Ohio law provides the court with the discretion to select a date other than the ceremonial wedding date for purposes of equitably determining a division of property assessment and in deciding the amount and duration of spousal support. The court’s de facto marriage date determination is subject to several factors. For example the court reviews when the parties started living together and if they engaged to be married. The court also looks at the financial means of each party prior to living together and contributions each party made toward the living arrangement.
The court’s de facto marriage date determination does not violate Ohio’s Marriage Amendment. Being married is a status. Marriage gives a person certain legal rights, duties, and liabilities. For example, a married person may not testify against his or her spouse in some situations. In reconciling a court’s determination of a “de facto marriage date” and the Marriage Amendment, the Ohio Supreme Court held the Marriage Amendment does not prevent courts from making a factual determination of cohabitation because “cohabitation” does not confer a legal status tantamount to marriage.
Lastly, the court’s de facto marriage date determination does not violate Ohio’s abolition of common law marriages. In 1991, Ohio enacted law, which abolished common law marriages in Ohio. This is the same year that Ohio enacted law, which determines an equitable division of marital and separate property. Ohio’s distributive award law can only be used when a legally married couple seeks to terminate their marriage. Thus, it does not allow for common law marriage.
Since the court’s de facto marriage date determination is made under the code section, which determines equitable division of marital and separate property, the court’s determination does not violate Ohio’s elimination of common law marriage.