Spousal support, commonly referred to as alimony, is a court-ordered allowance paid by one person to their spouse or former spouse. Spousal support can be temporary, which the court may order while your divorce is pending, or permanent when the divorce is final.
The original purpose behind spousal support is to compensate one spouse for lost wages or loss of wage-earning ability, but spousal support has largely become an issue of equitability. Not too many generations ago, many wives did not work outside the home, especially once children came along. A mother with children to raise and no job would be financially ruined by a divorce if her former spouse wasn’t ordered to continue to provide her with some level of support. Flash forward to the current employment landscape, and now you can find women out-earning their husbands in many professions, and fathers choosing to stay home to raise young children. Spousal support protects husbands and fathers, too.
How is spousal support calculated?
Unlike child support, which is uniform across the state, the courts have much more discretion in calculating spousal support. In Ohio, spousal support guidelines will vary by county. A local divorce attorney who specializes in family law and divorce will be able to give you a general idea about how certain courts in your area tend to rule regarding spousal support.
Ohio courts must consider several factors when calculating spousal support payments. These factors are codified in Ohio R.C. 31508.18, and include, but are not limited to:
- Each person’s income
- Each person’s earning ability
- Each person’s age and physical condition
- Each person’s retirement benefits
- The required training and education one party would need to obtain appropriate employment
- The relative extent of education of the parties
- The duration of the marriage
- Relative assets and liabilities
- Standard of living
Standard of living is the factor that is most commonly cited when arguing for an increase in spousal support. If the couple enjoyed a lavish lifestyle while married, bought expensive homes and cars, and took luxurious vacations, but one person was only making $50,000 while the other made $350,000, the court might agree that the party earning less money deserves more spousal support than usual in order to maintain a similar standard of living. The court will look at each party’s income relative to expenses when calculating a final award.
How long does spousal support last?
The duration of the marriage is one of the biggest factors the court will consider when determining spousal support. The length of the marriage can affect both the length and amount of the support order.
Usually, a court will not consider awarding spousal support unless the marriage has lasted at least five years, and they will not consider awarding lifetime support until 20, 25, or even 30 years of marriage. If lifetime support will not be awarded, then the general rule of thumb is for spousal support to be awarded for one-third of the length of the marriage. For example, if a couple had been married for 15 years, the court might order spousal support to be paid for a term of five years.
The duration of the marriage may also impact the amount of spousal support ordered. Most courts consider the difference in the parties’ income when ordering the support. A five-year marriage might result in a support order that is 10-15% of the difference in income. A marriage of 25 years, however, might result in income equalization, or 50% of the difference in the parties’ income.
Temporary vs. Permanent Spousal Support Orders
Temporary spousal support may be ordered while a divorce is in progress. A divorce might take 12-18 months or longer to be finalized, and during that time, the court will want to ensure that each party is able to survive financially. Your divorce lawyer will file a motion with the court requesting temporary support if it is needed. The amount of money paid in temporary support may or may not be similar to the judge’s final order after the court has had time to consider all of the relevant and required factors.
Permanent spousal support is not forever, although it may be if the marriage was long enough. It simply means that this is the final spousal support order awarded upon the completion of the divorce. And even though it’s called permanent, it can always be modified later if circumstances warrant it.
Questions? Come in for a free consultation!
Questions about spousal support are common. Some people are afraid they won’t have enough money to live on if they get divorced. Some people are afraid they are going to lose half of everything they’ve worked for all their lives if they get divorced. Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from acting.
There is no magic online spousal support calculator you can go to in Ohio. But our law firm’s only area of practice is divorce and family law, which is the next best thing. With more than 100+ years of combined experience, we know how the courts in the Dayton, Ohio region tend to rule. Based on the length of your marriage, your incomes, education, etc., we can tell you how the courts have ruled in similar cases. No divorce lawyer can tell you the exact amount of spousal support that will be awarded, but we can at least give you a better idea of what to expect.
Get your questions about spousal support or any other divorce-related topic answered by scheduling your free consultation today!