Does a Spouse Receive Alimony When Divorced in Ohio?
By Beverly Bird
Spouses can receive alimony during or after a divorce in Ohio, but it’s not an automatic right. Judges make alimony decisions on a case-by-case basis and after considering numerous factors. Section 3105.18 of the Ohio Revised Code lists these factors, but it doesn’t instruct a judge how to weigh them. Ultimately, it comes down to the opinion of the judge whether to award alimony and for how long.
Types of Alimony
Ohio recognizes two types of alimony: temporary and permanent. Permanent alimony might be in the form of extra marital property, a lump sum cash payment or monthly installments. However, the term “permanent” is something of a misnomer, because when referring to installment payments, it doesn’t mean forever. A permanent alimony order is the judge’s final say on the matter unless or until a spouse requests a modification in a separate court proceeding. Judges sometimes order temporary alimony while a divorce is pending. An award of temporary alimony doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a judge will also order permanent alimony when the divorce is final.
The factors included in Section 3105.18 of the Ohio Revised Code include issues such as household labor contributed by one spouse over the course of the marriage. Ohio’s law recognizes that household contributions to a marriage have monetary value. If a spouse was a stay-at-home mom and never honed job skills, she might have a difficult time supporting herself after the divorce, so she might receive alimony. If young or handicapped children require care and the non-working spouse can’t attempt to re-enter the workforce because of that, she might receive alimony. However, when spouses earn roughly equal incomes, Ohio judges rarely award spousal support or maintenance. Judges usually attempt to ensure that each spouse can afford a lifestyle comparable to that which they enjoyed when they were together. Alimony is decided after a judge apportions marital property, because if any of that property produces income, this can determine the financial needs of the party asking for alimony and the available income of the spouse who will pay it.
Ohio judges generally do not order alimony after short-term marriages of less than five years. In long-term marriages of 20 years or more, a judge may enter an open-ended alimony order with no termination date. Most commonly, courts order alimony equal to about a year of support for each three years of the marriage. They might also order it for a set period of time during which the under-earning spouse can go back to school or otherwise receive job training so she can eventually support herself.
In Ohio, alimony is payable for the length of time set in the divorce decree unless the decree also contains other, specific language that allows a spouse to change it. The decree must either state that Ohio retains jurisdiction over the divorce even after it is final, or that the alimony is modifiable if a change of circumstances should occur. If circumstances change, either spouse can petition the court to change or eliminate the alimony order if the decree contains one of these provisions. This might occur if the spouse receiving alimony remarries or becomes involved in a new relationship and begins cohabiting with her partner, or if either spouse experiences a drastic change in income.
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.