Adultery in Ohio: Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

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

By , Attorney

Discovering that your spouse has engaged in adultery can be very painful and often leads to hurt, anger, and even divorce. If you've decided to end your marriage due to adultery, you may have questions about how it will affect the legal process in your case.

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

Adultery as a Legal Ground for Divorce in Ohio

In Ohio, a spouse seeking to end the marriage can ask the court for a "divorce" or a "dissolution of the marriage"—a dissolution of marriage does not require a ground (reason) for the dissolution. Still, 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). (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3105.01.)

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

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 process requires the couple to agree in advance on divorce-related issues, such as the property and debt division, alimony, and child custody. Once you reach an agreement on all issues, one spouse may file a dissolution request with the court. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3105.63.) If you can't reach an agreement on the financial and custody issues, you must file a divorce case instead. If you begin with a divorce and work through your issues, you can convert your divorce into a dissolution with no extra cost. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3105.08.)

Overview of Alimony in Ohio

During the divorce process, one spouse may ask 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 must consider in each case, including:

  • each spouse's income, 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, or job experience
  • how spousal support will impacts each spouse's taxes
  • 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. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3105.18.)

For more information on spousal support in Ohio, read this article.

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 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.

Does Adultery Impact Custody or Child Support?

When it comes to child support, Ohio law is clear that judges cannot consider marital misconduct. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3109.05.) Instead, the court must follow the state's child support guidelines schedule, directly related to the parent's incomes and the number of children in the family. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3119.021.)

In Ohio, child custody decisions focus heavily on what's best for the children, so it's up to the judge to determine the family's most beneficial parenting plan. When deciding what's proper, the court will consider a variety of factors, none of which include marital misconduct.

Adultery will not play a part in your custody case unless a parent willingly puts a child in a dangerous or unhealthy situation that endangers the child's wellbeing. For example, suppose a parent had an affair with a convicted child abuser and continues to spend time with that person. In that case, the court may limit or deny custody or parenting time until the parent resolves the situation. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3109.04.)

Resources

You can review the entire Ohio Revised Code online.