Property Division: Dividing Property, Assets & Debts in Ohio
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: I thought this basic primer was worth posting once again especially now that we are at the start of “divorce season”. Division of debts and assets in a divorce is not always a simple or cookie cutter process.”
Property Division in Ohio Can Be Complicated In Marriage Breakup – Hire A Experienced Divorce Lawyer Early
Depending upon the issues in a marriage breakup, dividing assets and debts is usually a preliminary topic of conversation. This can be a complex and lengthy discussion depending upon the nature of the assets, length of the marriage, and title of the property. The first aspect of analyzing how the court may divide property pertains to whether or not the property was acquired before or after the date of marriage. If the property is separate pre-marital property, that property would remain the property of the initial owner and would not be subject to division.
In Ohio, property acquired during the term of the marriage is generally divided “equitably”. While the courts in Ohio strive to create a fair property division, this may not always lead to a 50/50 equal distribution. But, an equal division is presumed to be the starting point. The Court hopes to end up with a decision, that when viewed as a whole, leaves both parties with roughly equal shares of the marital estate.
If a spouse inherits property (or is gifted specific property during the course of the marriage), it is also generally deemed as separate property and not subject to division in Ohio. An exception exists, however, if that inherited property is commingled together into a joint account or put in joint names with a spouse. In that case it is likely to be deemed marital property subject to equitable division. [So, if you want to shield inherited property potentially from your spouse in a subsequent divorce case, do not put it in your joint names].
Equitable Division And Marriage Debts
Clients often ask what “equitable” division means. Regardless of who brought the income into the marriage or how the marital assets were acquired, usually the Ohio court will divide those assets in half. So, for example, the non-employed spouse would be entitled to half the value of their marital bank accounts regardless of whose name they are titled in. This is because Ohio law values both direct and indirect contributions to the marital partnership, i.e. such as perhaps raising children. Fault for the breakdown of the marriage in Ohio does not enter into this analysis whatsoever. An abusive spouse would therefore typically receive one-half the bank accounts and assets regardless of his/her misconduct in the marriage.
Marital debts are also typically divided in the same manner in Ohio. If one party is allocated more than half of the marital debts (typically because he/she may be the primary breadwinner), the court may offset and reduce that parties alimony obligation to account for the non-equitable division. It is important to recognize that judges must consider a variety of different issues and factors when dividing the marital estate. This can lead to a plethora of outcomes depending upon the factual nuances in each marriage case.
So, you ask, can a divorce court in Ohio enter an “unequal” property division award? The answer is “Yes” in certain limited situations. Click here to read an article we posted on October 19, 2013 here at the Ohio Family Law Blog titled “Divorce in Ohio: Can the Court Order an Unequal Property Division?”
Marriage Debt? Talk To A Divorce Lawyer About Property Division In Ohio
Clearly, if facing a divorce, in your marriage, the more property you have at risk makes the decision of who you hire as your attorney an extremely important one. Equitable property division in Ohio is much more complicated than one might think in a marriage. There are many grey areas and a lot of exceptions to the general property distribution rules. Discuss your case with several experienced Ohio divorce lawyers early on in the process to increase the probability of your obtaining the best possible outcome!
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog. Mr. Mues has also been a dog owner for 55+ years, and just recently, he and his wife are the owners of "Ralph", a rescued mixed Wire Hair and Jack Russell Terrier.