As we noted previously here on our blog, Ohio state law requires that marital property be divided equitably when a marriage comes to an end. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that everything you own will be subject to this rule, as certain types of property will be considered non-marital.
Non-marital property includes any gifts given to each other during the course of the marriage -- so if your partner gave something to you as a gift, it will not be subject to property division. Similarly, anything you received as part of an inheritance is considered non-marital property. And if you were injured and obtained compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, those funds will also be exempt from property division in a divorce.
Perhaps the main category of non-marital property is whatever you owned before the marriage began. Sometimes it's easy to prove that something belonged to you before you got married, but in other cases it can become complicated. For example, if you owned a home when you were single, then sold that home in order to put money down on a shared home with your future spouse, you would need to demonstrate how much equity was in your home when you sold it in order to get a court to award you any portion of the down payment during property division.
Another challenging element of property division arises when partners have debt to divide between them. In Ohio, a judge may or may not divide the debt equitably -- he or she may choose instead to assign a greater portion of the debt to the partner with a higher income. Questions of who incurred how much debt and who owns which accounts may also play a role.
While equitable distribution is the law in Ohio, it is clear, there are important exceptions. A family law professional can discuss how the law might apply in any individual's situation and formulate a strategy to help protect important assets during property division.
Source: Ohio State Bar Association, "Divorce Courts Divide Assets and Liabilities Equitably," accessed on Dec. 3, 2017