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Michigan is a no-fault divorce state; however, the fault of a party or basis for the breakdown of the marriage is a relevant factor in awarding spousal support, as alimony is now called in that jurisdiction.
Spousal support is not part of the property settlement. The court considers it separately, after the property has been divided. The court may also award alimony to either party regardless of sex.
The idea of alimony is to balance the incomes and needs of the former spouses so that neither person’s standard of living is greatly affected and to support the recipient spouse in becoming self-sufficient. There are creative ways to either maximize or minimize a party’s alimony, including tax effecting assets, buy-outs and proper application of the spousal support factors.
Michigan courts take into consideration an array of factors in awarding spousal support, but must ensure equitable considerations are met before applying them.
Courts may modify spousal support, but the right to ask for a change in alimony can be waived. When spouses stipulate that the spousal support provision is binding, they have waived their rights to ask for a change. However, waivers can apply when the spouses have negotiated their own settlement terms. When the court enters a judgment, it can’t make spousal support non-modifiable. Where spousal support is modifiable, the person making the request must show that there has been a significant change of circumstances, such as the loss of a home or job, serious illness, or unexpected expenses.
The settlement agreement may include a specified list of circumstances that would cause spousal support to end. These include remarriage (or sometimes cohabitation) of the recipient, death of either spouse, or a specific event, such as the economic advance of the recipient.
Remarriage and cohabitation don’t automatically lead to a termination of support. However, support ends if the paying spouse can show that the other spouse engaged in fraud or duress in negotiating the settlement. A judge might terminate support if the paying spouse can show a significant change in ability to pay.
Types of Alimony
In Michigan, courts may order temporary, short- and long-term alimony. Temporary alimony is granted at the discretion of the court during the divorce proceedings and before the final decree. Short-term alimony may be granted to allow the receiving party time to gain necessary skills. Long-Term, or permanent, alimony may be granted to a spouse who has significant needs, and is usually reserved for lengthy marriages.
Factors Considered by the Court
In Michigan alimony is discretionary. Michigan law provides a statutory basis for alimony/spousal support when the assets awarded to either party are not sufficient to support each of them individually. Here are the factors taken into consideration when determining if alimony/spousal support should be awarded:
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