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How does spousal support (or alimony) work in Ohio?

Have questions about how spousal support works in Ohio? We cover everything you need to know here.

evident Editorial Team
published
May 23, 2022
divorcing couple sitting on couch

If you’re wondering how alimony works in Ohio, then the first thing to know is that alimony is called “spousal support” in Ohio. In fact, the term spousal maintenance has largely replaced “alimony” across the U.S., but all three terms generally refer to the same thing. 

Whatever it’s called–spousal support, alimony, or spousal maintenance–if you’re going through a divorce, you probably have a lot of questions as you navigate a stressful and challenging time. This article covers what spousal support is, how it’s calculated in Ohio, and the other key details you should know.

Key Takeaways

What is spousal support?

Spousal support, or alimony, is a payment that one spouse makes to the other to provide financial support during a separation or following a divorce. 

Spousal support payments are aimed at helping both spouses continue living at a standard similar to the one they lived at during the marriage. 

As mentioned, the term “spousal support” has replaced “alimony” in Ohio.

When is spousal support awarded in Ohio?

Spousal support is considered during:

  • Legal separation (still legally married, but living separately)
  • Divorce (a civil lawsuit to end a marriage) 
  • Dissolution of marriage (both spouses agree to terminate their marriage) 

Ohio courts can award spousal support in two ways: temporarily while the divorce lawsuit is pending or permanently after a judgment of divorce and only after property is divided. (For more info about how Ohio courts divide marital and separate property during a divorce, check out our Ohio Divorce FAQ).

Who gets alimony in a divorce in Ohio?

If you’re wondering who gets alimony in a divorce in Ohio, It’s important to note that either spouse can request spousal support (aka alimony) when filing for a divorce in Ohio. While either spouse can request spousal support, spouses will only qualify if a need for financial assistance can be proven along with the other spouse’s ability to pay.

What are the different types of spousal support in Ohio?

As mentioned, the two main types of spousal support in Ohio are Temporary and Permanent spousal support.

Temporary Spousal Support

Temporary support is just what it sounds like – temporary financial support to help one spouse make ends meet during the divorce, separation, or dissolution process. 

Temporary spousal support is typically ordered in Ohio when one spouse cannot be financially independent throughout the duration of the court process. 

Keep in mind that the amount of temporary support may be very different from the court’s final judgment, and an order of temporary spousal support does not guarantee there will be an order for permanent support.

Permanent Spousal Support

Permanent spousal support is not necessarily permanent. Instead, permanent spousal support is short or long-term financial support from one spouse to another that continues after the judgment of divorce, separation, or dissolution. 

When deciding whether to order short or long-term support, the court will look to various factors, including the length of the marriage. A key consideration, though, is whether–and how quickly–the spouse receiving maintenance payments can become financially independent.

How is spousal support paid in Ohio, and how long does it last?

So how long does spousal support last in Ohio? And what is the structure of those spousal maintenance payments? Let’s start with the structure first, which can impact the duration.

Structure of spousal support in Ohio

Spousal support can either be one lump-sum payment with no ongoing support or a periodic, steady flow of installments as ordered by the court.

Periodic payment installments, which are more common than one gross payment, can be either short-term or long-term depending on the factors in each specific case. Long-term spousal support is typically awarded in cases with lengthy marriages. Short-term spousal support, meanwhile, is more common for spouses who are capable of becoming financially independent. 

Payments can be made with cash, or with either personal property or real property. 

Real property includes permanent structures, including land, that are not mobile or moveable (think homes and real estate). Personal property is any tangible thing subject to ownership (think all other “things,” with some exceptions). These types of payments might occur in the case of lump-sum payments. 

When does spousal support begin and end in Ohio?

In Ohio, temporary spousal support begins at the start of the divorce process and ends when the court has decided the final divorce order. A temporary spousal support award does not guarantee a permanent award will be granted after the divorce is finalized.  

Permanent spousal support, as noted above, is not necessarily permanent. Spousal support payments can continue: 

  • Indefinitely 
  • For a specific period of time decided by the court  
  • Until circumstances change 

Spousal support, both temporary and permanent, will terminate if either spouse dies (unless the judgment states otherwise). Additionally, spousal support commonly ends when:

  • The spouse receiving payments remarries or cohabitates 
  • Upon some other significant event (such as a spouse’s retirement)

How do courts calculate spousal support in Ohio?

In Ohio, calculating spousal maintenance is up to the court’s discretion. There is no clear, specific test to determine whether spousal support will be granted in the first place, or what the specific nature, amount, terms, or duration of any payments should be.

Although there is no bright-line rule for calculating spousal support, courts in Ohio may consider 13 specific factors in making an award: 

  1. Income of the parties from all sources 
  2. Relative earning abilities (how much a spouse could earn based on skills, education, training, employment opportunities, and job history) 
  3. Age and physical, mental, and emotional conditions 
  4. Retirement benefits
  5. Duration of the marriage 
  6. Standard of living established during the marriage 
  7. Extent of education 
  8. Assets and liabilities of each spouse 
  9. Contribution of each spouse to the education, training, or earning ability of the other spouse\
  10. Time and expense necessary for the spouse seeking support to acquire education, training, or job experience to obtain appropriate employment 
  11. Tax consequences for each spouse from an award of spousal support 
  12. Loss of income of either spouse resulting from marital responsibilities 
  13. Extent to which either party is unable to seek employment outside of the home due to child care responsibilities 

And, per Ohio law, the court may consider “any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.”

Additionally, Ohio law requires that each spouse be considered to have contributed equally to the production of marital income (i.e., income and property acquired during the marriage). For example, if one spouse works outside of the home while the other takes care of the home or children, each spouse is assumed to have contributed equally to the marital income. 

