The Canons of Judicial Ethics prohibit the Judge and her employees from answering questions about specific cases. However, there are many questions that we receive on a daily basis which we are permitted to answer and we are happy to provide those responses below.



Why can’t I talk to the Judge or Magistrate? To ensure fairness and equal treatment, Judges and Magistrates are not permitted by their ethical rules to receive what are called ex parte communications—meaning visits, phone calls or other forms of communication from just one side of a case.  To understand more about this bedrock principle, please read this valuable publication from the Ohio Judicial Conference.

Please consider talking to an attorney.  Court cases can be very complicated, and even if you are representing yourself,  you should see a lawyer for legal advice as to how the law applies to you, and what is best for your particular situation.  This might save you time, money and trips to the courthouse, and help you to avoid serious mistakes.    There are lawyers who will help you.  For  more information, call the Mahoning County Bar Association at 330-746-2737 or Community Legal Aid at 1-800-309-5454.

Required Forms

What forms must accompany a Complaint, Answer, or Counterclaim for Divorce or Legal Separation?

In accordance with Local Rule 8.02, all filings must be accompanied by the following Local Court Forms:

1. Parenting Declaration (if there are minor children)
2. Affidavit of Income, Expenses and Financial Disclosure
3. Mutual Restraining Order
4. Mandatory Discovery Order
5. IV-D Application for Child Support Services

6. Family Information Sheet
7. Private Health Insurance Questionnaire
(if there are minor children)

Alternatively, effective July 1, 2010, the Court will also accept for filing the new Uniform DR Forms:
1. Affidavit of Income Expenses
2. Affidavit of Property
3. Parenting Proceeding Affidavit
4. Health Insurance Affidavit
5. Motion and Affidavit of Counter Affidavit for Temporary Orders Without Oral Hearing.

What forms must accompany a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage?

In accordance with Local Rule 8.03, all filings must be accompanied by the following Local Court Forms:

1. Parenting Declaration (if there are minor children)
2. Affidavit of Income, Expenses and Financial Disclosure
3. IV-D Application for Child Support Services

4. Family Information Sheet
5. Private Health Insurance Questionnaire (if there are minor children)

As indicated above, the Uniform DR Forms will also be accepted as alternatives to the Court's Local Forms to accompany Petitions for Dissolutions of Marriage.

What about commercially prepared forms that may be found on the Internet or at an office supply store?

These forms are filed at your own risk. The Court evaluates the use of these filings on a case by case basis. If the forms do not substantially comply with the requirements of the Ohio Revised Code and the Court's Local Rules, the pleadings may be dismissed.

What is a Request for Affidavit Order and when should it be filed?

This is an additional form that must be filed if a party to a Complaint or Counterclaim for Divorce or Legal Separation wishes the Court to issue temporary orders regarding allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, child and spousal support and allocation of debt.

What is a Pre-Trial Form?

This is an additional form that must be filed in every contested divorce or legal separation action. The purpose of the form is to summarize the marital and separate assets and identify issues in dispute.

What forms must accompany a Motion for Contempt or To Show Cause?

1. Summons and Order to Appear and Request for Court-Appointed Counsel
2. Explanation of Medical Bills (if the claim of contempt is for unpaid medical bills)

What forms must accompany a Motion for Reallocation of Parental Rights?

A Parenting Declaration which sets forth the current addresses of the child or children, their residences for the past five (5) years and any domestic violence convictions.

What form must be filed when a party wishes to relocate to another address?

When a Residential Parent moves to a different address either within or outside the State of Ohio, a Notice of Intent to Relocate-Local or a Notice of Intent Long-Distance must be filed with the Court.


Filing Fees

What are the filing fees that must be paid to the Mahoning County Clerk of Courts for filing various actions with the Court?

Complaint for Divorce, Legal Separation, Annulment, or Petition
for Dissolution of Marriage with or without children: $250.00.

Counterclaim for Divorce, Legal Separation, Annulment, Cross-Complaint, or Third Party Complaint: $150.00

Post-Judgment/Decree Motions: $100.00.

Petitions for Domestic Violence Civil Protection Orders: $0.00

What if I believe I cannot afford to pay the filing fees for the above actions?

A party may apply for a waiver of the filing fees by filing a Poverty Affidavit which is subject to Court approval.


Finding An Attorney

Who do I contact for help in choosing an attorney?

The Mahoning County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service may be able to assist you in obtaining an attorney. For additional information, call their office at 330-746-2933.

What if I want an attorney but have no money to pay for legal services?

1) You may call the Community Legal Services at 330-744-3196 to see if you qualify for free legal representation.

2) If you are summoned to appear in court on a charge for which you could be sent to jail (for example, contempt of court), the court may appoint an attorney for you.



What are hearings before Magistrates and how do they differ from hearings before Judges?

Magistrates are non-elected judicial officers. They are appointed by Judges. Magistrates conduct proceedings just as a judge would, but certain decisions of the Magistrate are not final or effective until they are reviewed and adopted by a Judge.

The hearings before Magistrates are the same as they are before Judges.

