If you’re living in Ohio when your marriage ends, you have one important decision to make right at the start. The state allows you to file for either dissolution or divorce. If you choose dissolution, you and your spouse must already have reached an agreement as to how you’re going to resolve your marriage. If you file for divorce, you’re effectively stating that you need the court to decide issues for you. Ohio’s laws will govern how the court deals with things like property, support and your children.
Ohio is an equitable distribution state, but that term can be a little misleading. Equitable means “fair,” not “even.” Equitable distribution laws allow a judge to give one spouse 60 percent of marital property and the other spouse 40 percent if he thinks circumstances warrant it. Issues that a judge might take into consideration, for example, would be not uprooting children from the home they have always lived in when considering to which spouse the house will be awarded. He might also consider a spouse’s future earning potential if one particular asset produces income. Ohio exempts property from division if you owned it before you got married or if you received it through an inheritance.
All states base custody decisions on a premise called the best interests of the child. Several factors go into what determines a child’s best interests. Ohio believes that if a child is mature enough and if a parent hasn’t pressured him, a judge should take his wishes into consideration as to which parent he would like to live with. The state also considers a spouse’s willingness to encourage the child’s relationship with his other parent. The court generally frowns on interference with visitation.
All states calculate child support in one of two ways, using either the income shares model or the percentage of income model. Ohio uses the income shares technique. This works by first combining both parents’ incomes. If parents collectively earn $6,000 a month, the court sets aside a portion of that amount for the children, based on their number. For example, if you have one child, the court might designate $600 for his support. If you earn $2,000 a month, that amounts to one-third of the $6,000 figure. Your contribution to your child's support would therefore be one-third of $600, or $198. If your spouse is the non-custodial parent, he would pay you the difference in child support -- $402 a month or two-thirds. Ohio requires that if the non-custodial parent is not self-employed, he must pay his child support obligation through income withholding from his paycheck. His employer would then send his support money to the state support center for distribution to the custodial parent.
Ohio law doesn’t mandate alimony. The court decides whether to award it on an individual basis. For example, in a long-term marriage where one spouse significantly out-earns the other, a judge might order alimony so that the standard of living of both spouses remains as close as possible to what it was when they were together. If one spouse earns $90,000 a year and the other earns $25,000 a year, the court would most likely deem it to be unfair if the under-earning spouse had to struggle to make ends meet because the marriage ended. It would not be equitable if the spouse earning $90,000 did not contribute somewhat to her standard of living.