How Is Alimony Calculated in Ohio?
By Beverly Bird
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Ohio's legislative code doesn't contain a mathematical equation for calculating alimony, also called spousal support. What it does include is a list of 14 factors that judges are supposed to consider when deciding whether to order alimony and, if so, for how long. These are somewhat loose guidelines, however, because they don't say how much weight a judge should give to each factor. Ultimately, it comes down to the opinion of the judge deciding each individual case.
Length of Marriage
The duration of your marriage is a pivotal factor when calculating alimony in Ohio. Although the state code doesn't include a formula or any definitive rules for duration, judges in some Ohio counties tend to order one year of support for every three years of the marriage. This is a deceptive rule of thumb, however, because marriages that last less than five years may not involve any alimony at all, especially if the spouses' earnings are relatively equal. Likewise, if a marriage lasts more than 20 years, and depending on a few other factors, the alimony order may be permanent.
Inability to Work
Another issue involved with long-term marriages is that one or both spouses may be old enough where they're no longer able to work full time and earn enough to support themselves, or to help support someone else. Ohio law allows judges to take age and physical and mental health into consideration when deciding alimony. A judge might award a spouse alimony because she's not reasonably able to work, or deny or minimize it because the other spouse can't possibly earn enough to pay it.
Ohio courts typically don't consider marital misconduct when deciding alimony, so if the spouse seeking it is able to support herself reasonably well on her own, a judge won't order spousal support as punishment to the other spouse for his bad behavior. And if one spouse received a substantial portion of marital assets in property division, and if any of these assets produce income, Ohio law allows a judge to include this as part of her earnings. Judges are more likely to order alimony when one spouse's earnings and ability to earn greatly exceed that of the other.
Standard of Living
Ohio judges may consider the standard of living spouses enjoyed during the marriage. If one spouse significantly out-earns the other, the court isn't likely to force the under-earning spouse to begin living in poverty after the divorce because she doesn't earn enough to live as well as she did while married. It doesn't matter which spouse earned the income during the marriage and which contributed other efforts, such as maintaining the household or raising the children. The law considers that both spouses contributed to the standard of living, so both are entitled to an equal standard of living after the divorce.
If a spouse's opportunities for employment are limited because she's caring for young or handicapped children, or because she never held a job during the marriage, an Ohio judge can factor this in as well. If one spouse earns less because she devoted her own time to putting the other through school, courts can consider this as well.
Method of Payment
Receiving alimony does not always mean a spouse will receive monthly payments. Ohio allows judges to order lump sum payments or additional property in lieu of cash.
- LAWriter: Awarding Spousal Support -- Modification of Spousal Support
- Ohio State Bar Association: Spousal Support Determined Case by Case
- Law Offices of Virginia C. Cornwell: A Columbus Ohio Alimony Attorney on Spousal Support in Ohio
- Randall M. Perla Legal Blog: Should Arnold Schwarzenegger's Illegitimate Child Affect His Divorce Outcome? Fault in Ohio Divorces
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.