Here are the answers to some common questions about alimony in Ohio.
What is spousal support?
There's no such things as "alimony" in Ohio anymore. It has been replaced by "spousal support," which refers to payments from one spouse to another during or after a divorce. Either spouse can be ordered to pay support to the other—it’s based on income and resources, not gender.
When will a court order spousal support?
You can ask for a temporary spousal support order while your divorce is pending if you don’t have enough money to support yourself. If the court makes a temporary order, it ends when the divorce is over, at which point the court will make a final spousal support order. Courts will also order spousal support in an action for legal separation (you’re not ending the marriage, but you’re living apart and need support from your spouse).
How does a court determine the amount of temporary spousal support?
There’s no specific formula for calculating temporary support awards. The court must use its discretion, taking into account each spouse’s earning capacity and other resources while the divorce is pending.
How does the court determine whether to order permanent spousal support, and how does it decide the support amount?
Ohio law sets out fourteen factors for a judge to consider when one spouse is seeking an award of spousal support. These factors are:
- the income of the parties, from all sources, including, but not limited to, income derived from property awarded as part of the property division in the divorce proceeding;
- the relative earning abilities of the parties;
- the ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties;
- the retirement benefits of the parties;
- the duration of the marriage;
- the extent to which it would be inappropriate for a party, because he/she will be custodian of a minor child or children of the marriage, to seek employment outside the home;
- the standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
- the relative extent of education of the parties;
- the relative assets and liabilities of the parties, including, but not limited to any court-ordered payments by the parties;
- the contribution of each party to the education, training, or earning ability of the other party, including, but not limited to, any party's contribution to the acquisition of a professional degree of the other party;
- the time and expense necessary for the spouse who is seeking spousal support to acquire education, training, or job experience so that the spouse will be qualified to obtain appropriate employment provided the education, training, or job experience, and employment is, in fact, sought;
- the tax consequences, for each party, of an award of spousal support;
- the lost income production capacity of either party that resulted from that party's marital responsibilities; and
- any other fact that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.
If the court determines that permanent spousal support is warranted, the amount of support will depend on some of the same factors, as well as the relatives incomes and earning capacities of both spouses.
How long does spousal support last?
Spousal support can end on a specific date, can continue indefinitely, or can upon the occurrence of a specified event, like the recipient’s remarriage or the death of either party. Courts prefer to include a specific ending date in the spousal support order, if possible. The judge may also maintain jurisdiction—meaning the right to make decisions—over the support issue, in order to allow the judge to review the order and decide whether it should continue as is or be modified or terminated.
Can permanent spousal support be modified or terminated?
Yes. Permanent spousal support isn’t always really permanent. The court can include a provision in the order saying that it retains jurisdiction to hear any motion requesting a modification of the existing award. The spouses can also agree to make the order modifiable. If the divorce decree doesn’t say that the court retains jurisdiction, then the order isn’t modifiable. (If you have an order that was entered before 1986, some special rules apply to you and you should see a lawyer if you’re interested in modifying the order.)
If the court has retained jurisdiction to modify spousal support, there’s another requirement—the court can only order a modification where the person asking for the change can show there has been a material or substantial change in the circumstances of either party that could not reasonably have been anticipated at the time of the original decree. A change in circumstance includes:
- Altered economic conditions, which could include an involuntary decrease in the payor’s income, or an increase in either spouse’s income or assets
- Remarriage of the recipient
- Entering into a relationship in another state that would constitute a valid marriage in Ohio
- Cohabitation in certain situation
- Retirement, and
- Other circumstances in the court’s discretion.