defiance county court of common pleas

Defiance County Court of Common Pleas – General and Domestic Relations Divisions

Table of Contents

The Defiance County Court of Common Pleas is the trial court of general jurisdiction for Defiance County, Ohio. It has original jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases filed in the county. The court is divided into General and Domestic Relations divisions to handle different types of cases.

Location and Contact Information


The Defiance County Court of Common Pleas is located at:

221 Clinton Street Defiance, Ohio 43512

Phone Numbers

Legal Department: (419) 782-1936

Title Department: (419) 782-8587

Fax Number

Fax: (419) 782-2739


[email protected]

Office Hours

Monday – Friday 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Clerk of Courts and Staff

Amy M. Galbraith, Clerk of Courts

Amy M. Galbraith serves as the Clerk of Courts for Defiance County. She oversees the general operations of the court.

Rachel Guilliam, Chief Deputy Clerk

Rachel Guilliam is the Chief Deputy Clerk and assists the Clerk of Courts in managing court operations.

Dawn Karnes, Deputy Clerk (Legal)

Dawn Karnes works in the legal department as a Deputy Clerk. She assists with legal case proceedings.

Jennifer Caryer, Deputy Clerk (Legal)

Jennifer Caryer is another Deputy Clerk in the legal department. She helps process legal cases before the court.

Amy Huner, Deputy Clerk (Legal)

Amy Huner works alongside the other Deputy Clerks in the legal department. She helps manage legal cases and coordinates with the courts.

Francis Flores, Deputy Clerk (Title)

Francis Flores serves in the title department as a Deputy Clerk. He assists with title-related cases.

Olga Kindle, Deputy Clerk (Title)

Olga Kindle is a Deputy Clerk in the title department. She helps process title cases for the court.

Reba Bumb, Deputy Clerk (Title)

Reba Bumb works in the title department with the other Deputy Clerks. She assists with title filings and records.

Department Information

Legal Department

The legal department of the Clerk of Courts office handles all felony criminal cases and civil cases over $15,000. They assist with filing, processing, and coordinating these legal cases with the courts.

Title Department

The title department deals with issues related to car titles, property titles, and other document titles. They process title transfers and record ownership change

History and Background

The Defiance County Court of Common Pleas was established in 1845 when Defiance County was formed. The court operates under the laws of the state of Ohio and procedures set forth by the Ohio Supreme Court. It is funded by Defiance County and resides in the Defiance County Courthouse.

There are two elected Common Pleas Court judges who preside over cases. Judges serve six-year terms. The current judges are Judge Joseph Schmenk (General Division) and Judge Vincent J. Polito (Domestic Relations Division). The court employs court administrators, magistrates, probation officers, and other staff.

defiance common pleas court Jurisdiction and Powers

The Defiance County Court of Common Pleas has original jurisdiction over all civil cases with claims exceeding $15,000. This includes cases involving contracts, personal injury, malpractice, foreclosures, and more. The court also has jurisdiction over all felony criminal cases, including murders, robberies, and serious drug offenses.

In addition, the court has powers to grant divorces, allocate parental rights and responsibilities, divide property, and award spousal support in domestic relations cases. The court also handles juvenile cases involving minors. Appeals from municipal and county courts are heard in Common Pleas Court.

Defiance County Court of Common Pleas – General Division

The General Division of Common Pleas Court handles the wide variety of civil and criminal cases that come before the court.

Types of Cases

Major types of cases handled in the General Division include:

  • Contract disputes between citizens or businesses
  • Personal injury and malpractice lawsuits
  • Product liability claims
  • Premises liability lawsuits
  • Real estate disputes and foreclosures
  • Felony criminal cases involving offenses like murder, robbery, assault, etc.
  • Most professional license suspension hearings
  • Appeals of civil and criminal cases from municipal and county courts

Filing a Lawsuit

To initiate a civil lawsuit in the General Division, the plaintiff must file a complaint setting forth claims against the defendant. Filing fees apply unless waived for indigency. The defendant must be properly served notice. Defendants have 28 days to respond in writing, either admitting or denying allegations.

