Ensuring that neither party is left in a financially unfair position following the breakup of a marriage is an integral part of the divorce process. In Michigan, spousal support, also known as alimony, is meant to provide a spouse with the same standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. Determining when spousal support will cease, if ever, is an important consideration a judge must take into account in making an award. Further, although modification of the type or amount of the award on the basis of a change in conditions is generally the rule, parties can agree not to modify.
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In Michigan, the decision to award alimony to a spouse is determined on a case-by-case basis, with no specific mathematical calculation used to generate the amount or length of the award. This flexibility provides judges with significant discretion in tailoring a ruling to meet the demands of unique situations.
Spousal Support Factors
Though the judge assigned to the case has broad discretion, she will take specific factors into account in making her decision on alimony. Length of marriage is one consideration, with the court being hesitant to award support in marriages that were of short duration. Other considerations include how the parties conducted themselves during the marriage, whether both are able to work, the age and health of the parties, ability to pay, current needs of the parties, and fairness in the particular situation. It is important to note that although a judge may consider each of these factors, equal weight need not be given to each.
Types of Spousal Support
Spousal support can be paid in a lump sum or on a periodic basis, such as monthly or yearly. If the payments are periodic, the court will determine how long they should continue. Permanent support is often awarded for marriages with long duration, when a spouse is over the age of 60, or has little income or work experience. Temporary support is rehabilitative in nature, meaning that it will cease once a certain event occurs. Providing support to increase education, get a job, or until remarried are examples of temporary alimony which would cease following the event. In addition, provided there is no agreement to the contrary, parties may request a modification to spousal support if a material change in circumstances has occurred.
Although spousal support is generally modifiable based on a change in circumstances, parties can agree to a non-modifiable spousal award as part of the marital settlement. In that instance, the court will refrain from modifying the award even if requested by a party.