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Is a pro se divorce possible in Ohio?

Divorce is not often easy. In Ohio and elsewhere, matters are frequently complicated by custody issues, property division, division of complex assets, and spousal and child support.

The contested division of assets and the often emotional matter of child custody may be unavoidable in some divorce cases, but in others, where no contested or complicated issues exist, divorce is sometimes simpler.

A type of simplified divorce forms exist in Ohio and they are currently being considered in Texas where they have proven very controversial. In a recent decision, for example, the Texas Supreme Court rejected a recommendation to suspend the work of a task force considering the issue.

The task force has recommended the creation of simplified forms for pro se litigants to use in uncomplicated proceedings. A "pro se" divorce is one in which the parties do not have attorneys; they are representing themselves. The intention behind the forms is to make justice more accessible to the poor, according to advocates.

According to critics, however, equal access to the courts is not the same as equal access to justice. True justice, they argue, is about access to expert legal counsel.

In Ohio, pro se divorce is possible through the use of such forms, but it is not an option for very many couples. This is because most divorces do involve disputes which require the counsel of an attorney to prepare and file the relevant motions. And, even when spouses are able to negotiate their own terms, this is usually done with the assistance of legal counsel. However, it is technically possible for an Ohio divorce that does not involve property allocation or minor children to be handled pro se.

However, the use of standardized forms for divorce proceedings is controversial. In particular, the forms have stirred considerable emotion among some critics who view them as shortsighted. This is because the forms may not always anticipate every issue that would come up in a divorce proceeding. While seeking a pro se divorce may seem like a good way to save money at the time, it often costs more in the long run when one or both parties are not pleased with the results.

In Texas, the Uniform Forms Task Force's report has now been referred to an advisory committee. The committee is expected to review the report and submit its findings in April.

Source: Texas Lawyer, "Controversy Over Pro Se Divorce Forms Before Texas Supreme Court," Mary Alice Robbins, January 25, 2012

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