Spousal Support (Alimony) – How Does the Court Decide

Of all the issues associated with ending a marriage, spousal support (alimony) can be one of the most contentious and difficult to predict.  This is because the amount of spousal support, and length or term of spousal support (how long), is primarily within the discretion of the judge assigned to the case.  In addition, the range of how a particular judge or a particular county has historically dealt with spousal support issues can significantly vary, depending on the particular facts and issues involved in a case.  While there are general guidelines by statute in Ohio, the best predictor of the range of possibilities for spousal support orders is an attorney experienced in representing the interests of clients facing spousal support issues before Ohio courts.  “Spousal support” means any payment or payments to be made to a spouse or former spouse, or to a third party for the benefit of a spouse or a former spouse, that is both for sustenance and for support of the spouse or former spouse. “Spousal support” does not include any payment made to a spouse or former spouse, or to a third party for the benefit of a spouse or former spouse, that is made as part of a division or distribution of property or a distributive award.

Spousal Support (Alimony)  How to Calculate

It is important to know that although Ohio courts have a statutory formula to calculate child support, no such statutory formula or “guideline” exists for calculating spousal support.  Although our state’s legislature has been considering the implementation of a spousal support formula , no such formula has yet been enacted, and Ohio Courts of Appeal have found error and reversed trial court’s who have tried to implement a standard formula or guideline approach.  So what we are left with is that Ohio courts have wide discretion to determine the amount and duration of spousal support awards on a case by case basis, after taking into consideration the statutory factors currently in place.

Spousal support may be temporary, short-term, long-term or permanent, depending on a number of statutory factors which the Court must consider. Spousal support may be granted, for a few years, to aid someone in “getting back on their feet” or getting the education it takes to be self supporting. Spousal support may also be granted, in the proper case, on a permanent basis — lasting until the recipient dies or remarries.   Cohabitation can also be a reason for spousal support to terminate, but cohabitation can be much more of a legally complex issue than it sounds.  In addition, sometimes the amount or length of alimony obligations is permanent and sometimes the court  reserves jurisdiction to reconsider and amend the support amount.

Some statutory factors reviewed when the court considers whether spousal support is appropriate are:
a. 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
b. The relative earning abilities of the parties
c. The ages and the 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 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
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 including but limited to any court-ordered payments by the parties
j. 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
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 is, in fact, sought
l. The tax consequences, for each party, of an award of alimony
m. The lost income production capacity of either party that resulted from that party’s marital responsibilities
n. Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.
There are tax consequences to both the person who pays, and the person who receives alimony, which must be considered specifically when dealing with this issue.

To see the entire ohio Revised Code section that deals with spousal support you can click this link.  http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3105.18.


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