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Michigan Family Law Blog

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How is Spousal Support Determined in Michigan?

When going through a divorce, people are usually concerned about the future. Will they be financially ruined by the divorce? Will they have enough means to live on and pay their bills? Will they receive or have to pay alimony? How is spousal support determined in Michigan?

Talking with an experienced alimony and spousal support lawyer can give you a better idea about your particular situation, but for now, this should give you some idea about where these calculations are coming from.

Most Michigan judges use a software program to start their evaluation of how much spousal support to award, since the Michigan legislature has not approved an official spousal support calculator. There are several such software programs on the market. Judges report that they do not follow these software program calculations directly. The judges merely use the estimates as a yardstick to make sure the amounts they order are reasonable.

The alimony calculator software programs assess these items:

  • The length of the marriage. One is more likely to be awarded maintenance after a marriage that lasted for 20 years or longer.
  • The income of the spouse who is requesting spousal support, including income generated by assets the spouse will own after the divorce property distribution.
  • The age, work history and education level of the spouse who is seeking alimony. These factors go to the ability of the spouse to earn enough money to support himself or herself.
  • Children in the home and the need for caregiving.
  • The difference in the earnings of the spouses.

After assigning points to those categories, the software programs calculate a recommended amount of annual or weekly spousal support. The intention is that the amount of alimony is fair to both parties.

What factors does Michigan law tell judges to consider when ordering a party to pay alimony?

The Michigan statutes allow judges to award spousal support to either party in dissolution of marriage (divorce) cases. Under Michigan law, an award of spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance, can be appropriate if one party does not have sufficient assets for his or her own support and maintenance. The court should consider the ability of the other party to pay support. The judge should also evaluate each spouse’s character and situation, as well as all the facts in the case.

The Michigan legislature has rejected the concept of a mathematical equation to determine spousal support. Instead, judges are to determine alimony on a case-by-case basis. Use of software programs for guidance purposes is not prohibited, but judges are directed to examine each case individually.

Are there other options for setting the amount of alimony?

Yes. It is possible for spouses to determine the amount of spousal support themselves. If they reach an agreement or settlement regarding spousal support during the divorce and the judge finds it to be reasonable, the judge can order the agreed-upon amount.

Also, antenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements often address the issue of spousal support. An antenuptial agreement occurs before the marriage takes place. A postnuptial agreement happens after the wedding. If your antenuptial or postnuptial agreement addresses the issue of spousal support in the event of a divorce or separation, it can set the terms of spousal support. First, the judge must find the agreement itself to be valid. If the judge then concludes that the result will be fair and reasonable, the judge is allowed to order spousal support according to the terms of the agreement.

Many factors go into the determination of spousal support, and each case is different. Talk to Michigan spousal support attorney Cameron C. Goulding today at 248.608.4123 to determine what spousal support options might be available to you.


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