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For criminal cases, the prosecutor’s office files an indictment following grand jury proceedings. The defendant may turn themselves in or be arrested. Initial appearance and arraignment hearings follow.

Pretrial Proceedings

Civil cases typically involve discovery, where each side requests information and documents from the other side. Depositions may be taken. Pretrial motions may be filed on procedural issues. The court rules on motions and handles conferences to prepare for trial.

In criminal cases, pretrial proceedings involve plea negotiations between the prosecution and defense. Motions may be filed to suppress evidence or dismiss the case.


Civil trials in Defiance County Common Pleas Court are bench trials heard only by the judge. A jury trial may be requested but must be approved by the judge based on the case specifics.

Criminal defendants have a right to a jury trial. Jury selection proceeds through voir dire questioning. The trial follows procedural and evidentiary rules. Witnesses testify and physical evidence is presented. The jury receives legal instructions and deliberates its verdict.

Post-Trial Proceedings

After a civil trial, the judge will issue final judgment on the merits of the case. The judgment can be appealed to the higher courts. If money damages were awarded, the prevailing party can take steps to collect from the losing party.

Following a criminal conviction by trial or guilty plea, the judge orders a presentence investigation report and later holds a sentencing hearing. The sentence may involve fines, probation, or incarceration. Convictions can be appealed.


Appeals from final judgments of the Defiance County Common Pleas Court – General Division go to the Ohio Third District Court of Appeals. Further appeals can be pursued up to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Defiance County Court of Common Pleas – Domestic Relations Division

The Domestic Relations Division handles family law matters like divorce, child custody, and support issues.

Types of Cases

Major types of domestic relations cases include:

  • Divorce, dissolution, and legal separation
  • Annulment
  • Child custody disputes
  • Child support and spousal support orders
  • Allocation of parental rights and responsibilities
  • Visitation schedules
  • Modifications of prior orders

Filing for Divorce

A spouse starts the divorce process by filing a complaint requesting dissolution of the marriage. Grounds for divorce must be established under Ohio law. Filing fees apply unless waived. The other spouse must be served notice. A temporary orders hearing is scheduled.

Temporary Orders

Temporary orders establish arrangements for child custody, support, and spousal support while the divorce is pending. The court considers factors like financial status, living situations, and best interests of children. Temporary orders remain in effect until the final decree.

Final Hearing

The final divorce hearing involves presenting evidence about grounds for divorce, dividing marital property through equitable distribution, and determining details for child custody, support, and visitation. The judge issues final judgment on these matters.

Post-Decree Modifications

If circumstances change substantially after the divorce decree, either party can file to modify terms like custody, visitation, or child support. The court will hear the motion and make necessary adjustments.

Child Custody and Support

Child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. Custody may be sole or joint custody. Child support is ordered according to state guidelines factoring parents’ incomes and custody arrangements.

Practical Tips for Litigants

Whether filing a claim or finding yourself a defendant, understanding the court process helps achieve the most favorable outcome.

Finding an Attorney

Having legal counsel greatly improves your odds in court. Ask people you trust for attorney referrals. Interview lawyers and find one experienced in your type of case. Clarify representation terms upfront.

Courtroom Conduct and Etiquette

When attending any court proceeding, dress respectfully and speak when addressed by the judge. Turn off phones and avoid chatter. Stand when talking or the judge enters. Address the judge as “Your Honor.” Maintain professional decorum.

Resolving Disputes Out of Court

Many civil disputes can be settled through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. These alternatives are often faster, cheaper, and allow more control over outcomes compared to litigation. Explore resolution options before filing suit.

