Many people contemplating divorce harbor fantasies of standing up in court and telling judge and jury about everything their spouse did wrong. This fantasy may seem appealing, but it almost never happens in real life, and there are good reasons for that.

Ohio law provides two main ways of ending a marriage, divorce and dissolution.

Under Ohio law, divorce requires a showing of fault. This means the court requires the petitioning spouse to present an acceptable reason for requesting the divorce. Acceptable reasons include adultery, willful absence of more than one year, imprisonment, habitual drunkenness and extreme cruelty. Generally, these require supporting testimony of a witness.

Divorces are often resolved by the parties before the case goes to trial. In these cases, the parties reach a settlement and submit it to the court for approval. However, sometimes the parties cannot reach agreement on their own, and their case must go to trial. These trials are before a judge with no jury.

Dissolution is something like what other states consider a “no-fault” divorce: It does not require any showing of fault. The two parties agree to dissolve their marriage, work on a settlement agreement outside of court, and then submit their agreement for court approval. The process takes a lot of work, and it isn’t always easy for two estranged spouses to come to agreement, but dissolution is generally faster and less expensive than divorce. Perhaps just as importantly, when the parties reach an agreement without going to court, they have greater control over their outcomes. A good lawyer can help clients decide which method is better for them, and help them reach the best results.