Legal Separation in Ohio

In Ohio, a legal separation is a process wherein a family law court can issue binding orders dividing a couple's marital property, order spousal support (alimony), allocate child custody, divide parenting time, and issue child support orders. All without terminating the couple's marriage. In some situations, it benefits a couple more to continue their marriage but live separately than it would to terminate their marriage through a divorce or dissolution. For some, the need to keep insurance coverage for medical expenses is of vital concern. Others choose not to pursue a divorce or dissoluton for religious reasons. Still others are not sure whether a termination of the marriage is what they want or need, but they are separated and desire the stability of having defined orders in place regulating the division of their property, spousal support, child custody, and child support.

Many people wish to pursue a legal separation because they are uncertain about whether they wish to pursue a divorce and believe the legal separation can be obtained more quickly or easily than a divorce action. However, the legal process involved in obtaining a legal separation is virtually identical to the legal process for obtaining a divorce. For this reason, we often recommend that clients who are uncertain consider filing a "two count" complaint with the first request being for legal separation while the second "alternative" count being for divorce. Once filed, other options such as a "motion for reconciliation", which requests that the court order the parties into marriage counseling, can be filed if desired by the client in order to pursue reunification.

Just like in a divorce, an Ohio legal separation decree can provide for a division of property, payment of debts, spousal support (alimony), child custody, designation of a residential parent and legal custodian, allocation of parenting rights, establishment of a parenting time schedule, child support, health insurance coverage, division of tax dependency exemptions, and payment of expenses. The only difference is that the parties remain married after the legal separation decree is issued.

If the parties later want to terminate their marriage, they can file for a dissolution or divorce and request that the court simply continue the terms of the decree of legal separation or ask that the court adopt it with modifications. If both parties agree, the modifications can include changes to the property division orders issued at the time of the legal separation, but otherwise, the court's jurisdiction in a later divorce action is limited to child custody, child support, and spousal support in many situations.