During a divorce, Ohio courts may order the spouse in a better financial position (the “paying spouse”) to make payments (called "alimony") to the other spouse (the “supported spouse”). When the supported spouse gets remarried, however, the paying spouse will likely want to know whether he or she is obligated to continue paying alimony.
This article explains how a supported spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation affects alimony under Ohio law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony in Ohio after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
In Ohio, courts can order alimony to be paid in the form of a transfer of property, a lump-sum payment, or in installment payments. Alimony always ends when either spouse dies, unless the divorce decree specifically states otherwise.
When deciding whether to award a spouse alimony, courts can consider a number of factors, including the following:
If you would like to know more about alimony in Ohio, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Ohio.
Unlike many other states, alimony in Ohio doesn’t automatically end when the supported spouse remarries. The judge can order that alimony ends upon the supported spouse’s remarriage in the divorce decree, or a married couple can agree that the supported spouse’s remarriage terminates alimony when they divorce. If neither of these things happens, however, the paying spouse will have to return to court when the supported spouse remarries to ask the court to stop alimony.
Still, the remarriage of the supported spouse is usually good grounds for the court to terminate alimony. Typically, the supported spouse’s financial circumstances improve when he or she remarries, and the court will release the paying spouse from the obligation to continue making payments.
If the court ordered lump-sum alimony, or alimony by property transfer, the paying spouse must still complete the payment or transfer regardless of whether the supported spouse remarries. The court can only terminate alimony paid in installments. If there are past-due installments due when the court terminates alimony, the paying spouse must still make those past-due payments.
Ohio courts have the power to review the alimony award only when the divorce decree or agreement contains a provision giving the court the power to change alimony. Modification provisions are very common in Ohio divorce decrees. If the divorce document has a modification provision, either spouse can ask the court to modify or end alimony. For the court to modify or terminate alimony, there must be an involuntary change in either spouse’s financial circumstances that was not foreseeable when the alimony award was made. The court will consider any of the following when deciding whether to modify or terminate alimony:
In order to ask the court to modify or terminate alimony, you should file a motion to modify alimony in the clerk’s office of your county court of common pleas. The court will schedule a hearing where both you and your ex-spouse must appear and argue why you believe alimony should or shouldn’t be changed. You should be prepared to show the judge any evidence that supports your argument.
A supported spouse’s cohabitation with another person, by itself, won’t terminate alimony in Ohio, although it may be grounds for terminating alimony. Cohabitation is defined as two unmarried people living together, for a significant time, while sharing day-to-day expenses. For the court to decide that two people are cohabiting, it’s not enough that they live together, or that they are having sexual relations; one individual must be providing the other with some financial support for the court to determine they are cohabiting.
If the court determines that a cohabitant is financially supporting the supported spouse, the judge is likely to reduce or terminate alimony. Also, if the supported spouse is using some portion of his or her alimony award to support a new partner, the court is likely to reduce or end alimony. Alternatively, a divorcing couple can agree in their divorce decree that alimony will end upon the supported spouse’s cohabitation whether there is financial support or not.
If you believe your ex-spouse is cohabiting with another person, you should gather any relevant evidence, including witnesses, and file a motion to modify or terminate alimony. Courts will consider evidence such as shared living space, one spouse paying most of the couple’s expenses, joint assets or liabilities, or other shared expenses when determining whether to modify alimony due to cohabitation. The court has the power to order the supported spouse to repay the paying spouse any alimony paid from the time he or she began cohabiting with another person.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony, contact an Ohio family law attorney for help.