Q: If I Am Ordered to Pay Alimony or Spousal Support, Will it Terminate When I Retire?
If the family court in Oakland, Michigan, has ordered you to pay alimony also known as spousal support in Michigan, then you may wonder whether your obligation will end when you retire. The answer is maybe.
First you must determine whether the alimony is modifiable or non-modifiable. Non-modifiable alimony can only be ordered if it is first agreed upon by the parties to the divorce in mediation or other settlement negotiations. It is then incorporated into the overall judgment of divorce and becomes the order of the court. Non-modifiable alimony is payable at a set amount for a set number of months or years and then it terminates. It essentially does not matter what happens (retirement included), alimony will be paid at the amount and for the number of years stated in the judgement of divorce.
If the court has ordered the alimony after a trial or evidentiary hearing, then it is modifiable, even if the judgment states on its face that spousal support shall be paid at a set amount for a certain number of years. The parties may also agree to modifiable alimony and then those terms would be incorporated into the judgment of divorce. If the alimony is modifiable, then retirement may be a proper reason to petition the court to reduce or "terminate" your support obligation.
However, retirement is no guarantee. The matter of Osim v Scott, Michigan Court of Appeals Unpublished Opinion, Case No 342237 (October 31, 2019) is a good example of a case where the divorce court did not find the husband's retirement a sufficient reason to terminate alimony. In that case, the husband was paying spousal support in the amount of $2,000 per month. He retired after paying for four years and petitioned the court to terminate his alimony obligation. The family court judge disagreed that retirement was a sufficient reason to terminate alimony. Instead it reduced the alimony to $961.50 per month to reflect income from his pension that the court originally awarded to him in the divorce.
The husband appealed claiming it was improper to use the pension funds that were awarded to him in the divorce to subsequently be the basis for alimony. The Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with him to an extent. The appeals court stated that the pension funds could not be used as the sole basis to award alimony but it could be considered as to "how it affects the incomes and needs of the parties". It then held that the divorce court judge had "not erred by concluding that spousal support should be reduced but not eliminated, but the trial court did err in its calculation of the modified award." The appellate court then reversed the trial court in part and remanded the case for further proceedings at the trial level.
Contact the North Oakland County Michigan Divorce Lawyer Today
If you are paying alimony and considering retirement, or you are faced with a divorce where alimony may be an issue, it is imperative to have good counsel. Cameron C. Goulding Family Law and Mediation, P.L.C. can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
From our office in Rochester, we represent clients throughout Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer and Wayne Counties in all aspects of family law.