How do the courts decide who gets what in an Ohio divorce?

One of the biggest uncertainties that come with a divorce is not knowing how the courts will handle your personal assets. Not knowing if you could walk away from your marriage with very little can leave you feeling like you don't have many options. Also, inaccurate expectations about asset division can lead people to waste a lot of their energy on something unlikely to happen.

There is a lot of misinformation floating around out there about what happens in Ohio divorce proceedings. Some people make exaggerated claims about the outcome of their divorce that distort reality, while other people repeat horror stories that may never have had a basis in reality to begin with. Everyone's heard a story of someone who lost everything in a divorce, but always remember that those stories usually come with a heavy helping of bias or fantasy.

The truth is that the courts will do everything in their power to ensure a fair outcome. Worrying about the financial impact of a divorce is normal, but familiarizing yourself with Ohio's standard practices when it comes to asset division can help you feel more comfortable.

Assets earned and acquired during marriage are vulnerable to division

Before you try to figure out how the courts will divide your assets, you need to determine which assets are subject to division. Some assets and debts remain personal property, even if you get married.

Valuable items you owned prior to marriage can often remain your separate property. Gifts or an inheritance received before or during the marriage also often remain the separate property of one spouse. Items or financial assets you protected in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can also remain separate property, provided your spouse doesn't contest the agreement.

Most assets that you acquired during the marriage or purchased with marital funds are subject to division, as are any separate assets that you commingled with household assets. The same may be true of financial obligations and debts.

How will the courts actually split your possessions?

Once you know which assets are vulnerable to division and which will remain as your separate property after divorce, you can better estimate what you will likely receive during the asset division process. Ohio statutes instruct judges to divide marital assets in a manner that is equitable and fair. Rather than just splitting assets in half, the judge will need to carefully look at the family's circumstances to determine what a fair split looks like.

Factors that can influence how a judge splits your assets can include:

  • the house of both individuals
  • income and financial contributions during the marriage
  • current earning potential
  • health issues
  • custody of any children
  • unpaid labor that contributed to the household

A spouse who sacrificed long-term earning potential to provide unpaid child care for the family for multiple years may receive a larger portion of the marital assets to offset their decreased earning potential. One person could also receive more assets if they have to assume more of the marital debt. Strategy and negotiations can help you push for the assets that matter the most to you.

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