Every couple encountering a divorce feels the emotional and financial turmoil that it can cause. You might feel betrayed, overwhelmed, relieved, or any number of other conflicting emotions. It is relatively common to feel angry and possibly even bitter toward your soon-to-be-ex, but those emotions are only escalated by the potential for alimony payments. Alimony has a way of making even a relatively amicable divorce feel significantly more hostile.
What do you do when one spouse feels entitled to financial support, while the other attempts to avoid these costly payments? By navigating the court system and understanding how alimony payments work, you will be more likely to receive a more favorable outcome.
No matter which side you are on, there are a few things you need to know about alimony in Ohio. Take a look at what experts already know, so you can go to court with your attorney prepared for what lies ahead.
Alimony: The Basics and What You Need to Know
Alimony refers to payments made by one spouse to the other during the divorce proceedings, or after the divorce has been finalized. Most states use this term to refer to these payments, but Ohio often refers to them as spousal support payments. This money can be used to help one spouse maintain the same standard of living, help offset the imbalance created by the division of assets, or give a spouse breathing room who needs more training to be employable.
There are two basic types of spousal support in Ohio:
- Temporary spousal support, which covers the period of time from the moment you file for divorce until the actual finalization.
- Permanent spousal support begins when the divorce is officially issued and continues until the judge decrees otherwise.
It can be misleading that payments following the divorce decree are always considered permanent. After all, some judges will only order these payments to be made for a few months or years.
Short-term alimony payments are good options for couples that include one spouse who sacrificed a career so the other could work. These payments can give the spouse with lesser earning the necessary financial breathing room to pursue more education or training, or search for a well-paying position.
Eligibility for Alimony in Ohio
In Ohio, deciding who qualifies to receive alimony payments is a grey area. Judges have to consider a number of factors before determining whether or not one spouse has the need for financial assistance from his or her former partner. The list of deciding factors is quite long, but the following items are just a few of the ones that must be taken into consideration:
Income and Earning Ability
The first thing that a judge will need to consider is each spouse’s current income. This calculation indicates whether or not a spouse truly needs assistance with his or her monthly expenditures, and if the other spouse has money to give. After all, he or she cannot order payments for money that does not exist.
Many spouses will take this opportunity to scale back at work and take a lower-paying position, which limits the amount of money they have left over to make alimony payments. You will need to consider this move very carefully, and determine whether or not you will still have enough money to pay your own bills each month. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst can help you make wiser financial decisions and plan for the future.
Keep in mind that a judge will also look at both spouses’ earning ability, which is the amount of money they could make, based on their training, education, and experience. This earning ability helps determine whether or not one spouse is making an appropriate amount of money, but it can also serve to help a disadvantaged spouse prove that he or she cannot cover his or her bills. It may demonstrate to a judge that he or she will need more training or school before being able to be financially independent without alimony payments.
Age and Physical Health
The age and health of both spouses will also be taken into account. Disabled spouses may be entitled to alimony if they are unable to work and support themselves. Similarly, older couples in a gray divorce may lack the ability to learn new skills for a more lucrative career.
A judge may also consider the health of any children involved in the divorce. One spouse may be required to care for a physically disabled child full-time, which could entitle him or her to alimony payments.
Assets and Liabilities
The court has to consider whether or not each spouse has enough assets that he or she could draw from to support themselves for a period of time. Instead of maintaining his or her net worth in money, it could be stored up in cars, trust funds, expensive art collections, and other costly items.
On the other hand, a judge must also look at the total amount of debt each spouse has or was ordered to pay in the divorce settlement. When considering monthly expenses, this amount can really start to add up.
Was one spouse a homemaker or a stay-at-home parent throughout the duration of the marriage? A sacrifice like this one would make it more difficult for him or her to obtain a decent position at a fair wage. His or her education and training might be out of date, which could significantly lower his or her earning ability. The spouse may be awarded alimony solely based on this fact while seeking more training, education, or experience.
