If one spouse earns more income than the other spouse during a marriage, then the court may order the higher wage earner to support the lower wage earner after a divorce. This is called spousal support in Michigan but it is in reality alimony. A surprisingly large amount of people believe that alimony is dead and are shocked when they appear in court and the judge orders them to pay spousal support. Michigan alimony attorneys can help either spouse to ensure that the amount of spousal support he or she is paying or receiving is appropriate under the law on an interim and "permanent" basis.
How is Spousal Support (Alimony) Calculated in Michigan?
Michigan courts determine alimony based upon a list of factors that the court is required to consider and weigh when fashioning an appropriate amount and duration of the obligation. Michigan courts and alimony attorneys often use prognosticator programs that will provide a suggested monthly amount and number of months or years that the support is payable The payments can be non-modifiable (a set monthly amount and duration) if the parties agree or modifiable based upon a change in circumstances or good cause in the future.
Case law has developed the following factors that the court is required to consider if applicable in any given case:
(1) the past relations and conduct of the parties;
(2) the length of the marriage;
(3) the abilities of the parties to work;
(4) the source and amount of property awarded to the parties;
(5) the parties ages;
(6) the abilities of the parties to pay alimony;
(7) the present situation of the parties;
(8) the needs of the parties;
(9) the parties' health;
(10) the prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others;
(11) contributions of the parties to the joint estate;
(12) a party's fault in causing the divorce;
(13) the effect of cohabitation on a party's financial status; and
(14) general principles of equity.
Judges are required to consider and weigh each factor but the court does not have to comment on any factors that it does not find applicable. Alimony payments are typically made directly from one spouse to the other unlike child support payments which are collected by the Friend of the Court and paid through the Michigan State Disbursement Unit unless otherwise ordered by the court.
Why Does the Court Use Interim Spousal Support Orders?
Interim or temporary orders are typically issued to resolve issues in the short term until the parties can provide additional, detailed evidence and arguments at a later hearing. Typically temporary alimony is only ordered in cases where the parties have separated before the divorce is final. The court will issue such orders so that both parties are able to maintain a similar standard of living during the divorce proceedings as they did before the divorce started and that the financial needs of the parties are being met while the divorce case is pending. In addition, these orders can be necessary to ensure that the higher wage earner is not able to threaten or actually "starve out" the other party in an attempt to force that party to capitulate to the higher wage earner's demands and terms.
If a temporary order is issued ex parte, meaning the other party was not given notice of the hearing or a chance to respond, the party has 14 days to object to the order. The ex parte order remains in effect until a hearing can be held on the matter. If the other party does not object, the ex parte order becomes a temporary order and remains in effect until the court grants a final order.
If one party is paying bills in order to maintain the marital estate (for instance a mortgage payment) then that party should receive a reduction (or increase if the lower wage earner is making the payments) for such payments. If a party is ordered to pay interim alimony, he or she should pay the other party directly or through an attorney. If paying directly, the payor should obtain a written receipt for each payment in order to avoid getting hit with arrears. Any unpaid interim support will be preserved in the Judgment of Divorce and may cause additional costs, fees and penalties to the payor.
Working with Michigan Alimony Attorneys to Protect Your Rights
Alimony calculations are often the most complicated and difficult factor to resolve in a divorce case, it is the very rare case where someone actually wants to support the ex-spouse. Contact Michigan alimony attorney Cameron C. Goulding to discuss your options. Working with Michigan alimony attorneys, especially in Oakland County, from the beginning of your action may avoid the necessity of filing motions to modify alimony payments because of an error, omission or oversight. Working with an attorney can also help you protect your legal rights in determining the proper amount of spousal support.