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Columbus Ohio Military Divorce Attorney series on Divorce in Ohio part 13: Ohio Military Divorce Jurisdiction


COLUMBUS OHIO MILITARY DIVORCE ATTORNEYFor members of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp, Coast Guard or National Guard, military divorce has even more jurisdiction issues than the average divorce case.  So how do you navigate these issues and figure out where to file your divorce?  If you’ve already visited your JAG office, they probably told you they don’t handle divorces.  So now you need to talk to an attorney, but you’re unsure where to start, or which state to start in.  If you live in Ohio, or used to live in Ohio (and may return), the starting point is the word “domicile“.

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Ohio Revised Code 3015.03 states “The plaintiff in actions for divorce and annulment shall have been a resident of the state at least six months immediately before filing the complaint.”  For divorce purposes, Ohio courts have defined the word “resident” in this statute to mean one who possesses a domiciliary residence, a residence accompanied by an intention to make the state of Ohio a permanent home.  See Heiney v. Heiney, 157 Ohio App. 3d 775 – Ohio: Court of Appeals, 6th Appellate Dist. 2004, 2004-Ohio-3453,  Saalfeld v. Saalfeld (1949), 86 Ohio App. 225, 226, 41 O.O. 94, 89 N.E.2d 165.

COLUMBUS OHIO MILITARY FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYSThe domicile of one entering the armed forces of the United States remains as it was prior to the serviceperson’s enlistment throughout service unless a new domicile is voluntary selected by the person. Glassman v. Glassman (1944), 75 Ohio App. 47, 52, 30 O.O. 352, 60 N.E.2d 716. The spouse of a person in the military does not ordinarily change residence when living with that serviceperson at a military posting. Dobson v. Dobson (May 18, 1998), Stark App. No. 97CA0217, 1998 WL 519255. (Heiney v. Heiney, 157 Ohio App. 3d 775 – Ohio: Court of Appeals, 6th Appellate Dist. 2004, 2004-Ohio-3453).

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In Ohio, domicile, not legal residency is the key, and the key to domicile is intent to remain.  A good illustration of  the difference between domicile, state of residence and home of record is found in Holtz v. Holtz, 2006 Ohio 1812 – Ohio: Court of Appeals, 2nd Appellate Dist. 2006.  According to the Holtz case, Mr. Holtz lived in Ohio before he joined the military.  Mr. Holtz married and had a son.  While Mr. and Mrs. Holtz were in England, the parties separated, and Mrs. Holtz returned to California.  In January, 2005 Mr. Holtz brought his son to live in Ohio, with his mother.  He eventually filed for divorce in Ohio, and Mrs. Holtz wrote a letter objecting to Ohio’s jurisdiction.  Mrs. Holtz and Mr. Holtz’s attorney attended the hearing on jurisdictional matters, but Mr. Holtz did not.  The trial court dismissed his complaint, stating that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the divorce because Mr. Holtz, the Plaintiff, had not proven that Ohio was his residence and the place that he intended to remain (in other words, Ohio was not his domicile).

FRANKLIN COUNTY OHIO MILITARY FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYThe court of appeals in Holtz cited Glassman v. Glassman and Saalfeld v. Saalfeld (1949), 86 Ohio App. 225, 225-226, 89 N.E.2d 165 in support of the definition of residence in Ohio Revised Code 3015.03 to mean domicile.  The court of appeals cited E. Cleveland v. Landingham (1994), 97 Ohio App.3d 385, 390, 646 N.E.2d 897, and stated “Every person must have a domicile somewhere, and that domicile is not lost until a new one is acquired. A person abandons his old domicile and acquires a new one only when he chooses a new domicile, establishes an actual residence in the chosen domicile, and demonstrates a clear intent that the new domicile become his primary and permanent residence”. Id.

The Holtz court went on to say:

The burden of proving domiciliary residence rests upon the plaintiff, and the plaintiff must prove it by a preponderance of the evidence. Hager v. Hager (1992) 79 Ohio App.3d 239, 244, 607 N.E.2d 63. In a divorce action, a plaintiff’s domicile is a question of intent and the plaintiff’s representation will be accepted unless facts and circumstances indicate that the plaintiff’s claimed intent cannot be accepted as true. Polakova v. Polak (1995), 107 Ohio App.3d 745, 748, 669 N.E.2d 498.

A military service member’s domicile remains as it was prior to enlistment throughout the course of military service, unless a new domicile is voluntarily selected. Heiney v. Heiney (2004), 157 Ohio App.3d 775, 777, 813 N.E.2d 738. The domiciliary residence of a person in the military is simply a question of intent. Spires v. Spires (1966), 7 Ohio Misc. 197, 201, 214 N.E.2d 691. A military person’s actual residence does not operate to change his pre-enlistment domiciliary residence, because his actual residence is not the result of his own volition. Id. A military person’s designation of a state other than Ohio as his or her domiciliary residence on a military form required for tax purposes is not determinative of that person’s true intent to make or keep Ohio his or her domiciliary residence. Hager v. Hager (1992) 79 Ohio App.3d 239, 244-245, 607 N.E.2d 63.

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COLUMBUS OHIO MILITARY DIVORCE CUSTODY LAWYERIn this case, although Mr. Holtz designated Florida as his home of record on his DD 1966 military processing form, the court of appeals found there was evidence that Mr. Holtz made Florida his home of record solely for tax purposes and did not intend to make Florida his new domicile. In addition, the court said there was evidence that Mr. Holtz changed his DD 1966 form to reflect Ohio as his domiciliary residence before he filed his complaint for divorce. The court of appeals concluded:

Thus, based on these facts, the rule that every person must be domiciled somewhere, and the principle that a military person’s domiciliary residence remains as it was prior to enlistment throughout the course of service, we conclude that the trial court erred in dismissing Mr. Holtz’s divorce complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.


Ohio courts look at evidence of intent to remain on a case by case basis.  Certainly, the court will look at factors such as where the service member have a drivers license, where he or she is registered to vote and which state the service member has designated as his or her “home of record” on their DD 1966 form, but none of these factors, alone, determines whether Ohio is still the service member’s domicile.  Intent to remain (which state the member intends to be his or her permanent home) is the key.

For more information on Military Divorce in Ohio, and Military Divorce Attorneys in Columbus, Ohio, and which state is the right state to file divorce papers in,  see the other installments in our Divorce in Ohio Series.

This is the 13th installment in a series by a Columbus Ohio Family Law Lawyer and Columbus Ohio Military Divorce Attorney about the process and options for ending your marriage in Ohio, and about Ohio divorce laws.

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You  can view other articles in the series by clicking any of the following links:

In addition to the other installments in the Divorce in Ohio Series (see links at top of the page), you may also find the following topics, which relate to divorce, to be helpful.

AdulteryAnnulmentAlimony (Spousal Support)Best Interest of the ChildChild CustodyChild Custody Jurisdiction, Child Support (deviation)Child Support (how much)Child Support (how to pay)Child Support (lower)Child Support (myths)Child Support (resources), Child Support (sign up),ContemptDissolutionDivorce BasicsDivorce MythsForeclosure MediationGrandparentsGuardian ad LitemHouseHow Long Your Divorce May LastInternational Abduction,Legal SeparationMediationMovingPacket of Forms vs. Getting a LawyerPrenuptial Agreements (Antenuptial Agreements)Shared Parenting,Temporary OrdersTemporary Orders AffidavitsWhere to File for Divorce

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