Going through a divorce is a painful process, and it affects every area of your life. If you are not careful, a divorce can cause the foundation of your emotional and financial lives to crumble. When you start this arduous process, you might already feel exhausted. However, the battle intensifies when you or your spouse starts seeking alimony payments as part of the settlement.
Alimony can certainly be a useful tool for many couples, and it can help one spouse get back on his or her feet after the split. Other spouses might try to use it spitefully, in order to cause financial distress to their former partners. The latter scenario is the reason why alimony payments are so hotly debated. If you and your spouse are facing an alimony battle, you should know everything there is to know about alimony in Michigan.
This handy guide will equip you with all of the facts about who qualifies for these payments, the specifics of the payments, and the factors that should be taken into consideration. For more details that will help you take responsibility for your own finances during the divorce, keep reading.
Basic Overview of Alimony Types
Alimony is the name for payments issued from one spouse to the other, either before or after the divorce is finalized. They can be ordered for a number of reasons, including one spouse being a stay-at-home parent for the majority of the relationship. These payments are often referred to as spousal support, and they’re designed to help meet a financial need of the disadvantaged spouse.
Two basic types of alimony can be ordered in Michigan. The first is temporary alimony, which is issued between the time that spouses file for divorce and the finalization of the divorce. Sometimes, the payments might end when the divorce is finalized, or they could turn into the second type of alimony: permanent alimony.
The term “permanent alimony” can actually be a little deceptive, because it does not always last forever. A judge could place a termination date on permanent alimony that is several years in the future. He or she could also set it when a certain objective is met, such as finding a well-paying position. In addition, this alimony could last until either spouse passes away, if that is what the judge deems correct for your unique situation.
Determining Eligibility for Alimony in Michigan
When you head to court, a judge is going to be responsible for deciding whether or not one spouse is entitled to alimony payments. He or she will take several different factors into consideration before determining eligibility and payment amounts.
Here are just a few of the things that a judge will look at when making a final decision:
Age and Health of Both Parties
A judge is going to want to see that both parties are healthy and young enough to work. Some spouses might have stayed home for the duration of a long marriage. Now that they are divorced, a judge might deem them to be too advanced in years to have to learn new skills and obtain a new job.
Income of Both Parties
The judge will want to see that one spouse has a specific need for alimony, and that the other has the ability to pay. One spouse may not need alimony payments, because he or she has a well-paying job or enough assets to cover his or her living expenses. If so, a judge is not likely to order the payments.
Similarly, the judge will have a difficult time ordering alimony payments when one spouse does not have the money or the earning potential to make those payments.
Ability to Work
Sometimes, one spouse has been staying at home or sacrificing a career, so that the other spouse could continue to advance. Now that many years have passed, the stay-at-home spouse may lack the current training or education that he or she needs to be gainfully employed. If so, he or she may have to go back to school.
Therefore, a judge could order that he or she should receive spousal support during this time. If so, a judge may also take into account any physical, emotional, or mental handicaps that prevent one spouse from maintaining a steady income.
Length of the Marriage
Judges are more likely to issue alimony payments to long-term marriages of ten years or more. While shorter marriages do sometimes have alimony payments, it is not as common to find this type of arrangement. The length of the marriage is also significant if you claim that you have sacrificed years’ worth of your time to support a spouse’s career.
Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, but marital misconduct could still come into play regarding alimony. If your spouse had bad behavior during your relationship, a judge might see fit to order him or her to make alimony payments. This behavior can include substance abuse, infidelity, and abuse.
In order to demonstrate to a judge what the marriage was like, make sure that you have proof that these things existed. You may need to seek counseling or therapy for yourself, in order to be able to freely discuss these matters in court.
Marital Standard of Living
The judge will sometimes base alimony payments on the marital standard of living. Both parties should be able to maintain the same living standards as much as possible. While the finances will be stretched much thinner, alimony can help solve the disparity between the two spouses.
