.63 of the Ohio Revised Code, this document contains details of alimony, child support, child custody, visitation rights and schedule, as well as debt and property division. The day a divorce decree is signed by the presiding judge is the day the deivorce becomes final. Typically, both parties must adhere to the terms and arrangements clearly outlined in their decree. Note that there are many forms of divorce records and it is commonplace for Ohio citizens to mistake divorce decrees for divorce certificates. Divorce certificates are records managed and issued by the Ohio Department of Public Health.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What is an Annulment in Ohio?

An annulment just like a divorce ends a marriage; however, this legal process goes further to declare a union or marriage void. In Ohio, the grounds for annulment are classified into:

  • Void marriages
  • Voidable marriages

Void marriages are marriages banned by state laws due to the conduct of the parties involved. Examples include incest and bigamy. These marriages do not require a court order to be annulled because they are immediately invalid. Voidable marriages, in contrast, require a trial and hearing before a judge in the Common Pleas Court to prove grounds for annulment.

Because an annulment invalidates a marriage like it never occurred, its records are especially difficult to trace. Unlike other vital records of life events, annulment records are not usually kept with the State's Vital Records office. However, they can be accessed by visiting the office of the Clerk of Court where the annulment was granted.

Annulment vs Divorce in Ohio

Divorces and annulments are granted on different grounds according to state laws. Divorces are granted on "fault" and "no-fault" grounds; however, Ohio Court only grants divorces on "fault" grounds and dissolutions on the grounds of "No-fault".

"Fault" grounds simply means that a spouse is asking to be free of the marriage based on the fault or flaws of the other party. The grounds for divorce in Ohio include:

  • Bigamy
  • Adultery
  • Neglect of Duty
  • Intentional absence for a year
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Domestic violence and extreme cruelty, etc.

Grounds for annulment in the state include:

  • Underage party: That is if the male is under age 18 or the female is under age 16 and married without parental consent.
  • Being in a prior valid marriage with a spouse.
  • If one of the parties is mentally incompetent
  • If the consent to be married was gotten by force, under duress or by fraud.
  • If the marriage has not been consummated

Time limit

For divorces, one or both parties may file to end the marriage at any time; however, annulments have a time limit for filing. Most grounds for filing for an annulment are valid within 2 years after the marriage.

Compensation and procedure

Divorces are usually lengthier than annulments due to the number of factors considered such as

  • Division of marital assets
  • Issues of custody, visitation, and support of any minor children born or adopted during the marriage
  • Alimony
  • Division of responsibilities, such as marital debts

Annulments are shorter and more direct, the party filing for an annulment only needs to prove any of the six grounds for annulment stated in the law. Also, in Ohio, people seeking annulment cannot get spousal support.

NB: Parties filing for divorces must be able to prove their reasons for doing so with evidence and/or witnesses that support their claim.

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In Ohio?

Yes, annulments are cheaper than divorces in Ohio. Divorces, especially when contested, involve a lengthier process that costs more attorney fees. Also, it involves division of assets, alimony, child support, splitting marital debt, etc. However, an annulment means that marriage wasn't valid, to begin with; hence, both parties do not have to go through procedures of property division or alimony. Also, if the party filing for an annulment can prove valid reasons for doing so, according to law, the process will be shorter and less expensive. Even then, inability to adequately prove the elements of any of the legal grounds for the annulment may lengthen the process and make it cost more. Generally, depending on the complexity, annulments may prove to be more expensive. For instance, if a party is unsatisfied with the judge's final decision, they may choose to appeal the decision. Appeals cost about $10,000.00 - $15,000.00 with no guarantee of success.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in Ohio?

An uncontested divorce is a type of divorce in which the opposing party fails to respond to a divorce petition. Under Rule 75 of the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, a respondent has 42 days to respond to a divorce petition, after which the case will move on uncontested. The silence is translated by law to mean an agreement to the terms and arrangements in the served documents. This type of divorce is usually unproblematic as there is no battle between both parties; however, not contesting a divorce may have its consequences. The non-contesting party may have to pay more in child/spousal support, pay a larger portion of any marital debts and even lose custody of the children if there are any involved.

