Cincinnati Family Law & Divorce Blog: Is Ohio a No Fault State?
According to Ohio statutes, grounds must exist to terminate a marriage by divorce. There are eleven grounds that permit a court to terminate a marriage. The first nine listed are considered “fault” grounds and the tenth ground of “living separate and apart without cohabitation for one year” is considered a “no fault” ground. Technically, incompatibility is not a ground for divorce, rather a status of the marriage that must be agreed upon by both parties which when agreed upon, allows a court to grant a divorce.
As a practical matter, the majority of divorces are granted because the parties agree they are incompatible. The reason many people are seeking a divorce due to incompatibility or living separate and apart for more than one year is to avoid public accusations of wrongdoing.
In the rare case where the parties do not agree that they are incompatible and they have not lived apart for one year without cohabitation, the spouse seeking the divorce must prove though oral or documentary evidence that another ground exists. The fault grounds vary from very specific – adultery, to very broad – gross neglect of duty. Most courts will find sufficient evidence to support a broad ground finding. The trials on the issue of grounds necessitates a thorough examination of the parties’ marriage and an airing of the so-called “dirty laundry”. Most couples choose to avoid this invasive hearing due to the cost and futility of a legal challenge. The reality is that if someone wants a divorce, he or she will be able to get a divorce, even if the person is forced to wait until a separation of one year has occurred.
With the advent of no fault, a finding of fault has little to no impact on awarding and dividing the marital estate. Even if a spouse is found to have committed adultery or acted with extreme cruelty, no financial penalty is imposed. So the objection to incompatibility is not usually a cost beneficial position to take. It requires legal expense and preparation without the real benefit of a monetary award even if successful. There is also the risk that the spouse objecting to grounds could be forced to pay attorney fees to the other spouse if the court finds the objection unreasonable or a tactic for delay.
Dissolutions, on the other hand, are all granted on the basis that the parties are incompatible. Grounds are not alleged in a dissolution and the parties jointly request that the court grant a dissolution of their marriage.
Although Ohio still has statutory “fault” grounds for divorce, they are rarely used. You will not likely even be discussing these with your lawyer, given the cost and the ability to obtain a divorce without proving grounds.