By Randall D. Fuller
A new domestic relations law went into effect on March 22. The law improves the practice of domestic relations law by allowing postnuptial agreements, and it strengthens Dating Violence Civil Protection Orders.
When the new legislation was introduced as Senate Bill (SB) 210, I had the opportunity to provide proponent testimony before the Ohio House of Representatives, Civil Justice Committee, and the Ohio Senate, Judiciary Committee, on behalf of the Ohio Judicial Conference.
SB 210 passed out of the House of Representatives and the Senate with bipartisan support. In the House, it passed 76-2, and in the Senate, it passed 28-1. Governor DeWine signed it into law on Dec. 22, 2022.
So, why is this important?
Well, SB 210 improves the practice of law in the state of Ohio in several ways.
First, it allows a married couple to create a postnuptial agreement or to modify an existing prenuptial agreement. This brings Ohio in line with the vast majority of other states that allow contracts between married couples. Now, spouses can make legally binding financial agreements anytime during their marriage.
Allowing postnuptial agreements gives spouses the opportunity to do what they believe is best for them during their marriage. It also provides spouses additional estate planning tools to use when preparing a will or trust. By allowing modifications to prenuptial agreements, spouses now have the ability to make their own decisions and agreements as life changes.
Are there any safeguards in SB 210? Well, yes there are. It requires the agreement to be in writing and signed by both spouses. Both spouses must knowingly and voluntarily enter into the agreement, and each spouse must make a full and complete disclosure of all assets.
Another provision of SB 210 strengthens Dating Violence and Domestic Violence Civil Protection Orders (CPOs). If someone is a victim of dating violence or domestic violence, they can petition the court for a CPO. The CPO may order the other party in the case to stay away from the person asking for the CPO, as well as make additional protection orders.
Prior to SB 210, an unintended gap existed in protection orders when a minor was trying to get a protection order against an adult. This could be a teenage girl, age 16 or 17, who was dating a young adult, age 18 or 19. Prior to the effective date of SB 210, the teenage girl who was a victim of dating violence may not have been able to obtain a CPO in any court.
The new law clarifies the statute to explicitly allow a juvenile to petition the Domestic Relations Court for a protection order against an adult. This will ensure that anyone who needs a dating violence protection order can request an order from the court.
Third, SB 210 grants domestic relations courts the authority to terminate a decree of legal separation when both people agree. This creates an opportunity for couples to reunite after entering into a binding legal separation agreement.
It is always a learning experience when I am asked to provide testimony before a House or Senate subcommittee. I am thankful to have had a small part in improving the laws of the state of Ohio.
The enactment of this new law is a benefit to the people of Delaware County and the state of Ohio. It further ensures people’s rights to financial and physical protection and honors the wishes of a separated couple to legally reunite.
Randall D. Fuller is judge of the Domestic Relations Division of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Fuller is a life-long resident of Delaware County.