Spousal Support 101: The Basics Under Ohio Law

Under Ohio law, spousal support is defined as any payment to a spouse or former spouse that is both for sustenance and for support. Spousal support does not include property divided or distributed as part of the equitable division of marital property. Courts in Ohio determine how much spousal support should be awarded on a case-by-case basis.

In this regard, a court considers 14 factors to arrive at a figure that represents reasonable spousal support. A few of these factors are:

  • The income of the parties;
  • The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the parties;
  • The relative earning abilities of the parties;
  • The duration of the marriage; and
  • The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.

Spousal support is not limited to payments to a former spouse. Rather, a court may award reasonable temporary spousal support to either party during pendency of any divorce or legal separation proceeding. Courts are not required to award spousal support. There may be situations when a court finds that spousal support is unnecessary. For example, if both spouses have relatively equal incomes and earning power or if the couple had a short marriage, support may not be awarded.

Modifying Spousal Support Order

A change to a spousal support order is permissible only if there is change in circumstances of either party. What constitutes a "change in circumstances"? According to Ohio law, a change in circumstances occurs when there is any increase or involuntary decrease in the party's wages, salary, bonuses, living expenses, or medical expenses, or other changed circumstances.

It is important to know, however, that not every "other changed circumstances" necessitates modification of a spousal support order. First, the change must be substantial and must make the existing award no longer reasonable and appropriate. Second, the change in circumstances must not have been factored into the current spousal support order when it was established or last modified. It does not matter whether or not the change in circumstances was foreseeable. But the court must consider any purpose expressed in the initial order or award and enforce any voluntary agreement of the parties.

Failure to Pay Spousal Support

Failure to make alimony or spousal support payments under a court order can result in a person being found in contempt of court. Contempt of court can result in a person being imprisoned for a specified period or for a time until the accused performs a certain act, such as making a spousal support payment. A first contempt offense can result in a fine of not more than $250 and a term of imprisonment not more than 30 days, or both.

To obtain a finding of contempt, one must petition a court, which can take time and money. A court, however, will assess all court costs arising out of the contempt proceeding against the person and will require the person to pay any reasonable attorney's fees of any adverse party.

Contact an Ohio Divorce Attorney

If you have any questions regarding spousal support or the divorce process in Ohio, Laubacher & Co.'s Cleveland divorce attorneys can provide answers. Contact our divorce attorneys today for a free initial consultation.

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