By Robert L. Mues   |   January 19th, 2019

PUBLISHERS NOTE: Neither Jeff or MacKenzie Bezos live in Ohio. They live in Washington (where Amazon is headquartered).  Nor, do we truly know all the facts of their highly publicized divorce.  This article is hypothetical in nature assuming Jeff Bezos has committed adultery and an Ohio Divorce Court had jurisdiction.

Is Adultery Grounds For Divorce In OhIo?

divorce adultery bezosIn the aftermath of Jeff Bezos recently announcing that he and his wife MacKenzie will be divorcing, I was asked if the divorce was in Ohio, how his purported affair would affect his divorce. In addition, I am assuming that there is no prenuptial agreement in my answer.

In Ohio, Adultery is a Ground for Divorce.

Under Ohio Revised Code Section 3105.01 (c) adultery is a ground for divorce.  It is one of 6 statutory grounds recognized for divorce plus there is also the no fault basis of incompatibility. If the grounds were contested in a trial, the wife would have the burden of proving the adultery. In the vast majority of Ohio divorce cases, grounds are not contested and the case proceeds based on incompatibility and both parties agreeing to terminate their marriage.

In Ohio, Does Adultery Affect the Amount of Alimony?

Generally, Ohio is a no-fault state for divorce. While adultery is a recognized ground to grant a divorce, misconduct would not spill over into alimony/spousal support awards. A spouse would not be “punished” and ordered to pay more due to breaching one of the statutory grounds for divorce.  Under Ohio Revised Code Section 3105.18 there are 14 factors the Court must consider when determining the appropriateness and amount of alimony. They are:

  • all sources of the spouses’ incomes, including from property divided in the divorce
  • each spouse’s earning ability (how much a person could earn based on education, skills, job history, and employment opportunities)
  • the spouses’ ages and health (physical, mental, and emotional)
  • the spouses’ ages and health (physical, mental, and emotional)
  • the spouses’ retirement benefits
  • the length of the marriage
  • whether one spouse has custody of a minor child of the marriage and will be unable to work outside of the home as a result
  • the standard of living during the marriage
  • each spouse’s education
  • each spouse’s assets and debts, including any payments the court ordered
  • whether either spouse helped the other to get training, education, a professional degree, or increased income during the marriage
  • the time and expense it will take for the spouse asking for support to receive education, training or job experience that will allow that spouse to obtain sufficient employment, if the spouse in fact seeks that education, training, experience, and employment
  • whether a spouse contributed to the marriage as a homemaker and has a decreased earning ability as a result
  • how alimony will affect each spouse’s taxes, and
  • any other factor the court finds to be relevant and fair to consider.

Perhaps a successful argument could be made under the “catch-all” last factor that in this scenario, Husband should pay more.

In Ohio, Does Fault Spill Over into Property Division?

Generally speaking, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 3105.171(C)(1), in Ohio the division of martial assets shall be equal – however if an equal division is inequitable, then the court shall divide it in a manner it deems equitable. Ohio Revised Code Section 3105.171(E)(4)– states “if a spouse has engaged in financial misconduct, including, but not limited to, the dissipation, destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of assets, the court may compensate the offended spouse with a distributive award or with a greater award of marital property”.

So, if the Husband spent marital money or  assets in the furtherance of his extramarital affair, an Ohio Court could Order an unequal property division to compensate wife for the losses she incurred by the financial misconduct. Those losses could be for gifts, jewelry, housing, support, dinners etc. spent on the paramour by the Husband. The economic damages would need to be provable and significant. In other words, here come the forensic accountants to testify in Court on those damages and expenditures.

In Ohio, Would Adultery Affect Child Custody?

The Court will focus on what is in the best interests of the child or child(ren). So, adultery would not likely in and of itself have an effect on the custody determination. That is assuming the Court does not believe the adultery was dangerous or actually harmful to the kids. Again, to be able to allow a Court to make such a finding, a psychologist would need to present some very compelling testimony linking the adultery and the harm to the child(ren).

Adultery In Ohio Conclusion

If you are personally in this type of a situation, be sure to contact an experienced divorce lawyer to discuss the specifics of your facts. Experienced divorce lawyers know the Judges and their tendencies. Subtle factual nuances can dramatically influence the direction or strategy of the handling of your case!

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: 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.

How Would an Ohio Court Deal with Alleged Adultery in a Bezos Type Divorce?
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