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Michigan Family Law Blog

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

I Can't Pay Alimony

What Happens if I Can’t Pay Alimony?

Alimony, or spousal support, is used to allow one spouse a means to maintain the lifestyle that he or she had during the marriage. When one party’s income or property cannot support him or her properly after a divorce, alimony will often be awarded. There is no specific method to determine spousal support; every case is different. Thankfully, once you establish an alimony amount, it is not set in stone. You may be able to change it if you have a change in circumstances. An alimony and spousal support lawyer can help you with this process.

The Consequences of Stopping Alimony Payments

Failure to pay spousal support in Michigan is a crime. It is a felony that is punishable by up to four years of imprisonment or a fine of up to $2,000, or both. Because of these harsh penalties, it is a good idea to try to modify your alimony payments instead of just refusing to pay them or deciding to pay less on your own. If you know that you are going to miss an alimony payment, talk to your former spouse about it. You may be able to make alterations to your payments for one or two months without being charged for nonpayment. You may be able to agree upon an informal solution to avoid involving the court as well. If you and your ex-spouse do not work well together, including an attorney to communicate on your behalf may be a good idea.

Modifying Your Alimony Payments

Alimony awards can be adjusted, even if both parties agreed to the amount before the divorce was finalized. You always have the option to alter it if your situation changes. For example, if you lose our job and can no longer afford to pay spousal support, you may be able to modify your obligations. However, you need court approval to modify alimony over the long term—do not simply stop paying it if you cannot afford it. Talk to a family law attorney as soon as you realize you will have trouble making your payments.

Situations that Warrant Modification

You must show a change in circumstances to trigger an alimony modification. The following conditions may warrant requesting a modification.
  • Job loss or pay reduction
  • Your ex-spouse has gotten a better job or come into money
  • Retirement of either party
  • Health issues that result in unemployment or underemployment
  • Death of either party
  • Remarriage (or cohabitation in some circumstances)
Both spouses can request modification of alimony, regardless of whether they are paying or receiving alimony.

Evidentiary Hearings on Alimony Modification

The first step in the modification process is to file a petition requesting a decrease in the amount you must pay. Then, the other party will respond. Next, the court will schedule an evidentiary hearing on whether modification of your alimony payments is appropriate. During this hearing, both parties will present testimony, documents, and other information to determine whether a change in circumstances to warrant modification has occurred. Presenting your evidence is an essential part of your case. Experienced alimony and spousal support lawyer Cameron C. Goulding can help you tell your story and show your evidence in the best light possible. Schedule a consultation today to explore your options.

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