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Michigan Family Law Blog

Thursday, January 28, 2021

What If I Can't Pay My Alimony (Spousal Support) in Michigan?

In Michigan, alimony is also known as spousal support.  Typically alimony is modifiable based upon a change in circumstances unless the divorcing parties have agreed in the judgment of divorce that it is not modifiable.  The matter of Anderson v Anderson, Michigan Court of Appeals Case No 349616, December 17, 2020 is an interesting example of a how the court will handle a request to modify (increase or decrease the amount or terms of) alimony.  Michigan divorce attorney can walk you through the process that determines whether and how much alimony gets paid in the divorce or whether the alimony gets modified after the divorce.

Modifying Alimony Based on a Change in Circumstances 

If you find that you cannot pay your alimony after the divorce, you will have to file a motion and request that the judge modify it.  The first issue the judge will explore is whether there has been a change of circumstances that might warrant a change or modification to the spousal support.  In the Anderson case mentioned above, Mr. Anderson was earning a very large income through his oil companies at the time of the divorce.  However, subsequently the prices of oil dropped precipitously, his companies went bankrupt and he was no longer able to earn even close to what he was making at the time of the divorce.  In fact, by the time he filed his motion to modify, he had amassed a significant arrearage.

The divorce court originally found that there was no change of circumstances because he was aware at the time of the divorce that the businesses were in trouble, yet he still "agreed" to pay the amount of alimony ordered.  It then refused to consider modification and dismissed the motion.  Mr. Anderson appealed and the Michigan Court of Appeals correctly reversed the trial court.  It found that both parties were aware of the status of the companies as well as the potential future financial issues.  Further that the parties could have agreed to make the alimony non-modifiable, but they did not.  The collapse of the companies and subsequently Mr. Anderson's income was a change of circumstances such that the court should consider modifying alimony based upon the actual current incomes and circumstances of the parties.

This is just one case where alimony was an issue both during the divorce and post-divorce.  Spousal support (as it is known in Michigan) is one of the most difficult areas of the law to navigate.  If there is a disparity in income between you and your spouse, you really need a Michigan divorce attorney that can advocate for you in your divorce. Contact our office today.


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