Another type of uncontested divorce is when both parties filing a divorce have agreed on the details of the divorce, such as property division, payment of child support, spousal maintenance, marital debt, etc. In this case, all they have to do is inform the court of their agreement and date will be set to have the agreement recorded officially in court. Uncontested divorces are especially preferred by couples who have children because it reduces emotional and financial stress.

Where to get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Ohio?

When the spouses involved in the divorce agree on every issue in their divorce or the other party that receives a divorce petition refuses to respond or appear in Court, the divorce is said to be "uncontested". In this case, the judge will award the divorce "as is" according to the initial complaint.

This process allows spouses to avoid long and expensive courtroom battles, hence, simplifying the case. The Uncontested divorce is usually called the "quick divorce" and is usually advisable for separated couples living in different states.

To process an uncontested divorce in Ohio, the petitioner, that is the spouse filing the divorce must meet the following requirements:

  • Live in the US state of Ohio for at least 6 months before filing the complaint
  • Live in the county in which the complaint was filed for at least 90 days
  • Fill the divorce petition forms provided on the Ohio Supreme court website.

The form of choice depends on the circumstances surrounding the marriage:

It is advisable to fulfill this step with the help of an attorney because these forms supply no instructions or guide whatsoever. Other Documents that may be required for an uncontested divorce hearing include:

  • Judgment Entry for Divorce
  • A Signed Separation Agreement if available
  • Legal Description of Real Property for property division
  • A Government Issued Identification

If there are children involved;

  • Child Support Computation Worksheet
  • Health Insurance Affidavit
  • Shared parenting plan and parenting schedule
  • Parent Education Seminar certificate (if not already filed)
  • Parenting Proceeding Affidavit (if not already filed)

The required documents may vary from Court to Court, and county to county. Hence, it is best to contact the Clerk of Court, where the divorce will be heard for more information. Finally, according to Ohio Revised Codes, divorce records are public records subject to public inspection, unless the parties in the divorce case have requested to have the records sealed by court order.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I get a copy of my Divorce Decree in Ohio?

In Ohio, divorce decree records just like all other court records are initially maintained at the Common Pleas Clerk of Court's office, provided that's where the case was heard and finalized.

Contact the attorney

Before heading to the Clerk's office where the inquirer may be asked to pay some fees, the attorney should be contacted. Attorneys for both parties usually have a copy of the transcript generated during the proceeding as part of their records; hence, he/she may be able to provide a copy.

Contact the Common Pleas Court Clerk's office.

There is a Common Pleas Court in every county in Ohio, and the inquirer may request a copy of the divorce decree according to the protocol applicable in that county where the case was heard. The Court Clerk's office will typically have a file with the original copy of the certified divorce decree, and the inquirer can make a copy for a fee.

Also, if the case led to an appeal, the Court of appeals in that region will have a file on it.

NB: The inquirer should make sure that the copy is signed and stamped by the court clerk as a declaration that it is an exact reproduction of the court records on file in the office.

Locate the County Clerks office

If the inquirer is unsure of the location of the county clerk's office, he/she may visit the Ohio Courts website for the list of each county office with their websites and contact information. To be sure the records are there, the inquirer may place a call or send an e-mail ahead.

Fees and Request

Most counties accept e-mail, mail, and phone requests, but a walk-in request is highly recommended to ensure a speedy and accurate response.

The cost of certified copies may vary from county to county, but, there is usually a common fee of $1.00 - $3.00 per copy.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How do I get an Ohio Divorce Decree Online?

Ohio divorce decrees can only be obtained from the County Clerk's office where the divorce was granted and finalized. These records are typically not maintained electronically in Ohio; hence, the request for these records should be done via other means.

Depending on the County, the inquirer may be able to print and complete the required request forms from the county or Court of Common Pleas Website. If the option is available, the court clerk may simply e-mail the appropriate request forms to the inquirer to fill and complete, along with other details such as;

  • Named individuals on the record
  • Reasons for requesting the record
  • Date and location of the event, etc.

The inquirer may choose to mail these forms to the Clerk's office. A self-addressed envelope should be included along with payment for the copies.

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