In Ohio, marital property is subject to equitable distribution in divorce cases. For many couples, the family home is the most significant asset. If much of your wealth is tied up in a home you owned before you married, you might be able to make a claim that your house is separate property and not part of the marital assets.
Ohio Is an Equitable Distribution State
Under Ohio law, marital assets are divided equitably. The majority of states follow the equitable distribution standard. Assets accumulated during the marriage are divided fairly but not necessarily equally. Ohio courts consider a list of factors to determine the fairness of real property division, including the length of the marriage, the cost of selling the home and whether one spouse will remain in the house with minor children. This is in contrast to community property states, in which both spouses have equal rights in all marital property.
In Ohio, it does not matter whose name is on the house title. For divorce purposes, the name on the deed does not indicate ownership. Regardless of whether the marital home is titled in one or both spouses' names, if it was acquired during the marriage, Ohio law considers it marital property and therefore subject to equitable distribution in the divorce.
Separate Property in Ohio
Ohio divorce law assumes that all property acquired during the marriage is marital property unless one spouse can prove otherwise. Separate property belongs solely to the person who owns it and is not subject to equitable distribution. Examples of separate property include property owned prior to the marriage, gifts, inheritances, personal injury awards and gains or appreciation value earned by separate property. If one spouse owned a home prior to marriage, but the other spouse contributed to the home's mortgage or upkeep, the court might overrule any separate property claim and order the home subject to division. However, the owning spouse can protect a portion of the home's value from distribution by establishing its separate premarital value.
Distribution of Separate Property
Ohio courts will sometimes award separate property to both spouses. This often occurs when separate property has been commingled with marital assets. For example, if a spouse deposits separate funds into a joint checking account where marital funds are also deposited, the character of the funds may change from separate to marital property, especially if money from this account is used for household needs and expenses.