Alimony / Spousal Support Orders

Spousal support, sometimes known as alimony or spousal maintenance, is a payment made by one spouse to another during and after a divorce. Spousal support is often awarded when there is an income disparity between spouses or when one spouse was the primary income provider for the family during the marriage.

After a divorce, one spouse may need supplemental income to maintain their standard of living, at least until they can become self-supporting. But orders for spousal support are not automatic, and people often need legal counsel to help them obtain spousal support during a divorce—or, conversely, to deal with the other spouse’s claim for support to help ensure the amount of support ordered is not excessive.

When Is Alimony Ordered?

Spousal support orders are not made to punish one party. Instead, they are made so both spouses can pay their ordinary expenses and, to the extent possible, maintain a standard of living similar to the one they enjoyed during their marriage.

Alimony awards are common in the following situations:

  • A spouse did not work during the marriage or was out of the workforce for a long time
  • A spouse cannot work because of an illness, injury, or disability
  • A spouse has limited job skills or education
  • One spouse paid the other spouse’s education or medical bills before the divorce
  • One spouse would have a significant drop in their standard of living without spousal maintenance payments

Types of Spousal Support in Ohio

Ohio spousal support payments can take two forms: temporary or permanent.

  • Temporary spousal support may be ordered after you file for divorce. It ends 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 it is finalized.
  • Permanent spousal support can be ordered as part of the divorce decree. Permanent spousal support orders are made for a certain monetary 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 continue after the divorce and last until the payment term ends, a spouse requests a modification of the support orders, or other conditions such as a party’s remarriage or cohabitation with a partner exist. Permanent spousal support is often ordered to provide financial assistance until the supported spouse can become financially independent.

Calculating Alimony Payments

There is no formula in Ohio for calculating alimony payments. Instead, the amount and duration of Ohio spousal support payments are based on several factors. RKPT’s Ohio alimony lawyers have decades of experience providing divorcing couples with knowledgeable and compassionate legal representation. We can help you navigate the divorce process and obtain the spousal support you need.

Duration of Spousal Support Payments

The duration of spousal support payments (how long they will last) is case-specific and often depends on the length of the marriage. In cases where the marriage was relatively short, spousal support payments may only last until the divorce is finalized. When permanent spousal support is ordered, Ohio courts generally award one year of spousal support for every two to five years of marriage. Most courts do not consider awarding lifetime, or “indefinite,” spousal support unless the marriage lasted more than 25 years. Spousal support payments almost always 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.

Other Factors Affecting Spousal Maintenance Payments

In addition to the length of the marriage, the court may also 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.
  15. Can Couples Agree on Spousal Maintenance Payments?

Spouses always have the option of agreeing to spousal support payments. In fact, Ohio courts encourage divorcing couples to agree on as many issues in a divorce as possible, including spousal support.

If you and your spouse can agree on all aspects of your divorce, you may be able to file a separation agreement and take advantage of Ohio’s simpler procedure for a dissolution of marriage. This procedure is generally faster, less expensive, and less emotionally difficult than a divorce. But with good attorneys involved, most divorces wind up being settled by the parties rather than being heard and decided by a judge.

How Spousal Support Payments Are Made

Once a spousal support order has been filed, payments are generally made monthly. In some circumstances, spousal support can be paid in whole or in part with a lump sum payment or through a transfer of real property.

In many cases, and in all cases when one spouse is paying to the other both child support and spousal support, the judge will issue a withholding order that requires an employer to deduct the support payment from a spouse’s paycheck and send it to a state agency that maintains the support account and disburses the funds to the recipient spouse. If no minor children are involved, the parties may agree, or the judge may order, that the paying spouse will send the spousal support payments directly to the recipient spouse.

Can Spousal Support Payments Be Changed?

A judge can modify alimony payments if either spouse’s circumstances have changed and the divorce decree or separation agreement authorizes a future modification. Generally, to warrant a modification to support payments:

  • The change in circumstances must be substantial
  • The existing payments are no longer reasonable or appropriate because of the change in circumstances
  • The judge or divorcing spouses did not account for the change when setting the original spousal support payments

How RKPT’s Family Law Attorneys Can Help

RKPT’s divorce and family law attorneys understand that spousal maintenance can be a complex and emotional subject. We have decades of experience negotiating agreements and litigating divorce matters, and we pride ourselves on providing compassionate and knowledgeable legal services. We are committed to helping you achieve a favorable outcome and will use our experience and resources to help ensure you receive the support you need.

RKPT is committed to helping you understand your rights and options, and we invite you to call us at 513-721-3330 or contact us to schedule a consultation with our experienced family law attorneys.