When you decide to divorce, the division of marital assets may weigh on your mind. This is especially true for those ending a long marriage with decades of shared property and possibly debts.
Ease your mind by understanding how property division works for couples divorcing in Ohio.
Separate vs. marital property
Ohio is an equitable division state, which means that you must divide marital property and debts fairly but not necessarily 50/50. The court distinguishes between separate property and marital property. The latter category includes any assets earned or acquired by either partner during the marriage. Separate property refers to anything you owned before you got married as well as an inheritance or gift received by only one spouse during the marriage.
Typically, the court considers the marriage ended on the date you receive your legal divorce decree. For the purposes of property division, however, the judge may instead use the separation date to mark the end of the marriage.
If you mix separate property with marital property, called commingling, it may become marital property in the eyes of the court. For example, if you bought a house before marrying your spouse but he or she contributed to upkeep or mortgage payments, the house will likely fall under the category of marital property.
Factors in property division
Ideally, you and your spouse will reach a mutual agreement on property division. If this issue becomes contentious, the judge will make a decision on your behalf based on factors that include:
- Which person has custody of children, if applicable
- Tax consequences of property division
- The amount of available liquid assets
- The retirement investments, funds and debts of each spouse
- The length of the marriage
The best way to protect your separate property in a divorce is through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. If you own a small business, make sure the bylaws indicate the fate of your spouse’s share in the event of divorce.