When you plan your divorce, financial matters play a leading role in the proceedings. The issue of spousal support, also referred to as alimony, presents pressing concerns for many divorcing couples.

Higher-earning spouses may wonder if they will have to pay more than they can afford, while lower earners may worry about not getting enough support to make ends meet. While learning some basics can give you a better understanding of this topic, consulting an attorney can provide you with in-depth advice tailored to your individual situation.

How courts decide alimony issues

Unlike with child support, Ohio law does not provide a formula for alimony. Rather, the court decides the type, amount and duration of support payments based on 14 factors. The way judges apply these factors can vary; in some situations, a judge may deem certain factors more important than others.

The major aim of these deliberations is to arrive at a fair result rather than to mark off boxes on a checklist, so this can be a subjective process where outcomes depend greatly on the facts of each situation.

Major considerations

First and foremost, courts tend to look at the length of the marriage and the spouses’ incomes and earning capacities. Other important factors include the parties’ respective responsibilities during the marriage, the effect of duties on earning capacity, the standard of living throughout the marriage, as well as the ages and health conditions of the spouses.

Termination or modification

Generally, support payments stop if the recipient remarries. Either party can request modification of a support award if circumstances change substantially; some examples may include job loss or sudden health problems.

Courts tend to enforce voluntary agreements

Divorcing spouses can also choose to come to an agreement about how they want spousal support to work. Unlike with child support, a spouse who might otherwise receive support can decide to waive it. A court will usually approve an agreement unless indications exist that one spouse forced the other into it through deception or coercion. A valid prenuptial agreement can also set forth spousal support provisions.