In Ohio, males at least age 18 and females at least age 16 can marry. Second cousins and people more distantly related than second cousins may marry each other. Second cousins are children of people who are first cousins. For example, I could not marry my cousin. However, I could marry my dad’s first cousin’s daughter.
Common law marriage involves unmarried people living together as if they were married for a period of several years, and thereafter being treated as legally married. The cohabitation requirement has varied by state, but it has usually been no fewer than 10 years. Since 1991, Ohio has not recognized new common law marriages, essentially ending common law marriage in Ohio.
When people get married in Ohio, each spouse does not automatically own half of the other’s assets. However, a spouse does acquire a tiny percentage ownership in real estate owned by the other spouse. This tiny percentage of ownership is called dower. Dower is a holdover practice from times when husbands might abandon wives after acquiring dowries (money or real estate) as gifts from the wives’ families upon marriage.
Sometimes, couples will want to keep some assets completely separate while married. They can agree to do so only before the wedding. Those pre-wedding agreements are called prenuptial, or more formally “ante-nuptial”. “Ante” means “before” marriage, not “anti” as in “against” marriage.
Ending a marriage is usually more complex and challenging than getting married. In Ohio, couples can legally separate without divorcing. Usually couples legally separate in Ohio if they do not meet the six-month pre-filing residency requirement necessary to divorce or dissolve a marriage. Some states require a period of legal separation before officially terminating a marriage. Legally separated couples are usually considered unmarried for all purposes except for the ability to marry someone else.
Ending marriages in Ohio usually involves a divorce or dissolution. A dissolution is where the couple agrees on property separation before the court filing. Divorce is where one or both spouses files in court first and with the property separation being finalized after the filing.
There are many reasons that will allow the court to grant a dissolution or divorce, most of which reasons require “blaming” one spouse or the other for some improprieties like infidelity or extreme cruelty. However, the most common reason is “incompatibility,” which has only been an available justification in Ohio over the last several decades. Incompatibility does not require blame (fault), so when it exists in the law, the law is often referred to as allowing “no fault divorce.”
Annulment is a term often mentioned in the context of ended marriages, but it is usually used in conjunction with religions. Unlike divorces and dissolutions, annulments do not terminate marriages. Annulments are declarations that an effective marriage never took place. For a marriage to be legally annulled, a spouse must prove that an essential element of the marriage never took place and also (in most instances) that the couple never engaged in sexual relations after the wedding.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-523-5523. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.