Spousal support, formerly referred to as “alimony,” is decided on a case-by-case basis and may be awarded to either party in a divorce who requests that they be the recipient of financial support. Factors such as property division play a significant role in allowing the court to determine the appropriate amount of support that should be awarded if any.
When one person in the marriage is more financially stable than the other spouse, the spouse with the least financial stability generally seeks support. There is no specific rule as to how much the spouse with fewer resources will receive but the amount is often in line with how much income it would require for that spouse to maintain their standard of living. As a general rule in Ohio, the Court will order one year of spousal support for every three years of marriage.
Judges have considerable discretion in spousal awards and may take into consideration such factors as what one spouse has foregone—perhaps their own career—to devote time to raising children or to support the soon-to-be ex-spouse in his or her career.
Spouses may come to an agreement on spousal support on their own. It may be controlled by the terms of a premarital agreement.
The Court is more likely to award spousal support when the marriage has lasted for many years or when there is a great disparity in the incomes of the parties. When both spouses are employed, earn around the same income and were married for a relatively brief time, the Court may not award spousal support. If they do, both partners are considered to have contributed equally to the marriage.
Spousal support may be granted for a specific amount of time or permanently if the marriage lasted a long time. It may be in the form of property, a lump sum payment or installments. It terminates at the death or remarriage of the recipient unless the original decree has specifically provided otherwise.
Factors in awarding spousal support
Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3105.18 defines the factors which determine whether any and how much support is “appropriate and reasonable” and when it can be awarded to either party:
(a) The income of the parties from all sources, including, but not limited to income gained from property divided, disbursed or distributed;
(b) The relative earning ability of the parties;
(c) The ages and physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties;
(d) The retirement benefits of the parties;
(e) The duration of the marriage;
(f) The extent to which it is inappropriate for the custodian of a minor child to remain in the home and not seek outside employment;
(g) The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
(h) The relative extent of education of the parties;
(i) The relative assets and liabilities of the parties, included but not limited to any court-ordered payment by the parties;
(j) The contribution of each party to the education, training, or earning ability of the other party including the acquisition of professional degrees;
(k) 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;
(l) The tax consequences for each party;
(m) The total income production capacity of either party because of that party’s marital responsibilities;
(n) Any other factor that the Court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.
Modification of spousal support
Modification of spousal support is addressed in ORC 3105.18 (E)(1) which states that the amount and term of support can only be modified if the spousal support provision in the original decree of divorce, dissolution or the separation agreement contains a specific written provision giving the Court the authority (jurisdiction) to modify the terms and/or amount of spousal support.
To successfully modify the support order, the person seeking it must prove a substantial or material change in circumstances and that the change was not contemplated at the time of the original divorce decree. Some examples that may justify a modification would be job loss, health issues, retirement, remarriage, a financial windfall or an inheritance.
Both parties will have an opportunity to present evidence in support of their case for modification or no modification. A skilled attorney can be of significant help in developing and presenting your case as an award of spousal support and any modifications will have an impact on a person’s financial well-being.
Do I Need An Attorney for Spousal Support Issues?
Throughout the divorce process you should have a competent family law attorney by your side. As you can see with all the factors considered in awarding spousal support, you need someone who
understands how important it is to use each factor to your best advantage and leave the marriage in sound financial condition.
At Slater & Zurz LLP there are family attorneys who will meet with you free of charge to discuss spousal support or a possible modification. Call them at 1-888-534-4850 or go to the slaterzurz.com website and contact the law firm through the website. They also offer 24/7/365 chat service to answer your questions on numerous legal topics.