During the Marriage Part One: The De Facto Date of Marriage
By Melanie Mize
During a divorce action, the Court must equitably divide the assets and liabilities (debts) of the divorcing couple. But when did the marriage actually begin? Most people would assume the courts would look toward the wedding date. Isn’t that what people consider—especially when celebrating anniversaries. What seems like an easy concept to understand, can actually be more fluid than you would imagine. The experienced attorneys at Neyra Mize and Associates can help you understand how the term “During the Marriage” fits in your unique situation, but for general detail, please read on.
Before the courts will make a determination on the marital division, the assets and liabilities must be separated into categories: separate (premarital or nonmarital), marital, or mixed. Determining which category is appropriate for each item depends first on what the Court finds is the duration of the marriage.
The term “during the marriage,” as defined in R.C. § 3105.171(A)(2), requires the court to specify the dates when the marriage began and ended. The statute presumes that the dates will be the date of the marriage through the date of the final hearing, unless the court selects other dates it considers equitable. R.C. § 3105.171(G). This blog will discuss what the Court may consider to be the beginning of the marriage.
“During the marriage” is a specified time period. The date at which this period begins is called the date of commencement. Generally, the date of commencement is the date the parties were married. However, there are instances where your wedding day is not necessarily the same as your date of marriage.
R.C. 3105.171(A) provides a trial court with discretion to apply an earlier date if the facts require it in order to make an equitable distribution of property. The duration of marriage may include a period of cohabitation by the parties prior to the ceremonial marriage. This has been the case in Ohio where it was shown that the parties lived together, supported one another emotionally and financially, and filed joint federal tax returns during that period. An Ohio Court has also found that the date a couple became engaged and moved in together was the de facto date of marriage where the parties were engaged for the six years they lived together, earned approximately the same income, and the husband was able to save money to purchase their marital home because the parties shared living expenses.
De facto commencement of marriage date is recognized where parties start functioning as husband and wife, both socially and economically at a date prior to the parties’ formal wedding. In one case the parties were financially interdependent on one another prior to the actual of marriage in that Husband paid for everything and Wife was financially dependent upon him. The parties were also “interdependent emotionally” in that, while working in the husband’s medical office, the wife contributed to the medical practice’s growth, the husband’s income, and, in turn, the parties’ income. The Court found that these emotional and financial attachments supported a de facto date of marriage prior to the ceremonial wedding day.
If you would like to discuss your date of marriage and how it may affect the division of debts and assets during the divorce process, call one of the experienced Neyra Mize attorneys today.