Dividing Marital Property in a Divorce

A divorce court must divide the property of spouses according to law.  The law is in the Ohio Revised Code at Section 3105.171.  Read the law for yourself if you want to know more.


The court decides what property is the separate property of one spouse and what property is marital property.

  • Marital property is property owned by either or both the spouses.

  • The property is usually acquired during the marriage.

    • The court decides what during the marriage means.

    • The court may look to the length of the relationship:

      • whether the parties lived together before marrying;

      • whether they separated long before they filed for divorce.

  • Marital property can include an increase in the value of separate property.

  • Property is not ‘separate property’ solely because only one spouse’s name is on a title or deed.  For example, the court may find that a house, even though it was purchased before the marriage, is owned by both spouses.

  • Separate property can include:

    • An inheritance by one spouse

    • Real or personal property acquired by one spouse before the marriage

    • A gift to only one spouse

Again, the court decides what is separate and what is marital property.


The court must divide marital property equally unless that would be unfair.  The court must look at certain factors.  The law assumes spouses contributed equally to obtaining marital assets.  This is true even if one party was a stay at home homemaker.  


The court must divide marital property before it can decide if spousal support is needed by either party.  


The court may award title to specific property or may order payments over time.  The court can decide which spouse is awarded what property so that the division is fair.  


The court cannot later modify a division of marital property.  Even if circumstances change, the parties cannot later ask the court for a larger share of the marital property.  


An award of spousal support or marital property cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.



This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice. Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Reviewed March 2013.