Resources for Self-Represented Litigants

While not ideal, you can pursue or defend a case without an attorney under the legal doctrine of “pro se” representation. The court clerk and law library can provide forms and guidance on court rules and procedures. Seek procedural help but not legal advice from court staff. Understand your rights and obligations every step of the way.

Defiance County Court of Common Pleas – Online Court Resources

In today’s digital age, access to court resources and information is crucial for both legal professionals and the general public. The Defiance County Court of Common Pleas, comprising the General and Domestic Relations Divisions, offers a wealth of online resources to facilitate seamless access to justice. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various services and information available, ensuring that you have all the tools you need to navigate the legal landscape in Defiance County, Ohio, and beyond.

Search Court Case Records

When it comes to accessing court case records in Defiance County, Ohio, the Defiance County Court of Common Pleas General and Domestic Relations Divisions has made it remarkably convenient. You can search for case records online, saving you time and effort in your legal endeavors. Whether you’re a legal professional or an interested party, this resource ensures that you can stay informed about ongoing cases, judgments, and proceedings.

Background Check Information

Obtaining a criminal background check is a vital step in various legal processes. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office offers clear instructions on how to obtain a comprehensive background check from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. This resource is essential for anyone involved in legal matters, such as employers, landlords, or individuals seeking to understand their own background records.

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Published Opinions and Orders

For those seeking clarity on legal matters or looking for precedent, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office provides access to recent official opinions. You can easily view and browse opinions by year or search for specific keywords, ensuring that you have the necessary legal insights at your fingertips.

Forms and Related Information

In any legal process, forms play a crucial role. The Defiance County Court of Common Pleas offers a repository of forms for use in Domestic Relations and Probate cases. These forms can simplify complex legal procedures and ensure that you complete the necessary paperwork accurately.

Additionally, the court provides an interactive interview process for completing Ohio court forms. This user-friendly resource allows you to generate completed forms that can be saved and printed, accompanied by detailed instructions and self-help resources.

Protection Order Forms and Information

Domestic violence, juvenile issues, and stalking or sexually-oriented offenses require specific legal measures. The court offers easily accessible protection order forms for these situations. These forms, along with links to related legal resources and publications, ensure that victims and advocates have the necessary tools to seek protection and justice.

Legal Forms and Information for Seniors

Seniors in Ohio can benefit from a range of legal resources, including interactive and downloadable forms. Topics covered include power of attorney, simple wills, advance directives, civil protection orders, expungement, and child custody, support, or visitation affidavits. These resources are invaluable for seniors and their families navigating legal matters.

Self-Help, Legal Research, General Information

Understanding the local rules of Defiance County Court of Common Pleas General and Domestic Relations Divisions is essential for legal professionals and individuals involved in cases. These rules guide the procedures and protocols of the court, ensuring a fair and transparent legal process.

The court’s information on the Defiance County Child Support Enforcement Agency is a valuable resource for those dealing with child support matters. It covers paternity orders, support order establishment and modification, and the collection of payments.

The Ohio Office of Child Support provides comprehensive information and services related to child support, including paternity, support orders, modification, enforcement, collection, payment, and forms. This resource is indispensable for parents and legal professionals involved in child support cases.

Understanding the Ohio juvenile justice system is essential for parents, guardians, and legal professionals working with young individuals involved in the justice system. The informational guide and videos provided by the court offer valuable insights into the juvenile justice process.

A parenting time guide for Ohio parents living apart is a practical resource for parents navigating custody and visitation arrangements.

The Ohio Judicial Conference offers a guide to small claims court, along with brochures on various legal topics such as jury service, legal terminology, mediation, and self-representation in legal proceedings.

Court Rules

Understanding court rules is essential for both legal professionals and individuals navigating the justice system. The court provides access to Ohio Rules of Court, including civil procedure, criminal procedure, evidence, juvenile procedure, traffic rules, and rules that apply to lawyers and judges. This comprehensive resource ensures that all parties involved in legal proceedings have access to the relevant rules and procedures.

