Spousal Support in Grand Rapids Michigan

Maintaining the standard of living which both spouses enjoyed during the marriage, based on need and ability to pay.

Spousal support (formerly called alimony) is often a very emotional issue for divorcing or separating spouses. Spouses are often confused or upset as to why they may have to support the other spouse, or why their spouse is not required to support them. Our goal is to work through the issue to find fair and reasonable solutions according to Michigan law.

In Michigan, spousal support may be granted in marriages of longer duration (usually over 15 to 20 years), when the spouse requesting the support can show that he/she has a need for it, and that the paying spouse has the ability to pay it. The courts also look to the parties' ages, health, standard of living, and work experience.

Among questions the parties and their attorneys should address regarding the payment of spousal support are:

  • Whether the payments are taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payer
  • Whether the payments can be modified by the court
  • Under what conditions the obligation to pay is terminated
  • How the obligation can be enforced if there is non-payment

Frequently Asked Questions

The questions and answers below are intended to provide general information with regard to common questions on spousal support based on laws in the State of Michigan. They are not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with a divorce specialist or attorney.

Similarly, since every case is different we recommend consulting with a divorce specialist or attorney for advice related to your specific set of circumstances.

While there are a number of factors involved in whether spousal support should be paid, the principle factors are a need by one spouse and an ability of the other spouse to pay the spousal support. In low or modest income situations with minor children, the paying spouse may not have an ability to pay more than child support. In income situations above modest earnings, the question then becomes one of analyzing the legitimate budgets of the parties to determine need and ability to pay.

The amount of spousal support a recipient would receive will be directly dependent on need and ability to pay, often analyzed by looking at the budgets of the two parties. While we have a Michigan Child Support Formula, there is no formula for spousal support, although there are guidelines attorneys and judges sometimes use. Consulting with an experienced attorney regarding this issue is always appropriate.

Fault in the breakdown of the marriage is one of the factors for the court to consider in awarding spousal support. However, need and ability to pay are more important factors than fault. In addition, the nature of the fault would have to be taken into consideration by the court, with more serious fault lending more weight to the award of spousal support.

The length of time spousal support is awarded is again based upon need and ability to pay, and often on the length of the marriage. In a very long-term marriage of over twenty years, spousal support may be awarded "until further order of the court," which means it will be paid until one of the parties petitions the court to review the spousal support award. All of this is up to the discretion of the judge, as there is no set period of time for the length of spousal support.

Either husband or wife can be ordered to pay spousal support, again depending on needs and ability to pay and the parties' budgets.

Rehabilitative spousal support is spousal support granted to a non- or low wage earner to allow that person to improve their position in the job market, usually over a specified period of time of one to as long as five years. While it is sometimes the intention of the court that rehabilitative spousal support be awarded, you do not often see that terminology in a Judgment of Divorce. A clue in a Judgment that spousal support might be rehabilitative would be a statement in the Judgment that support would automatically be reviewed after the one to five year period to determine whether the recipient spouse is able to adequately support themselves after the rehabilitative period.

Remarriage, if that provision is contained in the spousal support award, will often terminate spousal support. However, an alternate plan could be that a remarriage would cause a review of spousal support, depending upon the financial circumstances of the recipient's new marriage, and the stability of the marriage. If a recipient of spousal support begins living with a boyfriend or girlfriend and does not remarry, a "cohabitation" situation develops. The court will have to analyze under Michigan case law whether, in fact, the cohabitation involves enough financial connection between the persons living together that spousal support should be terminated. The mere fact that the parties are living together does not necessarily automatically terminate spousal support. This has become a very complicated analysis under Michigan law and requires consultation with a well-qualified attorney.

Usually, but not always, spousal support is deductible by the payer and includeable by the payee for tax purposes, provided appropriate language is included in the order. Among the most important provisions is that spousal support by federal tax law must terminate on the death of the recipient, or it will not be deductible for federal tax purposes.

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