Divorce can be an overwhelming process. Not only do you need to process your emotions surrounding the end of your marriage, you and your spouse have to divide your assets and come to a child custody agreement. Ohio’s approach to dividing property in divorce enables flexibility for individual cases that some other states do not afford. Hiring an experienced divorce attorney can help you come to a less costly dissolution of your marriage.
Understanding Equitable Division in Ohio
Like those in 41 other states, Ohio courts use equitable division in divorce proceedings to divide marital assets and liabilities. Unlike community property states where assets are typically split 50/50, Ohio’s approach aims for a fair, but not necessarily equal, distribution. Assets and debt division in the state is based on what the court considers just and reasonable.
Equitable division laws require Ohio courts to consider factors that include:
- the duration of your marriage
- assets and liabilities of both you and your spouse
- the desirability of awarding the family home
- the liquidity of the property to be distributed
- the economic desirability of retaining an asset intact or an interest in the asset
- tax consequences of the proposed division
- the costs of sale, if necessary
- division or disbursement of property made in separation agreements
Equitable division applies only to marital property, which includes most assets and debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage. Separate property—such as inheritances, personal gifts, or assets acquired before the marriage—is generally not subject to division. However, the increase in value of separate property during your marriage can be considered marital property.
Separate Property vs. Marital Property
Separate property typically includes assets acquired before your marriage, inheritances, personal gifts, and any property designated as separate in a legal agreement. This type of property remains solely with whoever owns it, even in the event of a divorce. Separate property can transform into marital property if it becomes commingled with marital assets or if both you and your spouse contribute to its maintenance or increase in value.
Marital property, on the other hand, refers to assets and debts that either of you accumulate during the marriage. This can include real estate, bank accounts, investments, and retirement accounts. Debts incurred during your marriage, such as credit card balances, loans, and mortgages, also fall into this category. Marital property is subject to equitable division, meaning it will be divided fairly but not necessarily equally, based on a variety of factors.
Factors That Influence Equitable Division
Several factors can influence the way that Ohio courts equitably divide your marital property. One important factor is the length of your marriage. Generally longer marriages tend to have a division of assets due to the extended period of shared financial and emotional contributions. Another factor is the assets and debts that you and your spouse hold. The court examines your income, asset liquidity, and debts to ensure that one party isn’t disproportionately burdened.
The court also takes into account how each of you contributed to acquiring and preserving assets. This includes non-monetary contributions, such as homemaking and raising children, that allowed the other spouse to pursue their career.
Furthermore, the court considers the circumstances of each spouse at the time of division. The court assesses who would benefit more from assets such as a family business and who can better handle liabilities. Minimizing tax burdens is also taken into consideration when dividing property.
Retirement benefits that either spouse will receive are also factored in by the courts. Lastly, if you and your spouse have voluntarily agreed on separation terms, the court typically respects this agreement. If the court determines that the agreement is just and fair, they will use it as a foundation to divide the property.
The Role of Separation Agreements
A separation agreement can enable you and your spouse to outline the terms of your separation and property division. An experienced divorce attorney can help you create a legally binding contract that clearly defines the division of marital assets and liabilities, arrangements for spousal support, child custody, and visitation rights, if applicable. Your agreement lets you and your spouse make these decisions amicably outside of court and with fewer costs.
In Ohio, if the court finds your separation agreement fair and reasonable, it becomes part of your final divorce decree, and its terms become legally binding. But if the court finds any aspect of the agreement to be unfair or inadequate—particularly concerning child support or custody—it can modify those terms.
Spousal Support Post-Division
Courts in Ohio determine spousal support based on the specific needs and circumstances of each case. Factors that they consider when deciding on spousal support can include:
- the income of each spouse
- the length of the marriage
- the standard of living established during the marriage
- each spouse’s age, physical, emotional, and financial condition
Spousal support is meant to help a lower-earning or non-earning spouse maintain a reasonable standard of living after a divorce is finalized. It’s especially relevant when one spouse may have sacrificed career opportunities for the sake of the marriage or family. Spousal support can be temporary, designed to support a spouse only until they can become self-sufficient. It can also be more long-term, particularly if your marriage lasted very long or if you or your spouse is unable to self-support due to age or health reasons.
The court aims to balance the financial needs of the receiving spouse with the ability of the other spouse to pay. In Ohio, spousal support can be modified after divorce if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a substantial increase or decrease in either party’s income.
How an Attorney Can Help
An experienced Ohio divorce attorney can help you think through your divorce strategy, negotiate settlements, and prepare the necessary documentation. Your lawyer can help prevent costly mistakes and oversights, particularly in identifying marital assets, calculating spousal support, and drafting your separation agreement if you go that route.
Get In Touch With Richard P. Arthur
If you are getting a divorce in Dayton, you need to hire a divorce attorney who can represent you and help settle property division issues. You can call 937-254-3738 to have a consultation with Richard P. Arthur and discuss the details of your case. Richard P. Arthur can help you get what you deserve out of your divorce, as well as handle child custody and support matters.