Spousal Support
Spousal Support
Unlike child support, which is uniform across the state, the court has much more discretion over an award of spousal support, which is the modern term for what was commonly known as alimony. The principle behind spousal support is to compensate one spouse for lost wages or lost wage-earning ability. In Ohio, counties will often vary greatly in the amount of spousal support awarded. Most counties have established spousal support “guidelines” specific to that particular court; if either party wishes to deviate from those guidelines, they must provide the court with a justification for the deviation. Even though the equation used to calculate spousal support varies by county, the factors the court must consider are codified in Ohio R.C. 3105.18. The court must consider factors such as the parties’ income, the earning ability of each party, the age and physical condition of each party, the retirement benefits of each party, and the required training and education one party would need in order to obtain appropriate employment. Often one party will argue that the spousal support should be greater or less than the support typically awarded by that county. The standard of living established by the parties during the marriage is frequently used to argue an increase in spousal support. For example, if one spouse makes $350,000 per year and the other spouse makes $60,000, assume for illustration purposes that the award would normally be for $4,000 per month. However, if the parties established a pattern of a lavish lifestyle of expensive cars and clothes, or luxury vacations, the court may find that it would be inequitable to expect the spouse making only $60,000 to simply abandon the lifestyle he or she had become accustomed to. $60,000 plus another $48,000 a year may sound like plenty of money to live on, but the court will consider income relative to expenses, the spouse’s income, and the parties’ lifestyle. One of the largest factors in determining spousal support is the duration of the marriage. As a rule of thumb, a court will generally not consider an award of spousal support unless the parties have been married at least five years; a court will usually not consider lifetime support until at least 20, 25, or sometimes 30 years of marriage. If lifetime support is not in play, the general rule is an award for one-third the length of the marriage. For example, if the parties were married for twelve years, the court would likely consider spousal support for a term of four years. Another thing to consider is that the longer the marriage, the greater the amount of spousal support. Most courts use a percentage of the difference in incomes to determine the award. A five-year marriage may result in an award that is 10% to 15% of the difference in the parties’ income, where a 25-year marriage may result in income equalization or 50% of the difference in the parties’ income.
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