Not all spouses are on equal footing financially following a divorce. It is often the case that one spouse earns more than the other. If these financial disparities would cause the lesser-earning spouse to suffer financial hardship, or otherwise lead to an unequal quality of life post-divorce, a judge might order the spouse who earns a greater income to pay spousal support to the lesser-earning spouse.
In Michigan, spousal support is paid either as a lump sum or periodically. The two types of spousal support differ in when and how they are paid, and whether they can be modified in the future.
Lump-sum spousal support
As the name implies, a lump-sum payment is paid in its entirety all at once. Lump-sum payments are generally determined during divorce proceedings, and usually will not be modified once paid, except in rare instances.
Periodic spousal support
Periodic spousal support is paid in regular intervals over a period of time, generally a set period of months or years, or upon the conclusion of a specific life event. Temporary spousal support is paid to allow the receiving party the opportunity to become financially self-sufficient.
Permanent spousal support might also be an option in some divorces, but it is rarer than temporary spousal support. Generally, permanent spousal support is reserved for long-term marriages, especially if the receiving spouse is near or at retirement age, and does not have the education, experience or income to support themselves. Although it might be labeled as “permanent,” permanent spousal support might end upon the happening of a specific life event.
Unlike lump-sum spousal support awards, it is possible to have periodic spousal support awards modified in the future, unless otherwise stipulated in the divorce decree. However, there generally must be a change in circumstances to warrant a periodic spousal support modification.
Spousal support can be a bit confusing to some divorcees, especially since it is awarded based upon the consideration of certain factors, rather than being based on a statutory formula like child support is. Still, spouses must recognize that for some spousal support is necessary to keep both spouses on fair financial footing post-divorce.