Adultery in Ohio: Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

Learn whether an extramarital affair can impact spousal support in Ohio.

Discovering that your spouse has engaged in adultery can be very painful and often leads to divorce. If you have decided to seek a divorce due to adultery in your marriage, you may have questions about how it will effect the legal process.

This article explains the basics of how adultery impacts the divorce process, as well as how it may impact alimony (which is also referred to as "spousal support"). If you still have questions after reading this article, you should contact an experienced family law attorney who can provide advice and help protect your rights during the divorce process.

Adultery as a Legal Ground for Divorce

In Ohio, a spouse seeking to end the marriage can ask the court for a "divorce" or for a “dissolution of the marriage” - a dissolution of marriage does not require a ground (reason) for the dissolution, but in order to get a divorce, the filing spouse (the one requesting the divorce) must show the court there is a reason.

If you seek a divorce in Ohio, you must show one or more of the following grounds for the divorce:

  • willful absence of the other spouse for one year (fault ground)
  • adultery (fault ground)
  • extreme cruelty (fault ground)
  • gross neglect of duty (fault ground)
  • habitual drunkenness (fault ground)
  • imprisonment of the other spouse (fault ground)
  • lived separate and apart for one continuous year (no-fault ground)
  • one spouse alleges the couple is incompatible, and the other spouse does not disagree (no-fault ground).

When filing for a divorce on one of the above fault-based grounds, you are basically pointing the finger at your spouse, and claiming that your spouse's misconduct led to the break up of the marriage. When you pursue a fault divorce, you must be prepared for a more lengthy, contentious and costly legal process. The court will require you to prove the fault by showing evidence of the acts, supported by testimony of a third party witness. The emotional impact on any children of the marriage may also be increased by this type of legal process.

If you want a lower conflict process, then you may seek a divorce based on one of the two no-fault grounds, even if there has been adultery in your marriage.

Generally, the lowest conflict and lowest cost option is the dissolution of marriage. The dissolution of marriage process requires the couple to agree in advance on divorce-related issues, such as the property and debt division, alimony and child custody. Once an agreement is reached on all issues, one spouse may file with the court for dissolution. If you are unable to reach an agreement on the financial and custody issues, then you must file a divorce case instead.

For more information on divorce and dissolution in Ohio, click here.

Overview of Alimony in Ohio

During the divorce process, one spouse may ask the the court to order the other spouse to make financial support payments. In Ohio, these payments are called “spousal support.”

Ohio does not have set guidelines or calculations on when to award spousal support or how much to award. There are, however, factors the court is required to consider in each case. The factors are:

  • the income of each spouse, including from property distributed during the divorce
  • the earning ability of each spouse
  • the ages, physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses
  • the retirement benefits of each
  • the length of the marriage
  • whether one spouse has custody of the minor children and would be unable to work outside the home
  • the standard of living during the marriage
  • the education of each spouse
  • the assets and liabilities of each
  • the contribution of each to the education/training/earning ability of the other
  • time and expense required for the spouse seeking support to gain education/training/job experience
  • how spousal support will impact taxes of each spouse
  • whether a spouse contributed to the marriage as a homemaker and has decreased earning ability as a result, and
  • any other factor the court finds to be fair and relevant.

For more information on spousal support in Ohio, click here.

Does Adultery Impact Alimony in Ohio?

It can. When deciding whether to award alimony, courts in Ohio may consider marital misconduct, including adultery by either spouse, as part of "any other factor the court finds to be fair and relevant" listed above. In addition, if one spouse begins to cohabit (live together) with a romantic partner during the divorce proceeding, a judge may consider that as a factor as well if the cohabiting spouse requests alimony.

However, the court is not required to consider the marital misconduct and, even if the court does consider the misconduct, it is not required to find it relevant to a decision on spousal support. In other words, there is no guarantee that adultery will play a role in an award of spousal support in Ohio.

Resources

For more information on family law topics in Ohio, click here.

Ohio Rev. Code, Chapter 3105 - Divorce, Alimony, Annulment, Dissolution of Marriage

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