When I meet with someone for the first time regarding their divorce, I hear the same questions over and over - concerns that are keeping people up at night and adding to the stress of the divorce. They are questions such as, "Can I afford to keep the house?" and "How will I get health insurance?"
These are all common fears in divorce mediation in Ohio, and they all revolve around money. When it comes to negotiating the divorce settlement, one of the stickiest issues addressed is spousal support. (Spousal support is also known as alimony or spousal maintenance in some areas.)
Related post: How much spousal support will I get?
There is no spousal support calculator in Ohio. Thus, if awarded, the amount and/or the duration of alimony can all be somewhat subjective. That said, there are several considerations detailed in Ohio law. You can read about them here.
Sometimes clients ask me what other people do when it comes to spousal support in Ohio. There truly is no one way to handle it. The creative spousal support agreements I've witnessed in mediation illustrate the control parties have in mediation. This post is by no means meant to be a recommendation. Instead, it can give you some ideas for how others have found a resolution to this issue.
A traditional resolution for spousal support in Ohio is when one party plans to pay the other party a fixed monthly amount for a specified period. The amount and time frame vary significantly from case to case, with a variety of factors considered since there is no spousal support calculator in Ohio. The primary factors considered tend to be the earnings power of each party and the duration of the marriage. Some parties try to come up with a solution that provides both spouses with the same amount of income. Others may negotiate a payment that allows the lower-earning spouse to stay in the primary residence.
Sometimes one or both of the parties do not want to deal with the issue of an ongoing payment. Thus, they will negotiate an upfront payment in place of monthly payments and/or a larger asset allocation to one of the parties instead of ongoing spousal support. For example, in one case, the parties agreed that one of the spouses would keep all of the equity in the marital home in place of spousal support. They divided the rest of their assets equally.
In another case, the wife just went back to work full-time after staying home with her children for many years. The husband was the primary earner for the last 10+ years. The children were teenagers at the time of the mediation, and the wife obtained employment at a lower wage than the husband. However, the wife was capable of earning more once she was back in the workforce for some time. The parties decided that the husband would pay the wife a spousal support payment that was highest in the first two years of payment. It then declined annually over each of the following three years.
In another sample case, the wife came from a family of significant wealth. The husband had built a business during the marriage. However, the parties primarily lived off of the income stream from the wife's inherited assets. While much of the portfolio was considered separate property, the clients determined that certain assets that would offer higher income be assigned to the husband. That way, the wife could avoid paying ongoing spousal support.
Related post: What is considered separate property in a divorce?
I've seen plenty of cases come through where parties determine there will be no spousal support. It is not a forgone conclusion that spousal support will be negotiated during mediation. Most of the cases that I've seen where the topic of spousal support is not discussed involve two parties with careers of their own. There tends to be a minimal difference in income between the parties.
There are times when spousal support is negotiated to cover an extended period. This seems to be the case when one spouse is the primary earner, and the other is responsible for the home and the children. I've also seen this when one of the parties suffers from a chronic illness. Sometimes the primary earner wants to ensure the other spouse is taken care of even though the marriage did not work out. Over time, inflation can have a significant impact on general living expenses. Thus, some parties choose to negotiate an inflation factor when resolving the issue of spousal support.
If you are going through mediation, it's common to have questions about alimony since there is no spousal support calculator in Ohio. If you have questions about Ohio spousal support, I would strongly encourage you to sit down with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA). A CDFA can take a look at your overall financial picture to determine a realistic scenario of what will work best for both parties involved. S/he can create a financial plan for you that will help you to negotiate your spousal support confidently. That way, you know exactly what you need to make ends meet and transition into the next phase of your life.
While located in Ohio, I work with clients nationwide. If you need assistance understanding your financial picture, what your options are, and/or a plan for your future, contact me. I am committed to educating and empowering clients to make wise financial decisions.