How is Property Split in a Divorce in Ohio?

Couple working out a property split during a divorce
February 21, 2022

During a marriage, a couple inevitably acquires an array of real estate, tangible property and other assets. If the time should come when they seek a divorce, they’ll want to know what they’re each entitled to. Whether a couple has been married five months or 50 years, understanding property division in Ohio is key to working toward a fair resolution.

The Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC understand the importance of fair and equitable property division. We are ready to help you navigate this complex issue and achieve the best outcome for your circumstances.

Property Division in an Ohio Divorce

Marriages in Ohio that end in divorce fall into one of two categories: no-fault and fault-based. This means that whether the cause for the divorce is incompatibility, or “irreconcilable differences,” or a more specific reason––like adultery, cruelty, or abandonment, among others––either scenario is an acceptable and justified cause in Ohio divorce cases. Sometimes, where there is financial misconduct or other fault-based reasons for a divorce, the grounds for divorce can impact the way marital property will be divided.

Divorce in Ohio is based on a theory of “equitable distribution” of property and assets, and courts aim to distribute assets to both parties in a fair manner. That said, equitable does not necessarily mean equal––the split will not always be 50-50 and will vary across cases.

What Is Marital Property in Ohio?

Before a couple can understand the division of property, they first need to know how marital property is defined. In the state of Ohio, marital property includes but is not limited to:

  • Real and personal property owned by either or both spouses
  • Retirement benefits or military benefits of either or both spouses that were acquired during the marriage
  • Business interests owned by one or both spouses
  • Financial interests in any real or personal property
  • Income from all sources and appreciation on property due to the contribution of either or both spouses (labor, monetary, or otherwise)
  • Any additional financial accounts that meet legal requirements

Just as important as knowing what marital property is, is knowing what marital property is not. Separate property, such as an inheritance that was left to one spouse, or real or personal property that was purchased or held before the marriage are usually not subject to division. Where this becomes tricky to delineate is when a home originally owned by just one spouse has been consistently maintained using both spouses’ funds and physical efforts. Working with an experienced domestic litigation lawyer ensures that both parties’ assets and rights are duly protected.

Certain kinds of passive income, along with property that was specifically excluded by a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, are also not subject to division in most cases. Assets such as personal injury settlements, or personal gifts that can be documented as being gifted to only one spouse are another example of separate property assets.  Good documentation is vital if one spouse chooses to make a claim for separate property.

An additional area that could be up for discussion would be debts. These sums are often handled on a case-by-case basis for the most fair approach possible. For instance, debts may be divided pro rata (proportionally based on income level) or based on overall responsibility of incurring the debt. 

Factors that Affect Property Split in Divorce

A judge will go beyond looking at numbers and property data to truly understand what “fair and equitable” means in every case. Some of the factors a judge may take into special consideration when deciding how to divide property in a divorce could be:

  • Spouses’ age and health
  • Length of the marriage
  • Spouses’ income and property prior to marriage
  • Each spouse’s financial responsibility during the marriage
  • Whether child support is involved
  • Spouses’ potential future needs
  • Honesty in financial disclosure
  • Liquidity of shared property
  • Ability and extent of involvement in shared business ventures

Straightforward assets like bank accounts or certain investments make value determination easy. Where things can become complex is when assets don’t have an easily assignable or definable value. In such cases it is often a good idea to bring in an expert who can offer their experience and knowledge to properly value all assets prior to division.

Spouses could be asking, “What am I entitled to in a divorce in Ohio?” or “Who gets the house in a divorce?” Truthfully, there is no easy answer. Everything depends on the details of each couple’s financial and life situations. The only cut and dry ‘rule’ is that if an asset belonged to a spouse prior to the marriage, then it would almost certainly still be their sole property after a divorce. Working with a civil litigation lawyer can help both parties to protect vital assets and ensure that division is done fairly and in everyone’s best interest.

Spousal Support in Ohio

Beyond an equitable division of assets, a court might also award spousal support in the form of money, property, or both. Factors that affect a judge’s determination on this score can include the earning potential, health, and abilities of both spouses along with the reasonableness of a spouse finding work outside of the home to support themselves and any dependent children. There are countless factors that the court could find to be relevant, and an experienced divorce lawyer can help to sort out the details and find the most equitable outcome. Health insurance is another key consideration, especially for spouses who did not hold their own independent policy. Depending on the circumstances, the court may order their former spouse to pay for their ongoing coverage.

One key point to remember for all spouses: if you do not timely respond to a filed petition for divorce or cannot be reached by the court, you forfeit any right to contest the terms of the divorce, including the division of property and assets.

Work with an Experienced Cleveland, Ohio Divorce Lawyer

Divorce is a time when emotions and financial uncertainty collide. Thankfully, there’s no reason to navigate those contentious waters alone. Relying on legal experts, like the team at the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC, is a smart way to be sure that your assets and interests are protected. We know what the law requires, but we also care that our clients come out of a divorce with the means to make a new start. For solid, measured advice and unmatched personal attention, reach out to us today. Get in touch to learn more and to schedule a confidential consultation.