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Michigan Family Law Blog

What if My Spouse or Ex Does Not Go Back to Work After Covid?

Posted by Cameron Goulding | Jun 24, 2021

The recent pandemic affected all Americans and Michiganites.  Many people were laid off from a variety of different industries but now many businesses are reopening and many people have the opportunity to return to work.  However, not all people are returning to work for a variety of reasons, some may have started school to seek a change in careers or others may be looking to simply retire.  This can be a problem in some households where two incomes are required in order to maintain the economic standards that the family is accustomed to.  It can also be a problem where the parties are divorced and the now non-working spouse was paying more in child support or alimony before the pandemic but got it reduced after losing their employment.  At some point the question becomes, when does this person have to go back to work in order to do their part to support the family.

What Can I do if my Spouse Refuses to Return to Work?

in the case where you are still married and the other spouse refuses to return to work, there are not that many easily palatable options.  I would suggest counseling first in an attempt to get the person back into the state of mind where they are able to return to the work force.  This may require individual counseling as well as couples counseling in order for the non-working spouse to understand how important it is for them to have a job outside of the home that brings in the necessary income.  If this does not work, then the only real other option is to file for divorce.

After filing for divorce, the court will take jurisdiction over the parties assets, incomes, custody and virtually every aspect of the marriage.  This means that the court may order that the non-working spouse seek employment.  If this spouse fails to find employment then the court could order sanctions such as awarding the other spouse a greater share of the marital estate and property or awarding that spouse the debt that accumulated when he or she was not working.

In addition when the court considers long-term alimony and/or child support, it has several methods in its power to handle the situation where one party is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.  In those cases, the court may "impute" income to the non-working spouse.  This means that for the purposes of determining the support, the court will treat that spouse as if he or she is actually earning the income that they made when they were employed.  This means that for purposes of child support, if the person was making $100,000 before being terminated, then the court could enter into the child support formula $100,000 for that person's income in order to determine the amount of support even that person is actually making no income or far less income. While it is true that the person seeking to impute an income to the other spouse must prove that the same jobs are actually available and that the non-working spouse would qualify for the position, this is actually not very difficult for a skilled family law attorney.

The imputation of income applies to an ex-spouse as well.  If that spouse was paying child support or modifiable alimony and lost their job during the pandemic, it is very likely that he or she went into the Friend of the Court, requested and received a reduction in the support amount.  The other spouse will now have to file a motion and request that the court return the child support or alimony to the higher amount based upon the paying spouse's refusal to return to work despite the fact that opportunites are now out there.

When Should I Consult With a Michigan Divorce Lawyer?

If you are having income issues or other difficulties caused by your spouse or ex refusing to return to work, you should schedule a consultation as soon as possible, the longer you wait the further in debt you can become and the harder it is to impute income.  It is imperative to understand what the divorce might entail financially, emotionally and how much time it will take so that you can make informed decisions,  Our Michigan Divorce Attorney has over twenty years of experience to assist you in better understanding what the future may hold for you if a separation or divorce is imminent.  Conta us today to speak with a divorce lawyer about your situation.

About the Author

Cameron Goulding

A native of Oakland County, Michigan, family lawyer Cameron C. Goulding has been providing counseling and legal services of the highest caliber to individuals and families in Southeastern Michigan for over 24 years. Mr. Goulding grew up in Oakland County, Michigan and graduated from Birmingham G...

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