A recent Michigan Court of Appeals decision overturned an Oakland County case (Gallagher v. Gallagher) where the judge awarded an ex-wife alimony thirty-seven (37) years after the divorce. In that case, there was no alimony awarded in the judgment of divorce but alimony was reserved so the wife could petition the court to award her alimony based upon a change of circumstances. Thirty-seven (37) years later, she filed her motion and the court awarded her alimony of two thousand, five hundred ($2,500) dollars per month. Fortunately the court of appeals found that this was not equitable or reasonable and reversed this decision. This type of case is a good example of what a nightmare alimony or spousal support can be and begs the question, how can you protect yourself from this type of situation?
How Can I Protect Myself From Alimony Awards?
Once you get married there is really very little possibility to protect yourself from an alimony award. If you earn more income than your spouse and have been married for more than two (2) or three (3) years, then alimony is a very real possibility. Even if you attempt to quit your job, the court may consider whether it appears that you stopped working to avoid paying support. If the court believes that you quit to avoid paying support, then it may consider your unexercised ability to earn income and award alimony based upon the income you formerly earned.
Prenuptial Agreements Are the Only Way to Protect Oneself from Spousal Support Awards
Prenuptial agreements can be simple or complex but even a simple prenuptial agreement can protect you completely from alimony awards. More complex agreements can provide for specific amounts of alimony based upon how long the marriae lasts or whether the parties decide to have children. While it can be awkward discussing a prenuptial agreement with a potential spouse, it can also be very helpful in determining whether the engaged couple are actually on the same page regarding many aspects of the marriage before they get married rather than after when it is too late. The discussions help both people understand what the other person expects his or her role to be in the marriage, how the parties will make decisions regarding finances and what each of them expects out of marriage in general.
In addition, part of the process in preparing a prenup requires both parties to make complete disclosure of all assets and debts. This can help avoid some seriously unpleasant surprises, if one person thinks he or she is marrying for money and discovers the other person has none, that is good to know before the marriage. Conversely, as a divorce lawyer, I cannot tell you how often a client comes in and says that they had no idea how much debt the other person was bringing into the marriage. Some people are afraid to bring up the topic of a prenuptial because they are concerned that it may stop the marriage from happening, if it does, then that is a clear sign that the marriage would have ended in disaster.
Working with Michigan Prenuptial Attorneys to Protect Your Rights
Very few people actually meet with a family law attorney before getting married, but almost everyone should. When you get married, you are agreeing to a legal contract and virtually no-one other than attorneys know the totality of the rights and obligations this creates. How many people would enter into such an important legally binding contract having no idea of what it really means. Meeting with an attorney to discuss a prenuptial agreement will give you and understanding of what you are getting into from a legal perspective. Finally, if you have children from a previous relationship, you own or your family owns a business or you have a high income career, a prenuptial agreement is essential. Contact me, Cameron C. Goulding, to schedule a consultation by calling my office at (248) 608-4123, by email at [email protected] or through the northoaklandmichigandivorcelawyer.com website.