For many people, the end of a marriage brings with it serious financial insecurity. Those with established careers often bounce back quickly from divorce, only needing to focus on rebuilding savings and investments. For those who spent their career-building years raising children or keeping a home, the journey back to normalcy and stability is much longer. People in this situation often benefit from spousal support.
If you are facing divorce and you do not have an established career or any of your own financial assets, you may be panicking right now. How are your bills going to get paid? How will you feed your children? Will there ever be a time that you aren’t tracking your checking account down to the penny? Take a deep breath—the team of Southfield family lawyers at The Lobb Law Firm is here to help. We understand the challenges facing homemakers and low earners as they go through divorce, and we are ready to help you get what you are owed.
Perhaps you’re on the flip side. As a high earner, you may worry that your income will be swallowed up by unsustainable alimony payments to an ex-spouse who should be able to care for themselves. We are familiar with the multitude of factors that go into spousal support decisions, and we’re here to guide you through the process.
Get started now by calling The Lobb Law Firm and setting up a free consultation.
How Does the Court Decide Spousal Support?
No matter which side of the spousal support equation you’re on, you may expect it to work like child support. Add these amounts, split this way, multiplied by this number…put down the calculator. Spousal support does not follow a strict calculation or formula in Michigan. Although courts once used a formula to determine how much support an ex-spouse was entitled to, that system was replaced with the knowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to spousal support questions. As a result, the court handles each divorce on its own and looks at different factors to determine if someone is owed support and, if so, how much and for how long.
Factors That Impact Spousal Support in Michigan
If one party is fighting for alimony and the other is fighting against it, the court has to look at the details of the relationship and the divorce to decide what is fair. Factors that may be considered in a court decision include:
- The length of the marriage. The longer a marriage is, the more likely it is that alimony/spousal support will be awarded. It is unlikely for a very short marriage to involve spousal support. If spousal support is awarded in a short marriage, it is likely to have a much shorter duration.
- Each spouse’s health. A spouse in poor health is unlikely to be able to establish themselves in a career. Similarly, an individual in poor health may be unable to pay substantial spousal support if their earning potential is expected to decrease as their health worsens.
- Previous behavior in the marriage and divorce. If one party’s behavior contributed to the end of the marriage, this may affect the court’s decision to award spousal support and how much to award.
- Property and assets. The assets earned by each party will come into play as the court deliberates. If one party is awarded the vast majority of the marital assets, for example, that party may have a weaker case for getting spousal support.
- Standard of living. The standard of living that each spouse has gotten used to is a factor in whether or not spousal support is awarded,
- Each spouse’s needs. This is one of the key reasons that spousal support is not a cut-and-dry issue. If one spouse has significant medical needs and expenses, their case for spousal support may be much stronger. If they have extremely high student loan payments and the other spouse is leaving the marriage with zero debt, the spouse with fewer needs could be ordered to pay spousal support.
- Ability to work. Each party’s ability to earn and their income potential is one of the primary factors used in alimony decisions. If one party worked throughout the course of marriage and earns six figures per year, and the other party has no work experience and would begin their career earning minimum wage, the court may seek to balance the scales by ordering the first party to pay spousal support.
- Other factors. The court is free to consider any other factors related to fairness.
Duration of Spousal Support Payments in Michigan
The duration of payments varies, depending on how long the marriage lasted and each party’s earning potential. As an example, if the lower-earning party could reasonably reach the same earning level as the other party within five years, alimony may last five years to give them time to finish their education and begin working. Spousal support may also terminate if certain conditions are met, such as remarriage.
Note, though, that most spousal support agreements are worked out between the parties. They are often agreed upon before court so that the court does not make the final call. When this occurs, the duration of payments may be negotiable.
Modifying Spousal Support in Michigan
Generally, spousal support orders can be modified in Michigan. In some circumstances, the parties agree to a non-modifiable award. Non-modifiable awards do not change, even if one party remarries or if the paying party’s income changes substantially.
Situations in which spousal support may change include:
- A job changes that causes the payor to earn less or that causes the recipient to earn more
- A health issue that impacts either party’s ability to work
Call The Lobb Law Firm for Help With Your Spousal Support Case
Whether you are fighting for spousal support, trying to get an award modified, or attempting to prove that you should not have to pay support, you deserve an experienced legal team invested in your success. That’s where The Lobb Law Firm comes in. Our team of top family law attorneys in Southfield is ready to advocate on your behalf. Set up your free consultation now by calling us or filling out our online contact form.