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When do Michigan judges award alimony?

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2024 | Alimony |

An award of spousal support, more commonly called “alimony,” in a Michigan divorce cannot be predicted because the award of alimony is decided by each judge on a case-by-case basis. A judge may order the payment of spousal support to ensure that both spouses have sufficient income and assets to support them after the divorce becomes final. In other cases, alimony is sometimes used to ensure that both parties will be on a more-or-less equal financial footing. In many cases, the two spouses can determine the amount of spousal support and the terms of payment by negotiating the issue themselves.

If a couple wishes to negotiate the terms of spousal support, they should keep in mind that alimony is just another kind of marital asset that must be divided in the divorce. In other words, spousal support can be used to offset the award of a substantial asset to the other spouse such as the controlling interest in a family business.

What if the judge decides?

If the divorcing couple cannot resolve the issue of spousal support by negotiating a mutual agreement, the judge will decide the issue. One party must make a specific request for alimony before the judge will take up this issue. If a request for alimony is made, the judge will consider a variety of factors.

These factors may include one or more of the following:

  • Behavior during the marriage. The judge will examine the parties’ conduct during the marriage and attempt to determine which spouse was responsible for the breakdown of the marriage. A determination of fault, however, will not resolve the issue of spousal support.
  • The length of the marriage. If one spouse lacks job skills or an established career, the judge is more likely to require the working spouse to pay support to the other spouse.
  • Each party’s ability to work. A judge is more likely to award spousal support to a person who is unable to work or to earn a substantial income. This type of support may have a limited duration to permit the recipient spouse to finish school or gain job skills.
  • The liquidity of each party after assets are divided. A judge may award alimony to the spouse who is required to sell assets to generate cash to pay living expenses. This factor may influence the spouses’ negotiations regarding support.
  • The ages of the parties. A person who has not worked during the marriage is likely to receive an award of alimony. However, if the other spouse is retired and living on a fixed income, the court may decide that an award of alimony is not justified.
  • Ability to pay spousal support. The evidence may demonstrate that one or both parties do not have the financial capacity to pay alimony. In such cases, the court is not likely to award spousal support to either party.
  • The health of each party. The health of each spouse is relevant if it affects the ability to work and earn enough to meet their personal needs.

This list would be considerably longer if the other factors commonly considered by judges in awarding alimony were included. Awarding alimony is a very complicated issue in Michigan courts. The advice of an experienced divorce attorney could be very helpful in prevailing on a motion to compel payment of support.