Divorcing spouses may reach agreement on alimony matters or the judge will decide whether alimony would be reasonable based on a list of relevant factors.
Of course, one of the most important questions in an Ohio divorce is whether one spouse will pay spousal support, known also as alimony, to the other after the marriage is dissolved. While a few states have recently enacted significant reforms to their spousal support laws, Ohio is not one of those states.
Instead, Ohio spousal support law remains on the more traditional side, with the judge having relatively broad discretion to determine whether a spouse should pay or receive alimony and what the award should look like in terms of amount and duration.
Alimony by agreement
When parties divorce, they will often negotiate a marital settlement agreement that settles legal matters related to alimony. The agreement becomes part of the final divorce decree. If there is no settlement of the spousal support issue, the judge in the divorce must make those decisions.
What does Ohio law require?
Ohio statute guides judges when they make decisions about alimony in divorce (or legal separation), defined as “both for sustenance and for support.” After decisions are made regarding property division, the judge may order “reasonable,” “appropriate” and “equitable” alimony, which can be awarded as real estate or personal property or as money, either in a lump sum or in periodic payments. The court can order money payments “from future income or otherwise.”
The alimony statute requires that a judge weigh all the factors in an enumerated list:
- Relative earning capacities of spouses
- Parties’ ages and health (physical, emotional and mental)
- Available retirement benefits
- Length of marriage
- Whether having custody of a child of the marriage makes working inappropriate
- Marital standard of living
- Parties’ educational levels
- Parties’ assets and liabilities
- Contribution by one spouse to the “education, training, or earning ability” of the other, including contribution to a spouse obtaining a professional degree
- How long and how much it would cost for the prospective alimony recipient to get “education, training, or job experience” to qualify them for appropriate work
- Tax ramifications
- Whether a party lost “income production capacity” because they met “marital responsibilities”
- Any other factor the judge finds “relevant and equitable”
Alimony stops when either party passes away, unless the agreement or court order says otherwise. Most states also terminate spousal support when the recipient remarries or sometimes cohabitates, but Ohio statute does not provide for this. The parties could negotiate, or the judge could order other provisions for when alimony ends.