Whether you have been ordered to pay alimony or you are currently receiving it, you may have many questions about how long these payments will continue, or if they can ever be modified or terminated early. Well, the short answer is that it depends.
First off, you must understand that there are many different types of alimony in Ohio, which is generally known as spousal support. For instance, an individual’s alimony obligation can end on a specific date or continue indefinitely, depending on what the court considers “equitable” – although most courts prefer to include a specific end date.
However, regardless of how long alimony has been ordered in your case, there are some circumstances in which a court can modify or terminate it before the scheduled end date.
So when can alimony be modified or terminated early?
Unless the court expressly orders otherwise, alimony always ends when either ex-spouse – either the one paying alimony or the one receiving it – dies. In addition, the court can establish, or the splitting spouses can agree upon, a list of certain circumstances that will automatically terminate alimony payments, such as instances in which the ex-spouse receiving the payments gets remarried or begins to cohabitate with someone else.
However, absent such a list or similar provisions in your divorce decree, the spouse paying alimony will have to ask the court to terminate or modify alimony if his or her ex gets married again or starts to live with someone new. In fact, Ohio is one of the few states in which alimony does not automatically end upon remarriage or cohabitation – meaning you will have seek the court’s approval for ending alimony if these situations aren’t listed as automatic qualifiers in your divorce decree.
The general test for modifying alimony in Ohio
Under Ohio law, courts only have the authority to modify or terminate alimony if the divorce decree or separation agreement contains a provision specifically granting this power and jurisdiction to the court. But, given that modification provisions are quite common, this usually isn’t a problem for many ex-couples.
In addition, before a modification can take place, the court must determine that the either party has experienced a change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease to wages, bonuses, living expenses or medical costs, and that both of the following factors apply:
- The change is circumstances is substantial, meaning that the existing alimony award is no longer reasonable
- The change in circumstances was not taken into account when the existing alimony award was first established or last modified
Therefore, even if a divorce decree does not list remarriage or cohabitation as situations in which alimony automatically ends, you may still be able to modify or terminate your alimony obligations if you can show that the recipient’s economic situation has improved as a result of the new marriage or cohabitation.
However, these types of legal disputes can be quite complex, which is why it is always best to speak with an experienced family law attorney should you have any questions or concerns.