Magistrates issue Orders and Decisions. A Magistrate's Order is effective immediately. If a party wants the Judge to review the Order to have it changed, then the party must file a request to that effect. However, the Order will still remain in effect while the request is pending unless the Judge or Magistrate issues a stay. An Order is usually issued for matters that are not dispositive of the entire case. Orders to continue a case, pretrial orders, orders regarding discovery, etc. are examples of orders issued by magistrates that take immediate effect.

A Decision is issued when substantive issues are being addressed, or when the Decision, if affirmed, would result in a final disposition of the case.

How can I find out my hearing date?

Call the court's Assignment Commissioner at 330-740-2208.

How can I get a transcript of a hearing?

Magistrate hearings are recorded on standard cassette tapes on a Lanier Audio Transcription Machine. To obtain a transcript from the Magistrate you need to write a letter to the Court requesting same. The letter must contain the case number, name, and date of the hearing you need transcribed, and the Magistrate that heard same. You must contact a local court reporter service to request them to transcribe same. Notify the Court which court reporter service you will be using. The Court will then make copies of the tape(s) and contact the court reporter service who will pick up the tape. Hearings before the Judge are recorded by the Official Court Reporters of Mahoning County. To obtain a transcript from the Judge you have to contact the Official Court Reporter Office located in the courthouse. The telephone number is (330) 740-2440.

Where can I get copies of my court papers?

From the Mahoning County Clerk of Courts Office, located on the second floor of the Mahoning County Courthouse at 120 Market Street in Youngstown, Ohio. For additional information, call 330-740-2100.


Communications with the Court

Can I call the Court with questions about my case?

While Judge Smith wishes to be responsive to individual questions or concerns, both the Judge and the employees of the Court are prohibited by the Canons of Judicial Ethics from communicating privately with either side of a case on a matter that may come before the Court. For this reason, the Court cannot accept phone calls and cards and letters will not be read.

How do I bring a matter back before the Court?

If you wish to bring a matter back before the Court, the proper vehicle is to secure a hearing date, file a motion with the Clerk of Courts, and perfect service of the motion through the Clerk in accordance with the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. In the absence of that, the Court is not empowered to act.


Child Support Enforcement

How can I enforce my current child support or health insurance order?

Contact the Mahoning County Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) by calling 330-740-2073. You may also have your attorney file a motion with the Court.

Where can I determine the current balance owed on a support obligation or the date of a last payment?

You may call the State of Ohio's Support Enforcement Tracking System (SETS), Voice Response Unit, toll free at 1-800-860-2555. You must have the Social Security Number of one of the parties and the Court Case Number. You may also contact the Mahoning County Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) at 330-740-2073.

What do I have to do if I change employment?

If you are the obligor (the person who is ordered to pay support) you are required by law to notify the Mahoning County Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) if you change employment. Also, if you are unemployed and have been placed under a seek work order, you must report any new employment immediately so that a wage deduction order can be issued. Call CSEA at 330-740-2073.


Parenting Time Issues

What is the mandatory parent education class, and how do I sign up for it?

All parents who file for divorce or dissolution of marriage must complete a class entitled "Help for Children in Divided Families" before their divorce or dissolution will be granted. Call 330-740-2208 to sign up for the class.

What do I have to do if I plan to relocate to another county or state?

You must file a Notice of Intent to Relocate.

Is there a certain age when children can choose which parent to live with?

No. However, the wishes and concerns of the child is one of the statutory factors which the Court must take into consideration in determining what is in the child's best interest. The principle test the Court applies is whether the child has sufficient reasoning ability to convey his or her wishes and concerns. Please note, however, that it is only one factor out of many, and children should not be given the impression that it is going to be up to them to decide which parent they want to live with, regardless of the age of the child. If at all possible, children should not be made to feel as if they have to choose between their mother and their father.

Can my child speak to the Judge or the Magistrate?

Yes. If the issue before the Court is allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, and if either parent requests it, the Judge or the Magistrate can speak to the child outside the presence of the parents and the attorneys in order to determine the wishes and concerns of the child.

My ex is not complying with the court ordered parenting time schedule. As a non-residential parent, what can I do?

Mediation can be an option prior to filing any motions; otherwise, you should document the issues and consult with an attorney.

What is the holiday pick up and drop off time?

All holiday times are 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Please refer to the Local Parenting Time Schedule.

What if my child does not wish to go with the other parent on their parenting time?

Under normal circumstances, parents are to follow all Court Orders and encourage the visits, even if the child does not want to go. However, in extraordinary circumstances where there is perceived harm, parents should act in their child's best interest and consult an attorney.


Domestic Violence

How can I get a Civil Protection Order? Does it cost anything?

You must come in person to the VALU Office presently located in the basement of the Courthouse. The VALU volunteers will assist you in determining if you qualify for a protection order. The process of filling out a petition and having a court hearing may take several hours. There is no charge. For additional information about Domestic Violence, click here or call call the VALU Program at 330-742-5856.


Mahoning County Domestic Relations Court
120 Market St.
Youngstown, OH

Phone: 330-740-2208
Fax: 330-740-2503