By the time the courts become involved in a marriage, it is usually headed toward divorce. Less often, a husband and wife will ask an Ohio Court of Common Pleas for a legal separation, leaving their marriage in a holding pattern while proceeding to decide issues involving finances, child custody, visitation and support. They may also agree that an emotional separation is needed to determine whether the relationship has a chance to survive.
Prepare a separation agreement outlining agreed-upon support and custody obligations as well as visitation arrangements, if there are minor children and the separation is uncontested. If there are no children, the agreement should divide the marital property and establish each party’s financial obligations.
Prepare a complaint for legal separation according to Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. The pleadings or documents required for a legal separation are largely identical to those required in a divorce action, except that once the process is complete, the couple remain husband and wife. Pleadings and other forms are available online from some Ohio county court websites as well as online legal document providers. Don’t forget to print a proposed judge’s order and any other state-specific classification forms, financial disclosure forms, family information forms and parenting affidavits applicable to your situation.
Sign the complaint, separation agreement and additional court-required forms as plaintiff. In an uncontested legal separation, your spouse, as defendant, may sign a waiver of service and sign the separation agreement that was prepared based on your earlier negotiations. Your spouse should sign other required forms, as applicable. The court will require that your address, as well as that of your spouse, and telephone number appear on the initial pleadings.
Present the completed paperwork for filing at the clerk’s office in the Domestic Relations Court of the Ohio Court of Common Pleas in the county where you reside and pay the filing fees due. The clerk’s office will generally require that at least three additional copies be presented for filing.
Attend any required hearing to present the details of your agreement before the court. The judge may ask specific questions related to the terms of the separation agreement, including finances and arrangements for minor children. He may also ask for your confirmation as to the fairness of the agreement.
Acquire the judge’s signed and sealed decree if he approves the separation. If you and your spouse fail to later reconcile, the legal separation may be converted to a divorce.