Alimony in Michigan
Alimony or spousal support springs from the concept that contributions from each marriage partner should be valued equally. Many people are under the misconception that Michigan no longer has alimony. An equal number are also mistaken that just because they want it or suffered in the marriage that therefore they are entitled to spousal support.
Alimony in Michigan: Calculations & Facts
Every divorce attorney has a computer program called an alimony prognosticator. Load it with information such as income, age and length of the marriage and it will provide a result. Many Judges will give great weight to such prognosticator results. One Wayne County Judge has a simple formula: ⅓ of the disparity in income for ⅓ of the years married. The results are approximately equal. However, neither approach fully comports with what the law actually states.
Alimony in Michigan: Considerations
The court may award spousal support as is just and reasonable if the property award is insufficient for the suitable support of either party and any children of the marriage of whom the party has custody. The court must consider “the ability of either party to pay and the character and situation of the parties, and all the other circumstances of the case.” Factors to be considered include the following:
- Past relations and conduct of the parties. How the parties conducted the marriage as well as fault in the breakdown of the marriage. Fault is only one factor and should not be assigned disproportionate weight.
- Length of the marriage. A long-term marriage is especially relevant where one spouse has no career or marketable skills and his or her standard of living may be reduced because of the divorce.
- Ability of the parties to work.
- Source of and amount of property awarded to the parties. The focus is on the income-earning potential of the assets rather than their value; a spouse is not required to dissipate property awarded to meet daily needs where spousal support can be available.
- Ages of the parties.
- Ability of the parties to pay spousal support. Sources considered in determining the ability to pay include earnings, pension plans, unemployment compensation, tax refunds, and Social Security benefits. Ability to pay includes the payer spouse’s unexercised ability to earn if income is voluntarily reduced to avoid paying spousal support. Factors relevant to the ability to pay include (1) the parties’ employment histories, (2) reasons for any termination of employment, (3) work opportunities available, (4) diligence in trying to find employment, and (5) availability of employment.
- Present situation of the parties.
- Needs of the parties.
- Health of the parties. The parties’ health is relevant to the ability to work and to the personal needs of the spouse seeking support.
- Prior standard of living of the parties.
- Whether either party is responsible for the support of others.
- General principles of equity.
Alimony in Michigan: Additional Information
The court must make findings on each factor relevant to the claim before it. The amount and duration of spousal support is evaluated as follows:.
- Duration of the marriage
- The parties’ contribution to the joint estate
- The parties’ ages
- The parties’ health
- The parties’ stations in life
- The parties’ necessities and circumstances
- The parties’ earning abilities
Rehabilitative spousal support is temporary spousal support to help the dependent spouse make the transition to self-support. It can be appropriate to:
- Encourage a spouse to seek full-time employment and self-sufficiency
- Allow a spouse to complete an advanced degree or obtain a marketable skill when he or she had worked while the other spouse obtained a degree
- Allow a spouse to adjust to a lifestyle not based on combined incomes
- Allow a spouse to obtain new job skills and enter the workforce
Permanent spousal support (generally until death or remarriage). It has been found appropriate when there is
- A long-term marriage with a spouse who has no career or marketable skills
- A long-term marriage, one spouse with superior earning skills, and the other spouse with questionable earning capacity
- Great discrepancy between incomes and a wife who devoted most of her adult life to homemaker role
- Serious doubt that a spouse could support himself or herself because of a disability
Some copy excerpted from ICLE Family Law Benchbook.
Attorney Bo Schimers, 25 years of experience providing valuable community service as a family and divorce lawyer. If you have any questions regarding alimony in Michigan, we kindly ask that contact the Law Offices of Bo Schimers and Associates for a free phone consultation, (click here for more info).