Terminating Alimony In Michigan Can Be Difficult (But Not Impossible)
Many people seem to believe that alimony (aka spousal support) is no longer awarded in divorce cases. This is wrong, alimony is alive and well and can be granted in any case where there is an income disparity. There are very basically two types of alimony, modifiable and non-modifiable. Non-modifiable alimony is relatively new in comparison and can only be ordered by the court in cases where the parties have reached an agreement that specifically states that the support will be non-modifiable and that the parties waive their rights to modifiable alimony. Modifiable alimony is the type of alimony that exists in all other cases where support is ordered by the court.
Non-modifiable alimony typically ends on a specific date and it is then terminated. But how does one terminate or get away from modifiable support one has been ordered to pay with no specific end date? This is where it can be difficult to terminate, because if the recipient does not agree, then the payer must convince the court at an evidentiary hearing (like a trial on one issue in front of the judge) that termination is proper. This can be time consuming and costly in attorney fees which creates a barrier to many people in just getting the case before the court. Once the case is before the court, then there still exists the problem of proving that circumstances have changed since the divorce in such a way that justifies the modification or termination. Even if one is able to show the change of circumstances, the court may not agree that the changes justify taking the action the payer has requested. The following is a good example of how that can happen.
In a recent case out of Livingston County, Michigan, the payer argued the court should terminate the alimony based upon his allegations that the recipient received an inheritance, her income had increased and because she was living with Mike Lynch and Mike was paying for all of her living expenses. The recipient admitted that Lynch was paying her mortgage, car payment, some of her groceries and twice paid her credit card bill, but she paid for her gas, credit card bills and student loans. The court found that while this was true, the payer had remarried, his wife worked and the payer's cohabitation with his new wife was a benefit to him. The court then focused on the disparity in incomes (the court found that the payer, while making less then he did at the time of the divorce, still made significantly more money than the recipient) and the length of the marriage when the court denied his motion to terminate the alimony.
Modifiable alimony is difficult to get out of and almost always creates the potential for future litigation, however, it is possible. In any case, it is very important to seek counsel from an experienced divorce lawyer if one is facing a potential divorce or contemplating an attempt to modify or terminate alimony. If you have questions regarding this issue, please contact my assistant, Cathy, at (248) 608-4123 to schedule an appointment or contact us through the web site.
- Cameron C. Goulding