Domestic Relations - General Information
I. Terminating Your Marriage
Ohio residents have the option of terminating their marriages either (a) by agreement through dissolution or (b) by filing a divorce action. In addition, the spouses may want to remain married but formalize their rights and duties through a court-ordered legal separation. These legal proceedings may be complicated, so it is a good idea to talk to an attorney about what method is available and best for you. Court staff may give you some general information but cannot tell you what you should do or how to do it. Instructions and some forms are available here. However, all situations are unique, so the forms you need may not be available on this website.
When a marriage is terminated, there are four (4) main areas that the spouses, attorneys, and Court must address:
- The basis for terminating the marriage - If a divorce, the person who wants the divorce must have either fault-based or no-fault bases to end the marriage; if a dissolution, the spouses must desire to end the marriage.
- The property and debt division - This includes real estate, furniture, cars, tools, pensions, bank accounts, as well as credit cart accounts, hospital bills, mortgage or equity loans, and car loans.
- Allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, if there are minor children - This includes the children’s living arrangements, financial support, medical insurance, and tax dependent status. Except in cases of adoption, this may also include determining whether the husband is the children’s biological father.
- Spousal support (what used to be called “alimony”) - One spouse may request some ongoing support, other than child support.
II. Post-Decree Motions
After a divorce or dissolution proceeding is final, more disputes may arise between former spouses. The Court has the authority to modify the orders related to any minor children, if certain requirements are met, and to enforce all orders issued by the Court. Parties to the case bring those matters to the Court’s attention through a written motion or request for additional orders. These motions are called “post-decree motions” because they are filed after the final decree of divorce or dissolution; they re-open the original divorce or dissolution case. When you file a post-decree motion, you have to serve the new motion on your former spouse by certified mail or other approved method.
Some examples of post-decree motions are: (a) If you have an order that grants you parenting time and the children’s other parent refuses to allow you to see the children or interferes with that parenting time, you can file a motion to have your former spouse found in contempt for violating the order. The motion should specify the times and dates when you were denied parenting time. (b) If you believe the children’s best interest would be served by changing the parenting time, or if your incomes have changed so that support should be recalculated, you may file a motion to modify the existing orders. (c) If your former spouse will not pay the debt in your name, as ordered, you may file a motion to find your former spouse in contempt for violating the order and/or to get paid back any money you had to pay on the debt.
Forms and instructions for some of these post-decree motions are available here.
III. Civil Protection Orders (CPOs)
The Domestic Relations Court hears cases involving requests for civil protection orders (CPOs). A CPO is an order that prohibits a person from contacting or coming around another person; it may also remove a person from a shared home, if there is violence, and make orders regarding the parties’ minor children. A CPO may be issued as a Domestic Violence CPO, where the parties are related to one another in certain ways, or as a Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense CPO, where there may be no family or intimate relationship, between the parties but one party is stalking or has sexually assaulted the other. The person filing the petition for a CPO is called the “petitioner,” while the person against whom the order is sought is the “respondent.” The petition forms are available at the Court or from the Clerk of Courts and may be completed without the assistance of an attorney. A petitioner has the right to an attorney and to a victim advocate from the Seneca County Victims Advocate Office (telephone (419) 448-5070); the Court cannot appoint attorneys for petitioners. Incomplete petitions may result in denial of the petition or delay in scheduling hearings.
If the court issues and ex parte CPO against the respondent, the CPO will be delivered to the respondent by the Sheriff of the County where the respondent lives and a full hearing, or trial, will be scheduled within the next 7 to 10 court days. If the parties agree that a CPO should be issued, they can both sign a Consent Agreement for a CPO and give it to the Court to approve. If the parties do not agree, the court will issue a decision about whether the CPO should be granted.
A respondent may be arrested and convicted of a criminal offense for violating a CPO if the respondent has been served with the CPO and as long as that CPO is in effect. Even if the petitioner gives the respondent permission to violate the order, the respondent may be charged with a criminal offense. It is the respondent’s responsibility to follow the order. If either party believes the order should be changed, that party can file a motion to modify the CPO; the Court will schedule a hearing to decide if the CPO should be modified. The issuance of a CPO may affect a respondent’s rights to have a firearm or to hold certain employment positions, so a respondent should contact an attorney regarding the effects of a CPO.
Brochures regarding CPOs are available at the Victims Advocate Office which is located on the 2ndfloor of the County Services Building located at: 71 S. Washington Street, Tiffin, OH 44883. Detailed instructions are provided with the petitions.