Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Divorce, Legal Separation, Annulment, and Dissolution?

This information is provided to clarify the type of case a litigant may file with Domestic Relations Court. For more specific legal advice you should contact an attorney.

A divorce is filed if the parties cannot agree whether to terminate the marriage or how to resolve their issues (property, debt, custody, support, etc.). The court will schedule hearings to decide all issues in order to terminate the marriage. This type of case is also commonly filed when the parties agree to all issues but one of them cannot attend the final hearing.

A legal separation is filed when a spouse wants to legally separate from the other but remain married. The court will set hearings to decide all pertinent issues (property, debt, custody, support. etc.) but will not terminate the marriage. To terminate the marriage after a legal separation, you would need to file a case for divorce or dissolution.

In certain circumstances, an annulment may be filed. This action will not only terminate the marriage, but render it invalid and void from the beginning. There are specific requirements to file an annulment which may include:

  • An underage spouse (age 18 for males and age 16 for females with parental consent)
  • A prior valid marriage with surviving spouse
  • Mental incompetence of one party
  • Consent to marry obtained by fraud or force (coercion)
  • Failure to consummate the marriage

It is a common misconception that an annulment should be filed if the parties were married only for a short period of time. The length of the marriage is not necessarily a factor in this type of case.

A dissolution is filed when both parties agree to a resolution of all aspects of their case (property, debt, custody, support. etc.). A separation agreement signed by the parties and filed with the case instructs how all matters are resolved. There is only one hearing required for a dissolution and both parties must be in attendance. Ohio Revised Code 3105.64 requires you to wait 30 days from the date of filing for your hearing unless the dissolution has been completed through a collaborative family law process. A dissolution must be heard within 90 days of the date of filing or it will be dismissed.


  • In order to file any new case you must have been a resident of the State of Ohio for six months and Hamilton County for 90 days.

  • All cases, except dissolution, will require more than one hearing. The length and number of hearings will depend on the level of issues to be litigated.

  • An uncontested divorce case filed with a waiver of service and separation agreement will be scheduled at least 42 days from the date of filing (Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, 75(K)).

  • Any document requiring signature notarization must be done prior to bringing paperwork to the Court for filing. Make the requisite number of copies of your documents after notarization.

  • If you do not have an address for the spouse, a process called Service by Publication can be used to serve the other party. This process will require additional paperwork and you may be billed for the cost of publication. The initial hearing will be scheduled after 10 weeks from the date of filing to allow time for publication.

  • When appearing for your court date, proper attire is required (no shorts).

  • Domestic Relations Docket Office does not accept new case filings past 3:30 P.M.

Why can't I talk to the Judge?

Representing Yourself in Court

What is Mediation?

How do I obtain a copy of a Divorce or Dissolution Decree?

 Divorce and Dissolution Decrees may be located in one of two places depending on the final disposition of the case.

For Divorce and Dissolution Decrees granted between 1994 and the current year, go to:

Clerk of Courts, 800 Broadway, Room 3-47

Cincinnati, OH 45202

Phone number: (513)946-9150

For Divorce and Dissolution Decrees granted prior to 1994, go to:

Clerk of Courts 1000 Main St. Hamilton County Courthouse, Room 315 (Document Center)

Cincinnati, OH. 45202

Phone number: (513)946-5693

The cost for a certified copy of a Decree is $1.00 per page. Certified copies are often requested for legal or business purposes once a case is concluded. If you are requesting a Decree by mail you must include a self-addressed stamped envelope. 

How long will it take until I can pick up a copy of a decree after my final hearing?

The Court will process the documentation, obtain the Judge's signature, and file the Decree with the Clerk of Courts office. This process may take up to two weeks and the Clerk of Courts will mail a postcard when the Decree has been entered on the docket.


How many cases are filed each year?

How long will a case take until it is final?

A Dissolution is required by law to be heard within 90 days of the date of filing. For all other cases, the length and number of hearings will depend on the level of issues to be litigated.

What is the residency requirement for filing a case in Hamilton County?

In order to file any new case you must have been a resident of the State of Ohio for six months and Hamilton County for 90 days.


What is the difference between a Judge and a Magistrate?

Judges are elected to serve on the court for a set term, while Magistrates are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Judge.


Can you recommend an attorney?

The Court cannot recommend an attorney. Please contact Cincinnati Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service at 513-381-8359. Qualifying parties may obtain assistance through Legal Aid Society at 513-241-9400.


Who can I call to check if service has been completed?

Service by certified/regular mail or the sheriff's office is handled through the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Office. They can be contacted at 513-946-9150.