As part of a separation or divorce proceeding, either side can request alimony. Although alimony is not awarded in every case, a judge may award alimony when one spouse has a demonstrated need and the other has the ability to pay. Certain situations can end a spouse's alimony obligation.
This article provides an overview of alimony awards in Ohio and the impact of remarriage and cohabitation on alimony. If after reading this article you have questions, you should consult a local family law attorney.
Alimony (also called "spousal support") is court-ordered payments made by one spouse to another during or following a divorce. Property distributions or divisions in a divorce are not the same as spousal support. See Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.171 (2020).
A court will evaluate several factors to determine if an alimony award is appropriate in your case and if so, how much. Specifically, a judge may review the following:
A judge may award spousal support in the form of a lump-sum payment or in periodic installments. Alimony always ends when either spouse dies, unless the divorce decree specifically states otherwise. See Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.18 (2020).
Unlike many other states, alimony in Ohio doesn't automatically end when the supported spouse remarries. Your divorce decree can specify that alimony ends upon the recipient spouse's remarriage. However, if your decree is silent in the event of remarriage, you'll need to petition the court for a spousal support termination in Ohio.
A recipient spouse's remarriage is usually justification for the court to terminate alimony because the supported spouse's financial circumstances often improve after remarriage.
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.
A judge can only terminate periodic or monthly alimony awards paid in installments—not lump-sum alimony awards. If there are past-due installments due when the court terminates alimony, the paying spouse must still make those past-due payments.
In Ohio, a spousal support award may be affected by cohabitation. However, spousal support in Ohio doesn't automatically end when the supported spouse cohabitates with another person.
"Cohabitation" is defined as two unmarried people living together, for a significant time, while sharing day-to-day expenses. 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. In cases where a decree fails to address cohabitation, the paying spouse must petition the court to terminate alimony.
Cohabitating is more than being in a romantic relationship, living together, or having sexual relations. "Cohabitation" means that one individual is providing the other with some financial support as well.
If the court determines that a cohabitant is financially supporting the supported spouse, a judge will likely reduce or terminate alimony. A court may also terminate alimony if the supported spouse is using some portion of the alimony award to support a new partner.
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 person paying most of the couple's expenses, joint assets or liabilities, or other shared assets, debts, or expenses when determining whether to modify alimony due to cohabitation. The court has power to order the supported spouse to repay the paying spouse for any alimony paid from the time the cohabition began.
Ohio courts have the power to review or modify alimony awards when there's been a material change in circumstances and the divorce decree or agreement contains a provision giving the court the power to change alimony. Most Ohio divorce decrees contain modification provisions.
If your 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, the spouse seeking the modification must file a motion to modify alimony in the clerk's office of the 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. See Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.18 (2020).
If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony, contact an Ohio family law attorney for help.