It’s Financial Literacy Month—Do You Understand How Spousal Support Works in Ohio?

April is National Financial Literacy Month—a yearly reminder that we all need to take time to educate ourselves on money matters to keep our household finances operating effectively.

This year, we want to address a financial issue that many people in Ohio understand in theory but not in practice. We want to discuss spousal support (a.k.a. alimony) and how it works under Ohio law.

Temporary Alimony

Judges can order one spouse to make support payments to the other spouse while a divorce is pending. Temporary support is usually ordered when one spouse earns more money than the other, often because one spouse has focused on a career while the other focused on home life. Divorce can easily take 12-18 months to complete, so the court wants to ensure that both parties can make ends meet during that time.

Temporary spousal support ends when the divorce is finalized. After further consideration, the court could order future spousal support, but the court’s award of temporary support does not guarantee that it will award ongoing future support.

Final Spousal Support

Support payments ordered to be paid after the divorce are generally referred to in Ohio as “final” support even though they don’t always continue for the remainder of a spouse’s lifetime. In fact, spousal support often continues for a defined period of time, often based primarily upon the length of the marriage. The Court wants to provide the spouse seeking support with the opportunity to become self-sufficient. 

Long-term or “permanent” spousal support is usually ordered if the marriage lasted a very long time—the theory being that the parties’ earning potentials (or lack thereof for the financially disadvantaged spouse) are so interwoven, that they can’t really be separated.

Regardless of the length of the marriage, spousal support will typically terminate if one party dies or the spouse receiving support remarries.

How Support Amounts are Calculated in Ohio

Compared with child support, courts have more discretion when deciding whether a spouse should pay alimony, how much payments should be, and how long they should continue. There are no schedules or formulas. Section 3105.18 of the Ohio Code lists factors courts should consider before making a determination as to whether spousal support is “reasonable and appropriate.” These include:

  • Duration of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s income from all sources
  • The division of property in the divorce
  • Each spouse’s education and earning ability
  • The age and condition (mental, physical, and emotional) of each spouse
  • Retirement benefits
  • Difficulties in working outside the home because of the need to care for the couple’s minor child
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • Each spouse’s contributions to education and earning ability of the other spouse
  • Time and expense needed for the spouse seeking support to receive training or experience to obtain “appropriate” employment
  • Income production capacity lost by one party due to marital responsibilities

The statute also allows courts to consider any other factor found to be “relevant and equitable.” For that reason, both parties need to share all potentially relevant information with their attorneys so that they can make the court aware of factors that impact the need for or ability to pay support.

Both spouses are considered to have contributed the same amount toward “marital income.” Either spouse may seek spousal support. The couple’s standard of living is taken into consideration, so while a spouse earning less might not need support to get by, the court might find it equitable to order support to provide a standard of living closer to what the couple enjoyed while married.

How Spousal Support Payments are Structured

Spousal support can be paid as a single lump-sum payment. It is more common, however, for payments to be made in installments over time. When payments are made in installments, the court may issue an income withholding order to the employer of the spouse paying support.

While we tend to think of spousal support payments being made in cash, spousal support obligations can be satisfied by transferring ownership of real or personal property. If a spouse fails to pay as ordered, the other spouse can request a contempt order from the court.

Spousal support can be modified if a spouse can prove that an unforeseen change in circumstances justifies the modification.

Find Out How an Experienced Divorce Lawyer Can Help with Spousal Support in Ohio

Whether you are seeking support or being asked to pay it, the best way to protect your interests is to work with a skilled divorce attorney and make sure that you provide your legal advisor with all the necessary information applicable to your case. To find out how a knowledgeable divorce attorney at Weis Law Group could help achieve your goals for alimony, contact us for a confidential consultation.