Dispute Resolution Information

Resolving disputes without going to trial is often a preferred outcome. The court offers information about arbitration and mediation, which can help parties find common ground and reach mutually beneficial solutions. This section includes links to mediation services, rosters of local mediators, and a guide to selecting a mediator.

Domestic Violence Help

The Ohio Domestic Violence Network offers crucial information and resources for victims of domestic violence. It covers a wide range of topics related to domestic violence issues, including elder abuse, teen dating violence, and juvenile exposure to abuse. Additionally, the network provides links to protection order forms, legal resources, and advocacy organizations.

Foreclosure and Eviction Information and Resources

Facing foreclosure or eviction can be a daunting experience. The court provides valuable information and resources for Ohio homeowners facing foreclosure, including information on foreclosure mediation and resources for renters facing eviction. These resources offer guidance and support during challenging times.

Local Court Rules

Understanding the specific rules and procedures of local courts is essential for legal professionals and individuals involved in court proceedings. The court provides access to local rules for Ohio Court of Common Pleas, County Court, and Municipal Court by county, ensuring that you can navigate the local legal landscape effectively.

Victim Help

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is dedicated to providing assistance and support to crime victims. Their resources include information on victims’ compensation, notification, cyber safety, and a searchable directory of victim services and resources. This comprehensive support system ensures that victims have access to the assistance they need during challenging times.

Attorney General Legal Information

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office answers frequently asked questions about a variety of legal issues. Whether you have questions about legal processes, rights, or responsibilities, this resource offers valuable insights and guidance.

Consumer Protection Information

Protecting consumers is a top priority for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. They provide information and assistance to Ohio residents on various consumer issues, including cyber safety, identity theft, telephone solicitors, debt collection, elder fraud, and various other consumer scams. You can search complaints, court decisions, and news on consumer issues or file a consumer complaint online.

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Legal Information

The Ohio State Bar Association offers a wealth of information for the public about lawyers, business-related resources, a Small Business handbook, legal tools, and publications on various legal topics. This resource is valuable for individuals seeking legal information and guidance.

Legal Information for the Disabled

Disability Rights Ohio offers information on various legal topics of interest to disabled persons. This includes issues related to disability abuse, neglect, discrimination, access to assistive technology devices, special education, housing, employment, voting rights, and community integration. This resource is a valuable support system for disabled individuals seeking legal assistance and information.

Legal Pamphlets for Seniors

Pro Senior provides Ohio residents over 60 with free legal assistance by telephone in all counties. They also offer in-person staff attorney assistance and referrals to private attorneys who assist low-income seniors for a reduced fee. Additionally, Pro Senior provides legal and long-term care resources, including hotline directories and downloadable pamphlets on topics of interest to seniors.

Ohio Constitution, Laws, and Regulations

Understanding the legal framework is crucial for anyone involved in legal matters. You can easily search the Ohio Constitution, Revised Code, or Administrative Code by keyword or browse by table of contents. This resource ensures that you have access to the foundational legal documents of Ohio.

Supreme Court Law Library

The Ohio Supreme Court Law Library is a valuable resource for legal professionals and individuals seeking legal research materials and services. You can find information about the library’s location, hours, available materials and services, and even use an online Ask-a-Librarian service to get answers to your legal research questions.

Legal Aid, Free Services, Lawyer Referral

Access to legal assistance is vital for individuals who may not have the means to hire private attorneys. The Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center offers free legal services to crime victims and provides links to counseling services, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and local victim assistance programs. They also offer a Crime Victims Rights Toolkit.

The Office of the Ohio Public Defender offers information about its representation of indigent defendants in criminal cases, with links to local county public defenders and appointed counsel.

If you’re looking for an attorney in Ohio, you can search for attorneys admitted to practice in the state by name, registration number, and location.

