Spousal Support and Alimony in Michigan: What You Need to Know

Everything You Need To Know About Spousal Support and Alimony in Michigan

This article by Michigan alimony and support attorneys at Steslicki & Ghannam, PLC is not intended to be and should not be construed as legal advice. For legal advice specific to the alimony laws and your situation, schedule a consultation with our office.

Who Is Entitled To Request Spousal Support in Michigan?

In Michigan, each party may request spousal support, also called alimony.    There is a statutory right to request this support.

How Is Michigan Alimony Awarded?

One thing to note is that every Judgment of Divorce must state that spousal support is either awarded, not awarded and forever barred, or reserved to each party.  To reserve spousal support means that it is not being awarded presently but can be considered by the Court in the future.  If it is not awarded and forever barred, it means that even if things change, the party can never return and ask the court for it to be awarded.

Be careful! If your Judgment of Divorce is silent on the issue, it means that spousal support is reserved for possible consideration by Michigan judges in the future.  Alimony payments as a source of support are an important right to consider in your Divorce.

What is the Purpose of Michigan Alimony?

Courts award spousal and financial support in Michigan to one spouse to make divorce more equitable, especially when there is a significant difference in earning power between the divorcing couple.

There can be periodic spousal support (on a monthly basis) or lump sum support (awarded as part of property division).

The Statute Governing Spousal Support is Over 100 Years Old

Many people think that spousal support in Michigan is a thing of the past, but it definitely is not. In fact, it hasn’t been significantly changed in over 100 years, and spousal support awards are a general consideration in most divorces, along with marital property division and child support.

The statute, §16.2   MCL 552.23 states:

(1) Upon entry of a judgment of divorce or separate maintenance, if the estate and effects awarded to either party are insufficient for the suitable support and maintenance of either party and any children of the marriage who are committed to the care and custody of either party, the court may also award to either party the part of the real and personal estate of either party and spousal support out of the real and personal estate, to be paid to either party in gross or otherwise as the court considers just and reasonable, after considering the ability of either party to pay and the character and situation of the parties, and all the other circumstances of the case.

(Emphasis added.) The statute sets out certain criteria, other factors such as the ability to pay, the character and financial situation of the parties, and the entirety of the situation, with the goal of achieving a “just and reasonable” award as the factors the court should consider.

The statute is primarily concerned with enforcing spousal support after it is awarded rather than with the standards for awarding it.

Determining Alimony in Michigan

The way that the Court decides whether to award spousal support and how much and how long to award it for other spouse is by an analysis of 14 factors that do not come from the statute but from case law:

  • “(1) the past relations and conduct of the parties,

    “(2) the length of the marriage,

    “(3) the abilities of the parties to work,

    “(4) the source and amount of property awarded to the parties,

    “(5) the parties’ ages,

    “(6) the abilities of the parties to pay alimony,

    “(7) the present situation of the parties,

    “(8) the needs of the parties,

    “(9) the parties’ health,

    “(10) the prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others,

    “(11) contributions of the parties to the joint estate,

    “(12) a party’s fault in causing the divorce,

    “(13) the effect of cohabitation on a party’s financial status, and

    “(14) general principles of equity.”

    Loutts v Loutts298 Mich App 21, 31, 826 NW2d 152 (2012) (quoting Myland v Myland290 Mich App 691, 695, 804 NW2d 124 (2010), quoting Olson v Olson256 Mich App 619, 631, 671 NW2d 64 (2003)).

Alimony in Michigan is intended to aid the lower-earning, receiving spouse in making the transition from married to single

It is possible for the Court to award “permanent” spousal support or alimony.  The courts generally find it appropriate to award permanent spousal support determined only on a case-by-case basis when there is a financial need that the spouse cannot fix on their own.

Some examples of when permanent Michigan spousal support could be a part of the final judgment:

  • A long-term marriage, where one party was a homemaker or stay-at-home parent with no career or marketable skills.
  • Where one party has a superior earning capability, and there is a significant discrepancy between income-earning power or the spouse’s ability to be self-supporting.
  • The court considers whether a party has a disability that would affect financial obligations.

Can Michigan Alimony Payments Be Modified?

Another critical thing to note is that spousal support or alimony can be modifiable or non-modifiable.  A Court, without the parties’ agreement, can only award modifiable support.  This means that if the income of a party changes, or some other life circumstance changes, the parties each have the right to ask the court to consider a change in spousal support (this is also true of child support).

This can be a good thing, or it can be a bad thing.  For example, if you are the payor and agree to non-modifiable support, you are still required to make every payment if you lose your job.  The Court is not allowed to consider your change in income.  This could be disastrous!

Spousal Support is A Major Issue In Your Michigan Divorce. Let Us Help You!

Spousal support or alimony payments can significantly affect your income and your future.  Please call us at (734) 821-7411 if you have any questions regarding awards of spousal support or alimony in your divorce