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How is Spousal Support Calculated in Michigan?

In Michigan divorces, spousal support (commonly known as alimony) is sometimes–but not always–awarded. Whether spousal support is ordered, how much, and for how long, depends on a number of factors written into Michigan law. Courts award spousal support with the intention that both parties be able to maintain a standard of living after the divorce that is comparable to the one they had prior to it.

You may know that Michigan is a “no-fault divorce” state. What that means is that neither party has to prove or admit fault in order to be granted a divorce. Many people believe, therefore, that fault is irrelevant in divorce. Those people would be wrong: fault, such as infidelity or spousal abuse, is certainly one of the factors courts look at in determining whether to award spousal support.

Other relevant factors include the length of the marriage. A spousal support award is more likely in a long-term marriage than a short one. Similarly, the age of the parties matters, especially when age makes it more likely that a party will not be able to find work to support him- or herself. The health of the parties may also come into play, particularly if health issues prevent one party from working. The court will also consider the source and amount of the property awarded in the divorce. Divorcing spouses ideally should not have to liquidate their property awards in order to pay their living expenses. If the property awarded to one spouse does not include income-producing assets, a spousal support award might be appropriate.

Of course, spousal support cannot be awarded without considering the ability of one party to pay. There are people who deliberately try to reduce their income in order to avoid paying spousal support. If a judge suspects that a party has done this, she may award spousal support based on imputed income–what she believes the payer could reasonably be earning. Naturally, the court also considers the ability of the payee spouse to work and to be self-supporting. If time spent as a stay-at-home spouse or parent means immediate full-time employment is unlikely, spousal support may be awarded to bridge the gap to full-time employment.

As with the amount of spousal support ordered, the duration of payments will vary based on the above factors. If a judge determines a given factor is relevant, he or she must make a factual determination regarding that factor. In addition, a judge can consider any other information that seems relevant to the question of spousal support in arriving at an equitable award.

Clearly, with regard to spousal support, a great deal is riding on the facts that come before the judge. The right Michigan divorce attorney knows not only what information is important, but how to bring it to the judge’s attention. Metro Detroit family law attorney Carlo Martina’s experience working with divorce cases and courts over three decades has given him the insight needed to get a favorable result for his clients on spousal support and other family law matters. To schedule a consultation, call (734) 254-1140 or complete our contact form.

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