Call today (330) 336-3330

Explanation of Ohio Spousal Support Law White Paper

In this white paper, Attorney Daniel Gigiano reviews Ohio spousal support laws. There are numerous factors courts use to determine spousal support, some having more authorty than others.

How Does an Ohio Court Decide Spousal Support?

Ohio law considers a number of factors in deciding spousal support. These factors include more than just the income of the parties, but considers the ages of the parties, tax consequences of support and the time necessary for a party to acquire the appropriate training for employment. The complete list of factors is as follows:

  1. The income of the parties, from all sources, including but not limited to, income from property divided, disbursed, or distributed under Ohio Revised Code 3015.171.
  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.
  14. Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable.

Ohio law assumes that marriage is an equal partnership: “In determining whether spousal support is reasonable and in determining the amount and terms of payment of spousal support, each party shall be considered to have contributed equally to the production of marital income.” This means that, while one spouse may have earned the income outside the home, the other spouse will be presumed to be an equal partner in that effort by caring for the children, cleaning the home, and preparing meals. Certainly, the income-earning spouse was able to concentrate more on earning money with such responsibilities taken on by the other spouse

“In determining whether spousal support is reasonable and in determining the amount and terms of payment of spousal support, each party shall be considered to have contributed equally to the production of marital income.”


Courts Impute Income for Spousal Support

Courts impute income for spousal support, which means the court will determine that you should make a certain amount of income even if you do not. The court does this by considering employment history, education, physical and mental disabilities, availability of employment in the area, typical wages in the area, skills and training, whether the person has the ability to earn the imputed income, the age and special needs of the child, and experience in the field. If a party voluntarily reduces income or loses a job, that party’s higher income level will still likely be used. If the income loss or reduction was involuntary and the person cannot easily obtain another job at the same income level, then the court may accept the person’s current income level for child support purposes.

The concept of imputed income is designed to discourage parties from quitting their jobs for the sole purpose of reducing their spousal support payments. It also discourages parties from sabotaging their jobs, or, in other words, engaging in activity that would get them fired. If the court determines that a party has engaged in these types of actions, the court may, under Ohio law, impute the party’s wages from that former job.


Is the IRS Definition of Alimony the Same as Ohio Spousal Support?

Is the IRS definition of alimony the same as Ohio spousal support? Depending on the state, a divorce decree labels payments as spousal support, maintenance, or alimony. Does that mean that the payments are considered to be alimony by the IRS? Not necessarily. Why does this matter? It matters because qualifying spousal alimony payments are deductible by the payer and included in the recipient’s income.

In Ohio, alimony is called spousal support. For purposes of this article, we will use the Ohio term. The bullets below list the IRS requirements for a payment to qualify as spousal support.

IRS Requirements for Payment to Qualify as Spousal Support

  • The payment must be in cash and not property
  • The written instrument does not designate the payment as not spousal support
  • If the parties are separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance, they are not members of the same household when the payment is made
  • There is no liability to make payment after the death of the recipient spouse
  • The payment is not treated as child support

Cash payments to a third party can be considered spousal support if they otherwise qualify. Such qualified cash payments can include: rent, mortgage payments, medical and dental costs, utility bills, education and income taxes. The payments are treated as though they were received by the spouse and then to the third party.

The types of payments excluded as spousal support by the IRS include: noncash property settlements, child support, payments for use of the property, and payments to maintain the payer’s property. Another method of excluding payments from spousal support treatment is for the separation agreement to simply characterize the spousal support payments as nondeductible by the payer spouse and nontaxable by the recipient.


When Does Spousal Support End?

When does spousal support end? Even when spousal support is determined as lifetime spousal support, it is not necessarily forever. There are four ways in which an order for spousal support may terminate (see below).

Spousal support does not necessarily end when the recipient spouse cohabitates with a member of the opposite sex. However, termination of spousal support upon cohabitation can occur if this condition is written in the separation agreement and divorce decree.

Four Ways Spousal Support May Terminate

  1. Spousal support may terminate on a specified date.
  2. Spousal support may terminate upon the occurrence of a specified event.
  3. The domestic relations court may terminate spousal support pursuant to its continuance jurisdiction if a change of circumstances has occurred that supports termination of spousal support.
  4. Spousal support may terminate as a matter of law upon remarriage of the recipient spouse or the death of either party support received.

Spousal support does not necessarily end when the recipient finds a better job. If the court does not reserve jurisdiction to modify spousal support, then it does not matter if the recipient gets a better job or if the payer loses a job. The parties locked in the spousal support figure. If the parties want to allow the court to consider such changes in the future, then the court must reserve jurisdiction to do so. Otherwise, spousal support will not increase or decrease, but will only be subject to termination.


For More Information on Ohio Spousal Support Law

For more information on Ohio spousal support laws, go to or contact Daniel Gigiano at 330-336-3330 for consultation. The initial 30 minute consultation is always free.