In case you have concerns or complaints about lawyers or judges in Ohio, the court provides instructions for filing an official complaint. You can also file a consumer complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office using an online form and engage in live chat with an agent for general inquiries and assistance.

For those in need of legal assistance, the court provides a list of Ohio lawyer referral and information services by geographic area served, along with a list of registered prepaid legal service providers.

Pro Seniors offers free legal assistance to Ohio residents over 60. They provide assistance by telephone in all counties, in-person staff attorney assistance, and referrals to private attorneys who assist low-income seniors for a reduced fee.

Disability Rights Ohio provides free legal assistance to disabled persons on a variety of matters, including disability abuse, neglect, discrimination, access to assistive technology devices, special education, housing, employment, voting rights, and community integration.

Legal Aid of Western Ohio and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality offer free civil legal services for low-income residents of 32 western Ohio counties and for migrant farmworkers statewide. They provide a toll-free telephone line, online application forms in English and Spanish, and local office contacts.


The Defiance County Court of Common Pleas handles a wide array of civil disputes and criminal cases that arise at the county level. Navigating the court system can seem daunting, but knowing what to expect for your type of case helps alleviate concerns. Understand the processes and timelines, obtain proper legal advice when needed, and present your case effectively. Both the General and Domestic Relations divisions aim to equitably apply the law and deliver justice under the circumstances of each case brought before them.


How do I request a jury trial in Defiance County Common Pleas Court?

In a civil case, you must formally demand a jury trial by filing a motion with the court within 14 days after the last pleading is filed. The judge decides if a jury trial is warranted. In criminal cases, the defense attorney simply requests a jury trial without a formal motion.

What are the steps in a divorce case in Defiance County?

A typical divorce involves these steps: filing a complaint and serving your spouse, attending a temporary orders hearing, exchanging documentation with your spouse, negotiating settlement terms when possible, attending the final divorce hearing, and obtaining the judge’s final decree.

Who upholds security procedures at the Defiance County Courthouse? The Defiance County Sheriff’s Office provides court security. Visitors must pass through a metal detector when entering the courthouse. No weapons are allowed. Security ensures order is maintained throughout the courthouse.

How quickly are civil cases resolved in Defiance County Common Pleas Court? The time varies case-by-case based on complexity, need for discovery, motion hearings, and the court’s docket schedule. Many cases settle before trial. Simple contract disputes may resolve in 6-12 months, while complex cases can take over 2 years. Trials are scheduled 1-2 years out due to full dockets.

What kind of criminal cases are heard in Common Pleas Court? Common Pleas Court handles serious felony-level crimes like murder, rape, robbery, burglary, major frauds, and drug trafficking. Misdemeanor crimes are handled in municipal or county court.

How can I access court case records in Defiance County, Ohio?
You can access court case records online through the Defiance County Court of Common Pleas General and Domestic Relations Divisions’ website.

How do I obtain a criminal background check in Ohio?
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office provides instructions for obtaining a criminal background check from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Where can I find published opinions and orders from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office?
You can view recent Ohio Attorney General official opinions and search by keyword on their official website.

Are there downloadable legal forms available for seniors in Ohio?
Yes, seniors in Ohio can find interactive and downloadable legal forms for various legal matters, including power of attorney, wills, advance directives, and more.

How can I get assistance as a crime victim in Ohio?
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office offers a wide range of resources and services for crime victims, including compensation, notification, and a searchable directory of victim services and resources.

What is the main phone number for the Defiance County Court of Common Pleas?

The main phone number is (419) 782-1936 for the Legal Department.

What are the office hours for the court?

The office hours are Monday – Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.

Who is the current Clerk of Courts?

The current Clerk of Courts is Amy M. Galbraith.

What types of cases does the court handle?

The court handles all felony criminal cases and civil cases over $15,000 for Defiance County.

What services does the Title Department provide?

The Title Department handles issues related to car titles, property titles, and other document titles. They process title transfers and ownership changes.

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