Property and Assets
The judge wants to see that both spouses left the marriage with equal amounts of property and assets. They can include a car, savings accounts, retirement accounts, real estate, and any other valuable assets that were part of the union. A major difference in these areas could cause the court to order alimony payments to the disadvantaged spouse. This difference mostly applies to assets that could help cover monthly costs or generate income, such as rental properties.
However, some spouses bring individual property into the marriage, which is separate from the marital assets. This property might mean that one spouse has more than enough assets to support themselves. Therefore, the claim of a spouse requesting alimony could be denied, due to an extensive list of major assets.
At this stage, debt should also be considered. Judges should weigh the individual amount of debt that each spouse has. This monthly bill can greatly reduce the amount of expendable income that he or she uses to pay the bills at the end of the month. In Michigan, property, assets, and debt are all incredibly important tools that determine alimony eligibility.
Paying Alimony in Michigan
Many spouses wonder how much alimony they could be entitled to in Michigan, based on their eligibility factors. Unfortunately, this amount is not something that is easily determined, because there is no set formula for alimony. Each judge will weigh the various factors that pertain to your marriage, and make a determination about what is fair and appropriate. In other words, you will not have much of a way to predict how the case will turn out, or how much alimony you might be granted.
Alternatively, you and your spouse have the option to privately work out your alimony payments as part of your settlement negotiations. This option could be better if you and your spouse can amicably agree that these payments are necessary. Keep in mind that these conversations will be very difficult, so you may wish to have a third party present. When it comes to discussing very sensitive financial information, it could also be helpful to establish rules and guidelines for the conversation.
Once the amount of alimony is decided on, Michigan courts allow you to make alimony payments in one of two ways: one lump sum or periodic installments. The installments can be set up on any schedule that the couple or the judge sees fit for the circumstances. For example, they could be monthly, quarterly, or annual payments.
Changing Alimony Payments
Permanent alimony can be difficult to manage over time, particularly if a spouse has major life changes. It can be helpful to determine whether or not the current alimony payments are still fair and reasonable.
Both the paying and receiving spouses are permitted to file a petition to modify an alimony agreement. However, there has to be a valid reason to ask for a change to the existing order.
For example, one spouse may have a hard time going back to work after being a stay-at-home parent for many years. If so, he or she will need additional training and schooling to catch up and build a career. In the meantime, alimony payments are there to help financially support them. Then once that spouse finds a well-paying position, the paying spouse could petition the courts to modify or end the alimony payments.
Alimony might also be modified if the paying spouse loses his or her job, or is assigned to a lower-paying position. This payment affects the amount of money that he or she has left over at the end of the month, and will ultimately influence how much he or she can pay toward alimony. After all, no alimony payments can be made if there is no money left over after the bills are paid.
Other situations that could lead to alimony changes include the health of both spouses, financial fraud during the divorce proceedings, or other circumstances that prevent one spouse from making payments.
When the receiving spouse gets remarried or starts cohabitating with a new romantic partner, it could be grounds for alimony termination. If you want to stop paying for alimony, you should keep close tabs on the romantic life of your former spouse. Take a look at social media, or keep in contact with mutual friends.
It is important that you pay attention to your spouse’s current lifestyle, since it could provide all the information you need to petition the court for a major alimony change.
Be Prepared for the Alimony Battle
Consider what information you might need to gather before you head to your divorce attorney and make your case for alimony payments. You may need proof that you sacrificed a career, income-tax returns to prove your spouse’s annual income, and other key documents. Alternatively, you might need to request a judge to evaluate your spouse’s employability, or prove that he or she could still maintain a career that supports his or her lifestyle.
Alimony battles can be notoriously acrimonious: One spouse feels entitled to support, while the other does not feel obligated to give it. It can feel tumultuous and stressful, but keep working hard to establish a firmer financial future for yourself. When you are armed with the knowledge of how alimony in Michigan works, you can feel better prepared for what could lie ahead.