Spousal Support

In Ohio, one spouse can be ordered or agree to contribute to the financial needs of the other after they are no longer married.  Until 1991, this was called “alimony” and after 1991 it is called “spousal support”.  The criteria used to include need as a basis for the amount and duration of the assistance, and since 1991 the amount of the award is to be reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances of the parties.

The criteria for an award of spousal support are set out in the statute, but there are no guidelines or standards statewide, making each case unique.  Because each party is considered to have contributed equally to the production of marital income, the current incomes of the parties is a beginning point, but that is not the end of the inquiry.  How the marriage partnership operated is a chief consideration, what each party sacrificed for marital purposes, how the parties lived while together, whether a sum certain is needed to meet certain needs such as education or healthcare insurance, and what economic future of the parties can reasonably be predicted are all important considerations.

Experienced counsel like Attorney Melissa Graham-Hurd have both the knowledge and experience to assist people in determining fair and equitable solutions to breaking up the marital partnership.  Each judge has certain rules of thumb for both the amount of support, whether it is a percentage  of the difference in incomes,  whether it is a percentage of the variation between incomes, or based on other criteria, followed in all but unusual circumstances, in applying the facts of the case to the factors listed in the statute:

  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; and
  14. Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.

Modifying Spousal Support ( Alimony)

Continuing orders for spousal support (alimony) can be modified only if the decree of divorce or dissolution reserves jurisdiction to make changes in the future. The changes of circumstances from the time of the decree must be substantial, not slight or inconsequential, and must not have been contemplated at the time of the prior order. 

After March 22, 2013, the law will change to clarify:  a change in the circumstances of a party includes, but is not limited to, any increase or involuntary decrease in the party’s wages, salary, bonuses, living expenses, or medical expenses, or other changed circumstances so long as both of the following apply:

  1. The change in circumstances is substantial and makes the existing award no longer reasonable and appropriate.
  2. The change in circumstances was not taken into account by the parties or the court as a basis for the existing award when it was established or last modified, whether or not the change in circumstances was foreseeable.

In determining whether to modify an existing order for spousal support, the court shall consider any purpose expressed in the initial order or award and enforce any voluntary agreement of the parties. Absent an agreement of the parties, the court shall not modify the continuing jurisdiction of the court as contained in the original decree.

The subject of modification of spousal support is a very complex one, subject to heated debate in and among Ohio’s appellate districts, and is one of the most difficult subjects of law to master.  Experienced counsel such as Attorney Melissa Graham-Hurd is a must if you believe that your spousal support orders should change.