Cincinnati Family Law & Divorce Blog: How is Spousal Support Determined in Ohio?

There is no formula for the calculation of spousal support (formerly known as “alimony”) in Ohio. Spousal support is determined on a case-by-case basis after a consideration of several factors set forth in Ohio Revised Code Section 3105.18. Spousal support is not appropriate in every case, and is most commonly awarded in marriages of significant duration where there is a large disparity in incomes between the spouses. However, there are many other factors that go into the determination of an award of spousal support.


The statutory factors in determining an award of spousal support are (1) the income of both parties; (2) the earning capacities of both parties, as compared to one another; (3) the age, physical, mental, and emotional health of each party; (4) the retirement benefits available to each party; (5) the duration of the marriage; (6) whether it would be appropriate for the party receiving support to seek employment outside of the home, based upon that party’s duties to care for the minor children of the marriage; (7) the standard of living the parties established during their marriage; (8) the education level of each party; (9) the assets and debts of each party, including court-ordered payments like child support; (10) whether either party contributed to the training, education or earning ability of the other party, including contribution toward the acquisition of a professional degree of the other party; (11) the time and expense necessary for the party seeking support to obtain proper training and job experience to obtain appropriate employment to support his or herself; (12) tax consequences of the payment of spousal support; (13) lost income capacity of a party resulting from that party’s marital responsibilities; and (14) any other relevant factor.


Spousal support is not just a dollar figure paid each month. There are a few other key factors that make up a comprehensive agreement or order for spousal support. Specifically, the parties and their attorneys must consider under what terms the spousal support award will be modifiable. Common events justifying a modification of spousal support are involuntary loss of income and involuntary physical disability, among others. An order for spousal support must contain specific language stating the circumstances under which a court may modify an order in the future. If this language is not specifically included, courts have no statutory authority under which to review an award of spousal support after the entry of an order, even if the award no longer seems justified because of new circumstances.


The other necessary consideration is when support will terminate. In most cases, spousal support will terminate after a term of months or years, based on the length of the marriage. Only in very long term marriages (usually 25-30 years) does spousal support continue indefinitely. Certain events will trigger a termination of spousal support before the conclusion of the term of months or years specified in the order. These events typically include the remarriage or of the party receiving support, the death of the party receiving support, and the death of the party paying support. Cohabitation (with a new partner, in a marriage-like relationship) may cause the spousal support to terminate or be subject to modification.


There have been many efforts to create a formula for the determination of spousal support, to provide greater predictability for litigants and more uniformity among the  courts in Ohio. These efforts however have not been successful, largely due to the desire of judges to maintain the right to make decisions based on  individual circumstances. Rules of thumb are often discussed but cannot be relied upon. In fact, it is commonly stated by family law attorneys that spousal support is the least predictable issue in any case.