• Patricia Brandt, Attorney

Understanding Spousal Support, aka Alimony

There's no such things as "alimony" in Ohio anymore. It has been replaced by "spousal support," which refers to payments from one spouse to another during or after a divorce.

When will I receive spousal support?

You can ask for a temporary spousal support order while your divorce is pending if you don’t have enough money to support yourself. If the court makes a temporary order, it ends when the divorce is over, at which point the court will make a final spousal support order.

How much spousal support am I eligible to receive?

It depends. Since there is no specific formula for calculating spousal support, it must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

How does the court determine who gets spousal support?

Under Ohio law, the court must consider 14 statutory factors when determining how much monthly spousal support, if any, will be awarded.

  • the income of the parties, from all sources, including, but not limited to, income derived from property awarded as part of the property division in the divorce proceeding;

  • the relative earning abilities of the parties;

  • the ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties;

  • the retirement benefits of the parties;

  • the duration of the marriage;

  • the extent to which it would be inappropriate for a party, because he/she will be custodian of a minor child or children of the marriage, to seek employment outside the home;

  • the standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;

  • the relative extent of education of the parties;

  • the relative assets and liabilities of the parties, including, but not limited to any court-ordered payments by the parties;

  • the contribution of each party to the education, training, or earning ability of the other party, including, but not limited to, any party's contribution to the acquisition of a professional degree of the other party;

  • the time and expense necessary for the spouse who is seeking spousal support to acquire education, training, or job experience so that the spouse will be qualified to obtain appropriate employment provided the education, training, or job experience, and employment is, in fact, sought;

  • the tax consequences, for each party, of an award of spousal support;

  • the lost income production capacity of either party that resulted from that party's marital responsibilities; and

  • any other fact that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.

The goal of spousal support is to reach an equitable result. The court must consider whether spousal support is appropriate and reasonable.

Does the court follow any general guidelines in making spousal support awards?

Some magistrates and judges use a general rule of thumb that allows one year's ​​​​worth of spousal support for every three or every five years of the marriage's length. Some magistrates and judges use an equalization approach. It is not uncommon for the court to include, in the spousal support award, provisions stating that the spousal support will stop if the former spouse remarries or cohabits with another person. There is no general rule used when determining the amount of spousal support that should be awarded. The award amount is determined on a case-by-case basis and largely depends upon each party's wages, the discrepancy between the wage amounts, and each person's monthly necessary expenses. Other factors also are considered, including the education, earning capacity and health of each spouse. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage is also considered by the court.

Does the court always find that spousal support must be paid? No. If the parties were not married for a long time and their incomes are fairly equal, it is entirely possible that the court will award no spousal support to either party. And, of course, the parties can always agree that neither one will receive any spousal support. 

Is it always the wife that is entitled to spousal support? No. Either spouse can be ordered to pay support to the other; it's based on income and resources, not gender.

Can permanent spousal support be modified or terminated?

Yes. Permanent spousal support isn’t always really permanent. The court can include a provision in the order saying that it retains jurisdiction to hear any motion requesting a modification of the existing award. The spouses can also agree to make the order modifiable.

This blog provides broad, general information about the law. This blog is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, seek advice from a licensed attorney.

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