When it comes to issuing alimony in Ohio, child custody will play a major role. A spouse who has full custody of the children will likely be limited in his or her ability to work outside the home. This custody can decrease his or her earning ability, and increase his or her need for additional financial support to care for the children. Child support payments will also be taken into consideration, because they may mean that there is no money left over for alimony.
The court must consider the potential tax benefits and losses for a couple who is demanding alimony payments. Currently, the spouse who pays alimony can count the payments as tax-deductible. Depending on the overall income, these payments could move this spouse into a lower tax bracket, and effectively reduce what he or she owes the government at the end of each year. The receiving spouse must count alimony payments as taxable income, which could have the opposite effect.
Length of Marriage
When it comes to making a decision about alimony, the length of the marriage will play a major role. A short-term marriage will very rarely qualify for alimony in Ohio. Judges will consider ordering alimony payments if the marriages have lasted at least five years. At this length, they will usually order temporary alimony to help the other spouse get back on his or her feet after the split.
A good rule of thumb is typically one year of alimony for every three years of marriage. Permanent alimony can be ordered without a termination date, but most judges will reserve it for marriages that have lasted twenty years or longer.
How Is Alimony in Ohio Calculated?
Unfortunately, there is no set formula for how alimony will be calculated in Ohio. It is often based on the specific financial need of the spouse who will be receiving the payment, as well as the other spouse’s ability to pay. Judges must take all of the deciding factors into consideration, but different items may weigh more heavily than others.
Once a judge orders spousal support in Ohio, there are several different ways that it can be taken care of. The paying spouse may have the option to give the receiving spouse the money in one lump sum or spread it out over the prescribed time period. Many people are accustomed to the idea of paying or receiving alimony on a monthly basis. However, this payment option is not the only one.
A judge could also order the alimony to be paid via assets, instead of cash. He or she may award a larger share of the marital assets to the spouse, who would receive alimony payments, instead of financial support. This award could be made if the couple has many assets but lacked the financial ability to make monthly payments.
How Long Does Alimony in Ohio Last?
One of the most commonly asked questions is how long alimony payments or spousal support payments are supposed to last in Ohio. Much like the amount of alimony you may be ordered to pay, the duration of alimony payments is subject to the judge’s discretion.
Permanent alimony may last until one spouse dies, while temporary alimony may have a termination date listed for a few years in the future. Temporary spousal support typically lasts until the other spouse has the opportunity to gain more education or training.
Changes can be made to alimony payments when certain circumstances occur, which can include the death or remarriage of a partner. Even cohabitating with a romantic partner can be grounds for renegotiating the alimony payments or ending them altogether. You will want to be sure that your divorce decree and order include stipulations that cover these life circumstances.
A good way to ensure that your alimony payments do not go on indefinitely is to keep tabs on your former spouse’s whereabouts. Monitor their social media accounts, and stay in touch with mutual friends. You will want to know when he or she becomes romantically involved with someone new when they move in together, and if they plan to get married.
The alimony payments may also be modified if there is a significant change in income for either partner. The receiving spouse may no longer need the funds if he or she makes more in his or her current job.
Similarly, the paying spouse may no longer be able to afford alimony payments if he or she had to take a lower-paying job, lost a job, or took a major pay cut that was beyond his or her control. These are all valid reasons to head back to court and renegotiate alimony payments.
Know How to Negotiate Alimony in Ohio
By knowing all of the basics about alimony in Ohio, you are in a much better position to negotiate your own spousal support needs.
Potential receiving spouses can prove their case regarding their financial need, their earning ability, and any other reasons they may need support from their partners. A spouse who could be ordered to pay can start building a case for why his or her spouse does not truly need the money. Either way, you must know all of the rules and deciding factors, in order to build a case that will persuade the judge.
Alimony can be a touchy subject for couples who are already in the midst of a tumultuous time. However, you do not have to allow it to control you. Take charge of your alimony negotiations by arming yourself with the knowledge that you need about alimony in Ohio.