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How Is Property Divided in an Ohio Divorce?

By Jim Robenalt

Getting a divorce in Ohio also means splitting up your assets and liabilities.

But do you know what properties to keep? And who will be liable for the debts?

This article will discuss the property relations between spouses after getting a final divorce decree.

Ohio Follows Equitable Distribution of Assets and Liabilities

Equitable distribution doesn’t have to be equal. Instead, the court will look into what is fair under the circumstances.

Here’s how that works.

At the onset, the court will presume all marital assets to be equally owned by the spouses. So naturally, it will be split down the middle upon divorce. 

However, the court will also consider several factors that may shift the balance from equal to favoring one spouse.

For instance, if one fails to inform the court about all their properties, the latter could lose a portion of his share in the marital properties. The same is true if he did something to damage the properties or cause harm to the financial interests.

It might also cost the guilty spouse a considerable share of the marital properties if he transferred title to the commonly owned properties in anticipation of divorce.

In determining what property is jointly or separately owned, the court will also consider the past efforts of the spouses.

Community Property

Without any agreement, the court will divide the marital assets, following the rules on community property and equitable distribution.

This is based on the presumption that the couple contributed equally to acquiring all marital assets during the marriage.

So in the separation of properties, the court will divide the assets equally between the spouses.

This rule, however, admits to certain exceptions. 

First, the court will not follow the rule on equal division if an unbalanced division is more equitable.

The second exception is when there is an agreement on the separation of properties.

Agreement on the Separation of Properties

Here the couple has a say on how they intend to divide the marital properties. 

This agreement gives the couple control because the court has no choice but to follow what was agreed upon.

Marital Properties

Before the court divides the properties, it must decide on the couple’s marital assets.

Only then can the court identify what properties belong to either spouse separately.

In general, marital properties are those acquired during the marriage. Examples of marital properties include the family home, personal properties, retirement benefits, and bank accounts.

By legal definition, marital properties include the following:

  • all properties, real and personal, that are currently owned by either or both spouses
  • all properties that are acquired during the marriage by either or both spouses, including their retirement benefits
  • appreciation or income from either spouse’s separate property
  • income due to labor during the marriage

Separate Properties

These are properties that either spouse owned before entering into marriage and, therefore, are not considered properties jointly owned by the couple.

Separate properties also include inheritances or gifts one spouse received during the marriage. Some personal injury awards are also considered separate properties.

Here are examples of separate properties.

  • any property that one spouse received by devise, descent, or bequest during the marriage
  • any property acquired by one spouse before the marriage
  • passive income and appreciation coming from the separate property of one spouse during the marriage
  • property acquired by one spouse from a previous marriage after getting a decree of legal separation
  • any property treated as separate by a valid antenuptial agreement
  • compensation for one spouse’s personal injury
  • any gift given to only one spouse, even if during the marriage

In addition, a separate property will remain separate even if mingled with the couple’s marital properties. The exception to this rule is when the separate property can no longer be traced back to its origin or source.

What Are the Factors Considered in the Division of Marital Properties

Using equal division as a starting point, the court may shift to an equitable distribution of marital properties. Here are the factors it considers as it evaluates all the assets and liabilities of the couple.

  • liquidity of all marital assets
  • tax consequences to each spouse after the division of marital properties
  • assets and liabilities of each spouse
  • duration of their marriage
  • who is the custodial parent, if they have at least a common child
  • the benefit to the custodial parent if the latter remains in the marital home
  • cost of the sale of the marital properties
  • retirement benefits of the spouses, if any
  • whether there was a premarital agreement on the property division

The court will consider all factors necessary to ensure that the division of properties is fair and equitable.

Like the assets, the court will also characterize the marital liabilities as joint or separate before assigning responsibility to one spouse.

Determination of Spousal Support

Spousal support pertains to the amount given by one spouse to the other. This is to help the recipient spouse after finalizing the divorce.

The court will evaluate the recipient’s needs in the computation of spousal support. Pending the court’s decision, the recipient spouse may request temporary support at any time.

Determination of the Value of the Marital Properties

There are marital assets that have readily determinable values. These include bank accounts and liquid assets.

However, some properties require a determination of their values.

If the spouses cannot agree on their values, there must be a proper determination before the court can decide on the separation of properties.

Accordingly, the court will look to qualified experts to obtain appraisals on the value of assets like homes, jewelry, and automobiles.

The court may also call upon accountants and other financial evaluation experts to determine the value of pensions and retirement accounts.

There may be more than one expert to handle all the determination unless the parties agree to work with only one.

The court can decide on the value of these marital assets based on expert testimony and evidence.

Child Support

Ohio law defines the amount of child support to pay in a divorce

In addition to the monthly child support payments, the spouses will contribute to their child’s education, healthcare, and other related expenses.

Often, the circumstances of each spouse change, calling for an adjustment of the amount of child support. 

This happens when the separate income of the paying spouse has increased. So the amount of child support may also be increased. On the other hand, a decrease in income may also call for a reduction in child support payments.

When this happens, the paying spouse may ask the court to adjust the monthly dues.

Here are the factors that the court will consider in adjusting child support payments.

  • financial resources and earning capacity of the paying parent
  • educational and medical needs of the child
  • special needs of the child, especially if handicapped 
  • additional costs for visitation
  • permissible deductions on the paying parent’s wage
  • the disparity of income between the parents
  • when the other parent remarries 
  • significant contributions to the different needs of the child
  • other court-ordered payments

Spousal Support

Upon request, the court may order the payment of spousal support. This may be in the form of money or property.

Here are the factors that the court will consider before granting the request for spousal support.

  • income of both spouses
  • relative earning capacity of both spouses
  • age and condition of both spouses
  • standard of living of both spouses before filing for divorce
  • duration of their marriage
  • retirement benefits of both spouses
  • the capacity of the recipient spouse to seek employment

Effect of Modification of Divorce Decree on Support and Separation of Properties

As years go by, the circumstances between the ex-spouses may change. Some people want to reopen their divorce decree and change things a bit.

Child and spousal support payments are commonly modified aspects of the divorce decree.

Other people may also want to revisit their agreement on the separation of properties.

Modification of Spousal Support

Before pursuing any action to revise the terms of spousal support, it is crucial to check on the court’s continuing jurisdiction. 

In addition, one should also check the specific conditions that permit any modification or even termination of spousal support.

Modification of Separation Agreement

This usually happens when one former spouse discovers at least one property not listed in the separation agreement. Thus, the latter didn’t get a fair deal in the separation of properties.

Renegotiating the Spousal Support and Property Division

It is possible to reopen these legal matters and negotiate for better terms. To initiate this, one needs to file an appropriate court motion to request the divorce case reopening.

In support of the motion to reopen the case, the requesting party must have good reasons. For instance, the other former spouse hid certain assets, which were discovered only years later post-divorce.

However, reopening a divorce case is quite complicated. It would be best to discuss this matter with an attorney to know your options and chances.

Next Page Mediation can help you renegotiate for better terms in your divorce and pursue the appropriate legal process. We can make sure you get a fair and equitable deal than what you had in your original divorce.

If you need to speak with our attorney, please click here to book a free 30-minute consultation.

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