Ohio Laws on Spousal Support in a Marriage Dissolution

By Elizabeth Rayne, J.D.

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When married couples make the difficult decision to get divorced, the issue of spousal support can become quite contentious. It's important to understand what factors judges look at when determining whether to grant support and to what extent. Ohio law provides for two types of spousal support, temporary and permanent, which can vary based on the length of the marriage. In some circumstances, an order for support can be modified or even terminated by petitioning the court.

Spousal Support Overview

When a couple gets divorced, one party may be eligible to receive spousal support from the other. Generally, the more financially well-to-do party will pay spousal support. You may request the court to grant temporary spousal support, which will provide a specified amount to be paid until a final order is set. The length of time that a spouse will be entitled to support is in the discretion of the judge; the final order may expire after a certain number of years, often in correlation to the length of the marriage. For example, some judges in Ohio may award one year of support for every five years of marriage. Similarly, a judge may rule that the support obligation ends when the other party remarries or cohabits.

Support Factors

The court has discretion to consider a number of factors in determining whether or not to issue spousal support, as well as the duration and amount of support. When support is ordered, Ohio law provides it must be "appropriate and reasonable." To this end, the court will look at the income and earning capacity of each party, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living that existed during the marriage, the contribution of each party to the other's education, the health of each party and other relevant factors. For the purpose of calculating support, the court assumes that each party contributed equally to the marital income during the marriage.


If the original support order contains a provision allowing modification, either party may petition the court to change the spousal support order. Where this provision is not in place, in most cases, the support order may not be changed. The court will modify custody only if a change of circumstances has occurred that affects whether the current support order is appropriate and reasonable. For example, the court may modify the support order if one party's income, medical expenses or living expenses has changed involuntarily.

Terminating Support

Spousal support may be terminated if provided for in the original order or if either party dies. Additionally, a support order may provide that one party has to pay support only for a certain number of years or until the other party remarries. In requesting a support modification, a party may request termination of support entirely based on a change in circumstances.