How is Spousal Support/Alimony Calculated?

How is Spousal Support Calculated Concept. Chart with keywords and icons on white background.

Alimony, known as spousal support in Ohio, is a payment one spouse makes to another to provide financial support during and after a divorce. Spousal support payments are intended to help ensure that both spouses can pay their ordinary expenses and, to the extent possible, maintain a lifestyle similar to the one they enjoyed during the marriage.

As with most aspects of an Ohio divorce, a couple can create an agreement detailing the terms of spousal support payments, and, in most cases, the court will honor it. When a divorcing couple cannot agree, the court will step in to determine whether spousal support payments should be made. If the court determines spousal support payments are appropriate, the judge will determine the amount and duration of spousal support payments. This raises an important question: How is spousal support calculated?

Types of Spousal Support in Ohio

Spousal support in Ohio can take two forms: temporary or permanent.

Temporary spousal support may be ordered after you file for divorce and will end when the divorce is finalized. Temporary spousal support orders are intended to keep the spouses in approximately the same financial situation they were in before the divorce was filed and until the divorce is finalized.

Permanent spousal support can be ordered as part of the divorce decree and will be set for a certain amount and period of time. The phrase “permanent spousal support” can be misleading, as spousal support is generally NOT permanent. The term simply means that support payments will continue after the marriage and will last until the term of payments expires, either spouse requests a modification to alimony payments, or until certain other conditions such as remarriage are met. Permanent spousal support orders are common in situations where one spouse left the workforce to raise a family or advance the other spouse’s career and for various reasons, it might be difficult for that spouse to re-enter the workforce, at least without additional training or job skills. Permanent spousal support is often ordered to provide financial assistance until the supported spouse can become financially independent.

How Is Alimony Calculated?

Unlike child support, which is calculated according to a strict formula using a worksheet, no formula under Ohio law specifies how spousal support is calculated. (However, some courts offer guidelines that will at least get you in a ballpark.) The income of the parties and duration of the marriage are generally important factors. For example, when a court makes a spousal support award in a case in which the parties have been married 25 or 30 years (or longer), the judge will often try to equalize the amount of net income available to each spouse after the payment of spousal support. Equalization is generally not a goal when the marriage is of shorter duration.

Other factors come into play as well. When calculating spousal support payments, the court must consider:

  1. The income of the parties, from all sources, including, but not limited to, income derived from property divided, disbursed, or distributed under section 3105.171 of the Revised Code;
  2. The relative earning abilities of the parties;
  3. The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the parties;
  4. The retirement benefits of the parties;
  5. The duration of the marriage;
  6. The extent to which it would be inappropriate for a party, because that party will be custodian of a minor child of the marriage, to seek employment outside the home;
  7. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
  8. The relative extent of education of the parties;
  9. The relative assets and liabilities of the parties, including but not limited to any court-ordered payments by the parties;
  10. 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;
  11. 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;
  12. The tax consequences, for each party, of an award of spousal support;
  13. The lost income production capacity of either party that resulted from that party's marital responsibilities;
  14. Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.

Calculating Spousal Support in Ohio

Once the judge determines that a spousal support award is appropriate, the court will specify the amount and duration of spousal support payments.

Some people find it beneficial to use a spousal support calculator to estimate the amount of spousal support payments. However, an online calculator only provides an estimate. The judge in your case might make a different determination based on unique factors present in your case.

Again, the duration of the marriage may impact the amount or duration of spousal support payments. Usually, the court will not consider awarding spousal support unless the marriage lasted more than five years. Most courts do not award lifetime spousal support unless the marriage lasted more than 25 years. In cases involving longer marriages, there is a greater chance of income disparity between the spouses. A general rule in Ohio is that the court will order one year of support for every two to five years of marriage, depending on how long the parties have been married. The longer the marriage, the longer the period of time the payments will continue. Almost always, spousal support payments end after either spouse dies or when the recipient remarries or cohabitates with a new partner, even if the period of time for which the payments were ordered has not yet ended.

Sometimes the duration of spousal support is based, at least in part, on the need to give a spouse time to gain the skills or experience necessary to re-enter the workforce. In cases such as this, having an end date imposes a deadline that can motivate the recipient spouse to do what is necessary to avoid having support run out before they are in a position to be self-sufficient.

Contact RKPT’s Ohio Divorce and Family Law Attorneys for Legal Assistance

Many people considering divorce feel overwhelmed. But you don’t have to deal with your divorce alone. The divorce and family law attorneys at RKPT are here to help. Our lawyers have decades of experience helping divorcing couples. We provide knowledgeable and compassionate legal representation to help you secure the financial security you need, and appropriate parenting arrangements for your minor children, as you move to the next phase of your life. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation and how we can help.

Attorneys: Thomas M. Gaier, Barry A. Spaeth

Categories: Divorce