Although the above factors are considered in determining spousal support, they are not weighted in any particular way. Courts in Ohio have ultimate discretion to determine the structure of a final award, including the amount and duration.

Reaching your own spousal support agreement

If possible, the best solution may be for you and your spouse to agree on a reasonable amount and duration for support payments amongst yourselves. Doing so can avoid emotionally-charged legal fights and save you time and money. 

Reaching your own agreement with your spouse also allows you to control the process and the outcome. Otherwise, you leave it to the court's discretion and must abide by whatever the judge decides, with the accompanying legal responsibilities and punishments.

How does child custody affect spousal support?

Ohio courts take child custody into account when considering spousal support, but spousal support and child support are structured differently.

Unlike spousal support, which only requires one spouse to financially support the other, child support requires both parents to provide for the minor until the minor reaches 18 years old. 

Factors that impact child support calculations in Ohio include: 

  • Number of children 
  • Individual gross income of each spouse compared to combined gross income
  • Child care and other related expenses (including insurance) 

Child support must be calculated under Ohio child support guidelines. Among other factors, the primary consideration when considering child support is the best interest of the minor. 

The appropriate amount of child support is based on both parents’ gross incomes combined. The amount paid in spousal support is added to the income of the spouse receiving support and deducted from the income of the spouse that pays support. The total annual income (of both spouses) is then used to determine the child support amount.

Ohio also offers online calculators for determining potential child support amounts. The resulting child support amount is divided according to the percent of each spouse’s income to their total combined income.

Modifying spousal support agreements in Ohio

So, can you modify a spousal support agreement once it has been established in Ohio? Yes, spousal support agreements may be modified if:

  • The original court order includes a provision allowing the court to modify the terms, or
  • There has been a significant change of circumstances since the previous court order. 

Changes of circumstances that warrant modifying spousal support may include: 

  • Disability 
  • Illness
  • Increase or involuntary decrease in income (such as loss of job)
  • Increase of living or medical expenses (by the spouse requesting modification)

If the original court order includes a modification provision, either spouse can request modification. If you believe there has been a change significant enough to modify the previous spousal support order, you must file a motion with the court to start the modification process. 

But remember, these factors must be substantial enough to make the original spousal support order no longer reasonable and appropriate. 

FAQs about spousal support (or alimony) in Ohio

Is Ohio a 50-50 state when it comes to divorce?

Remember, courts in Ohio will divide property between the two spouses before making any award of spousal support. When considering how property will be divided after a marriage ends, courts in Ohio will determine what it considers to be marital property (i.e. property acquired during the marriage) as opposed to separate property. 

In Ohio, marital property is to be divided equally between the two spouses. Additionally, Ohio laws require each spouse to be considered to have equally contributed to producing and acquiring marital property. So, Ohio generally is a 50-50 state when it comes to divorce, unless the court determines that an equal division of marital property would not be fair for some particular reason.

Courts in Ohio will apply eight specific factors when making a division of marital property, including:

  • the length of the marriage and whether the couple has children residing in a family home
  • the assets and liabilities of the spouses 
  • the tax consequences, the cost to sell assets, any retirement benefits, the liquidity of property, and the interest or desirability of an asset
  • any other factor the court finds relevant 

If a court in Ohio finds that an equal division of property would not be fair, the court will apply these specific factors to determine the manner in which the division of property would be equitable. 

Does permanent spousal support ever end? 

“Permanent” spousal support is not necessarily permanent. Spousal support, both temporary and permanent, will terminate if either spouse dies (unless the judgment states otherwise). 

Additionally, spousal support commonly ends when:

  • The spouse receiving payments remarries or cohabitates 
  • Some other significant event occurs, such as a spouse’s retirement

How will I receive spousal support payments? 

The court will specify whether the spouse providing support will pay a lump-sum with personal or real property, or pay with periodic installments over a specific amount of time, which is typically more common. Real property generally refers to land and real estate, whereas personal property refers to most other tangible things subject to ownership. 

Also, Ohio courts can issue an “income withholding order” to the employer of the spouse paying support which means the required payment amount will automatically be taken out of the paying spouse’s paycheck.

What if my spouse fails to pay support? 

If a spouse fails to pay their court-ordered support, the recipient spouse may file a contempt motion to get the court’s help. If the court finds the paying spouse guilty of violating the spousal support order, the spouse may face fines, garnished wages, tax refund offsets, or even jail time. 

Do you have to pay taxes on spousal support? 

For any spousal support arrangements established on January 1, 2019 or later, payments are not tax-deductible for the paying spouse. The recipient of spousal support also does not need to report payments received as income.

The final word on spousal support in Ohio

So how does spousal support work in Ohio? Let’s recap the key takeaways.

Spousal maintenance involves one spouse making payments to the other to help both spouses continue living a lifestyle similar to the one they lived at during the marriage. 

Ohio courts consider a specific set of factors when determining spousal support, but the court has ultimate discretion on whether spousal support will be awarded at all, and if awarded, the specific nature, amount, and duration of that support. 

The two types of spousal support in Ohio are temporary and permanent support. The duration and structure of spousal support payments depend on the specific factors and circumstances for each case. The court may order the paying spouse to make one lump-sum payment but periodic monthly payments are the most common form of spousal support. 

Modifying spousal support arrangements is possible if there has been a significant change of circumstances since the previous court ordered arrangement. 

But remember, if possible, the best solution is often to work with your spouse to reach your own agreement. Doing so allows you to shape your own outcomes and can help you avoid emotionally-charged legal fights as well as the time, money and headaches that come with them.