Courts of Common Pleas
The court of common pleas, the only trial court created by the Ohio Constitution, is established by Article IV, Section 1, of the Constitution, and its duties are outlined in Article IV, Section 4.
There is a court of common pleas in each of the 88 counties. Specific courts of common pleas may be divided into separate divisions by the General Assembly, including general, domestic relations, juvenile and probate divisions. Common pleas judges are elected to six-year terms on a nonpartisan ballot. A person must be an attorney with at least six years of experience in the practice of law to be elected or appointed to the court.
The general division has original jurisdiction in all criminal felony cases and in all civil cases in which the amount in controversy is more than $15,000. General divisions also have appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of some state administrative agencies.
Domestic Relations Division
Domestic relations courts have jurisdiction over all proceedings involving divorce or dissolution of marriages, annulment, legal separation, spousal support and allocation of parental rights and responsibilities for the care of children.
Juvenile courts hear cases involving persons under 18 years of age who are charged with acts that would be crimes if committed by an adult. They also hear cases involving unruly, dependent and neglected children. Juvenile courts have jurisdiction in adult cases involving paternity, child abuse, nonsupport, contributing to the delinquency of minors and the failure to send children to school.
The Ohio Constitution of 1851 provided that probate courts were to be established as separate independent courts with jurisdiction over the probate of wills and supervision of the administration of estates and guardianships. In 1968, under the Modern Courts Amendment of the Ohio Constitution, the probate courts became divisions of the courts of common pleas. Probate courts also have jurisdiction over the issuance of marriage licenses, adoption proceedings, determination of sanity or mental competency and certain eminent domain proceedings. Probate judges can perform marriages and may charge a fee for the service.