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Michigan Family Law Blog

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How is Spousal Support Determined in Michigan?

When you are going through a divorce, you need to know what to expect and how you will pay your bills moving forward after the divorce. With child support, there is some predictability, as Michigan uses a formula to calculate the amount of child support, based on the income and needs of the parties and the parenting time schedule, among other factors. There is no such formula to calculate spousal support, also called maintenance or alimony, in Michigan. If you are getting a divorce, your best bet is to work with an experienced alimony and spousal support lawyer.

It is impossible to predict the amount of spousal support you will get in your divorce. In fact, you are not guaranteed to receive any spousal support at all when you divorce in Michigan. The judge will decide on a case-by-case basis if she will order spousal support and if so, how much you will receive.

Since there is no algorithm for Michigan courts to use to calculate spousal support, judges have to look at the totality of the circumstances to determine how much spousal support, if any, is appropriate in a given case. Of course, if you and your spouse can reach an agreement on the issue of spousal support, all the judge has to do is decide if your arrangement is fair and reasonable. If the judge has no objection to your decision, the judge can incorporate your terms into the divorce decree.

When you and your spouse cannot agree on the issue of spousal support, the judge will look at multiple factors to determine if support is appropriate and if so, the just amount. These factors can include:

  • How long you were married. If you both married in your 40s and have good health and stable careers, but called it quits after just a few years, the judge is unlikely to award spousal support. On the other hand, if you have been married for 30 years and never worked outside the home or you have a debilitating medical condition, the judge is more likely to award spousal support.
  • Whether you need help in the short-term so you can support yourself. The judge might award spousal support for a limited amount of time so you can complete your education or obtain job skills.
  • The financial position of you and your spouse following the divorce. After the judge has determined what is marital property and what is separate property, the judge will step back and take a look at the overall picture. If one party is receiving primarily cash property, it will be easier for him to pay his living expenses after the divorce. If the other party is receiving mostly non-income-producing property, that person may need spousal support to maintain cash flow and pay her bills.
  • The age and health of both parties. These issues speak to each individual's ability to self-support and contribute to the support of the other spouse. 
  • Marital conduct or misconduct. This factor allows judges to consider who was at fault in the breakdown of the marriage. A judge is not permitted to deny spousal support entirely based solely on fault; however, it can be one of several factors.

This is merely an overview of spousal support. The calculation of spousal support is far more complicated than this summary. If you are thinking about divorce, talk to divorce lawyer Cameron C. Goulding for a consultation.


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