Spousal Support (alimony) has changed in two ways over the last 20 years. Historically, men always paid spousal support and women received spousal support. Also, spousal support awards were traditionally until death, remarriage, or cohabitation. These days are gone. The law has not changed, but people’s life styles have changed. The judges are looking at spousal support in a more gender neutral way.
First, alimony is being awarded less. Judges are now granting less spousal support in amount and duration. The courts are awarding spousal support as rehabilitative rather than permanent. For example, the judges are awarding 500.00 dollars per month for 36 months to give someone time to go back to school or get back into the work force. They are assuming that people have an ability to work unless they are disabled. The court is typically assuming a minimum wage job.
Second, judges are awarding spousal support to men. Traditionally, women did not work or worked very little and stayed home caring for children. Today, there are more households that have women as a primary wage earner or the husband is staying at home with the children. As a result, judges ordering women to pay spousal support to men for the same reasons they were warding spousal support to women.
The court may award spousal support as is just and reasonable if the property award is insufficient for the suitable support of either party and any children of the marriage of whom the party has custody. The court must consider “the ability of either party to pay and the character and situation of the parties, and all the other circumstances of the case.” MCL 552.23(1).
Factors to be considered include the following:
- Past relations and conduct of the parties. How the parties conducted the marriage as well as fault in the breakdown of the marriage. Fault is only one factor and should not be assigned disproportionate weight.
- Length of the marriage. A long-term marriage is especially relevant where one spouse has no career or marketable skills and his or her standard of living may be reduced because of the divorce.
- Ability of the parties to work.
- Source of and amount of property awarded to the parties. The focus is on the income-earning potential of the assets rather than their value; a spouse is not required to dissipate property awarded to meet daily needs where spousal support can be available.
- Ages of the parties.
- Ability of the parties to pay spousal support. Sources considered in determining the ability to pay include earnings, pension plans, unemployment compensation, tax refunds, and Social Security benefits. Ability to pay includes the payer spouse’s unexercised ability to earn if income is voluntarily reduced to avoid paying spousal support. Factors relevant to the ability to pay include (1) the parties’ employment histories, (2) reasons for any termination of employment, (3) work opportunities available, (4) diligence in trying to find employment, and (5) availability of employment.
- Present situation of the parties.
- Needs of the parties.
- Health of the parties. The parties’ health is relevant to the ability to work and to the personal needs of the spouse seeking support.
- Prior standard of living of the parties.
- Whether either party is responsible for the support of others.
- General principles of equity.
The court must make findings on each factor relevant to the claim before it.
GRAND RAPIDS ALIMONY AND SPOUSAL SUPPORT ATTORNEYS
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