Basic Divorce Pleadings

Complaint for Divorce

The first pleading filed in a divorce case is a complaint requesting that the court grant the plaintiff a divorce. It is important to remember that Ohio is not a "no fault divorce" state and, thus, grounds for divorce must be asserted in the complaint for divorce.

Many grounds, such as gross neglect or extreme cruelty, sound extremely harsh, but are necessary in case your spouse refuses to agree that you are incompatible (a friendly ground for divorce which requires that the other party "not contest" the assertion that the parties are incompatible.) The Complaint must also set forth whether the parties own any interest in real property, have children who are not emancipated, and the plaintiff's claim for relief which often includes a request that a divorce be granted, an equitable division of the marital property and debt, custody if applicable, and a designation of child and/or spousal support.

Answer and Counterclaim for Divorce

The Defendant in the case must answer the allegations raised in the Complaint for Divorce through the filing of a formal Answer. If the Defendant wishes he or she can also request a divorce through the filing of a Counterclaim for Divorce that basically follows the aforementioned guidelines for a Complaint for Divorce.

Motion for Restraining Order

Pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code, your attorney may request that the court restrain your spouse from depleting non-checking accounts, incurring credit, relocating the children, removing you or your children from life or health insurance coverage, or harassing you. Most family law attorneys consider it malpractice not to request such temporary orders when a complaint for divorce, or an answer, is filed.

Motion for Temporary Orders

The temporary orders will be discussed in the following section. Suffice it to say, however, that your attorney may request through the filing of a motion that the court issue orders to maintain the status quo in the marriage pending the final divorce hearing. Issues addressed in the motion commonly include as it relates to the use of marital assets, payment of bills, parenting rights, and child and spousal support issues.

Requests for Discovery

The formal discovery process is dictated by the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. Usually, in divorce cases, there is an exchange of requests for production of documentation, interrogatories, and depositions. Your attorney can better detail his or her strategy for conducting your discovery effectively and efficiently. However, it is important to read each discovery request so that you know the rules that need to be followed in responding to the requests. It is also important to respond to the requests through your attorney and to give your attorney sufficient time to review your responses and discuss them with you before the deadline for submission of the response to your spouse's attorney.

Statutorily Required Affidavits

There are several affidavits which are required by statute to be filed with your initial pleadings depending on the circumstances of your case. A financial affidavit is usually required for all divorce cases, an affidavit must be filed with a motion for temporary orders, and, if there are children involved, affidavits detailing health insurance coverage and the children's prior custodial history are also required by statute. Thus, you will be asked to provide a large amount of detailed information to your attorney early in your case. The best strategy is to methodically work through the requests providing as much detail as you can while reserving any questions for discussion with your attorney at your follow-up meeting.

Allocation of Parental Rights

There are other motions that are commonly filed in relation to the allocation of parental rights regarding children of the marriage. They may include a motion for Guardian ad Litem or a motion for psychological evaluation. Regardless of the allegations contained in these motions, you should direct any inquiries or anger regarding the allegations to your attorney and not to your spouse. These motions are common place in custody litigation, and your attorney can discuss them further with you as well as any response that may be appropriate given the specific circumstances of your case.