Spousal support, also called alimony, is a sum of money usually paid by one spouse to another spouse for the support and maintenance of the spouse.
There are a number of factors that go into calculating spousal support. Your divorce attorney’s job is to ensure that you get an equitable support payment each month to help support you as you continue post-divorce life and care for your children.
To learn more about alimony and how it relates to your situation, contact a Detroit alimony attorney at Sumner & Associates, P.C. today.
How Does Spousal Support Work?
The court can order spousal support regardless of whether or not the couple had children. In most cases, spousal support acts a stipend to be paid out over an indefinite period of time and revisited on occasion. The idea behind spousal support is that one spouse, who may not have the same earning power or financial prospects of another spouse, should not be left in the lurch simply because the couple has split up.
What Factors the Court Considers When Determining Spousal Support
The court considers numerous factors when determining what a fair spousal support payment would look like in the wake of a divorce. These include:
- Past relations and conduct of the parties (fault)
- Length of the marriage
- Ability of the parties to work and their respective incomes
- Source and amount of property awarded to the parties
- Ability of the parties to pay spousal support
- Present situation of the parties
- Needs of the parties
- Health of the parties
- Prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others
- Age and educational level of the person claiming spousal support
Generally, judgments of divorce in which spousal support is not granted must either:
- expressly reserve the question of spousal support or
- rule that neither party is entitled to spousal support.
Regular or periodic spousal support or rule that neither party is entitled to spousal support. Regular or periodic spousal support clauses in the judgment of divorce are modifiable at any time. When limitations are placed in the judgment regarding modification, it is questionable whether or not these limitations will be honored by the court. Spousal support may be increased, decreased, or canceled. A modification is based on a showing of a change in circumstances that warrants the modification.
Understanding Fault in a No-Fault Divorce State
Michigan is purely a no-fault divorce state. That means that spouses cannot pursue a fault-based divorce in the state, but that does not mean that their conduct during the marriage doesn’t affect the outcome of the divorce.
In cases where there has been infidelity, abuse, or abandonment, the court may see fit to award added damages to one party in the form of asset distribution or spousal support. Conduct still matters in Michigan. If one party behaved badly toward their spouse in their marriage, the court will see fit to make sure the other spouse is compensated for their conduct.
Types of Alimony in Michigan
Generally speaking, alimony payments can be broken down into three discrete categories. These are:
- Lump Sum, and
Permanent or periodic alimony may be paid indefinitely over the course of several years until a less financially secure spouse gets back on his or her feet. If one spouse is expected to devote their time to raising the children, which can easily become a full-time job, alimony may be tied into child support. For obvious reasons, a spouse who cannot work due to child-care duties is one that requires the financial support of the other spouse.
In these situations, the spouses will decide in the divorce decree what factors will trigger the revisiting of the spousal support arrangement. In other words, if one spouse only needs a year or two to brush up on their skills and gain employment, the payment of spousal support may be contingent upon them securing a new job. There may also be a time limit on how long the spouse must pay alimony.
The court will either order that the the spouse pay alimony in a lump sum or in periodic payments. It can be conditional, temporary, or indefinite (permanent).
Spousal Support Laws in Michigan
The litmus that the court uses to determine spousal support is “proper and necessary”. In other words, the court will decide on a “proper and necessary” payment of one spouse to the other for a period of time. In addition, the individual divorcees can decide on these during the divorce. The court will look over the agreement. But it will generally not change an agreement that has been voluntarily accepted by both parties. The same cannot be said for child support. The court will take a much closer look at child support arrangements to ensure that the children are being properly cared for.
Modifying a Spousal Support Payment in Michigan
Permanent or indefinite spousal support payments remain in effect until one or both parties either dies or remarries. That does not, however, mean that they can’t be modified or canceled during that period. One or the other party can petition the court to either increase or reduce spousal support payments depending on the situation. The individual will need to supply the court with some good reason for changing the current arrangement.
For instance, one party seeking a reduction of their child support payments may petition the court on the basis of:
- a job loss,
- a lawsuit, or
- an illness.
These are all factors that might reduce their overall income.
The other party may petition the court for more money based on:
- added expenses or
- a change in their current financial situation.
Spousal Support, Your Taxes, and Other Considerations
Regular or periodic spousal support is usually taxable to the recipient and is deductible by the payer. The phrase “payment until death” must be part of the spousal support clause in order for it to be considered as taxable spousal support. This type of spousal support is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Qualifying clauses such as “payable until remarriage” may be included.
Spousal support is usually paid through the office of the Friend of the Court. This enables a party to obtain an accurate record of these payments. Also, it makes it easier to request assistance from the Friend of the Court. This is in the event that payments are not forthcoming or a spouse denies receiving payments.
An order usually institutes the enforcement of regular or periodic spousal support payments to show cause. Your alimony attorney can explain the procedure to you.
Contact a Detroit Spousal Support Lawyer
The outcome of your divorce will rest heavily on the quality of your divorce attorney. Sometimes, spouses that require spousal support for their exes don’t fight hard enough to get the amount that they’re entitled to. Sumner & Associates P.C. specializes in getting fair spousal support settlements for our clients and enforcing those settlements.
In some cases, the court requires one spouse to pay the other spousal support. But the other spouse refuses to make good on the order. If this happens, we can ensure that the court is aware of your ex’s unwillingness to satisfy their end of the bargain. The court can then enforce the spousal support order against them.
If you need to negotiate a fair spousal support settlement in your divorce or you need to fight for the money that you’ve been awarded, contact Sumner & Associates P.C. as soon as possible.