Lansing Family Law Attorney

Alimony/Spousal Support

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a payment made to a former spouse to provide for that person’s ongoing needs.  It is designed to ensure that both parties have the support necessary to take care of themselves after they are divorced.  The person receiving alimony is often referred to as the dependent spouse and the person paying alimony is often referred to as the supporting spouse.

How is Spousal Support Determined?

In Michigan, there are spousal support guidelines that are used to assist the parties and the Court in determining the amount and length of spousal support payments.  However, there is no set formula for spousal support and it is decided on a case-by-case basis.   Because of the ambiguous system in the state, it is essential to hire a lawyer who understands the factors that are used in making spousal support decisions and who can successfully argue your case.

There are several factors that have been established through case law that is used in determining a spousal support award.  The Court will consider the following circumstances in your case:


  • Length of the marriage: How many years have you and your spouse been married?  A long term marriage (10 years or more) has more relevance in a case.  In particular, the length of a marriage is relevant where one party may not have worked during the marriage or has no marketable career skills.
  • Age of both parties: The age of you and your spouse impacts how long each of you is able to earn an income.  If you or your spouse are older (nearing retirement age), this may impact the Court’s decision in determining a spousal support award.
  • The health of both parties: Is either party suffering from a health issue that will prevent the dependent spouse from earning income or the supporting spouse from having the ability to work in order to pay alimony?
  • Prior living standard: Spousal support is a means to allow both parties to continue to live in a manner similar to how the two of you lived while you were married.
  • Needs of both parties: What are the living expenses for you and your spouse as independent households?  The Court will look at both present and future needs for the dependent spouse.
  • The ability of the parties to work: Are both parties able to work? The dependent spouse may try not to work in order to receive more alimony or the supporting spouse may try not to work in order to avoid paying alimony.  The Court will look at each spouse’s actual ability to work, not at whether they choose to work or not work.
  • Ability to pay spousal support: The supporting spouse needs to have the ability to pay spousal support.
  • Source and amount of property awarded to each party: A determination will be made on how the property will be divided between each party including whether or not a piece of property needs to be sold.
  • The present situation of parties: The Court will look at various factors on the supporting spouse’s ability to pay and the dependent spouse’s current needs.
  • Past relations and conduct: Although Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, arguments regarding “fault” can be used to persuade a Court’s opinion regarding spousal support awards. A few examples of “fault” are infidelity, alcohol or drug use, or physical or emotional abuse.
  • General principles of equity: A Court may use other factors it deems relevant to determining what is fair in making a spousal support award in your case.

Can I Change Spousal Support?

Spousal support may be modifiable or non-modifiable.  The default answer is always that spousal support can be modified by a Court.  If spousal support is modifiable, this means that if there is a significant change in one of the parties’ circumstances that warrants a change to the spousal support award, that spouse can ask the Court to modify the support (either the amount or the length of payments).

For instance, the supporting spouse may have lost their job and is unable to find another, or had a substantial reduction in their income and they can no longer afford the spousal support payments. BLF can help you determine whether or not you can request to have your spousal support agreement modified.

Spousal support can only be non-modifiable if both parties agree to waive their right to ask a court to change the spousal support.  Giving up the right to ask for a change in spousal support can only be done if the parties enter a consent Judgment of Divorce, meaning both parties agree to the terms of the divorce, including giving up their right to ask for a change in spousal support at a later date.

A Court cannot require either party to waive their right to modify spousal support.

Do I Have to Pay Taxes on Spousal Support?

For income tax purposes, spousal support is usually includable as income to the dependent spouse and excluded (deducted) from the income of the supporting spouse.

Spousal support is a negotiable item in a divorce situation.  Basiga Law Firm can provide you with a guideline that shows approximately what the spousal support award will likely be in your individual case.

However, there are always arguments to be made to attempt to alter the final spousal support award.  Our lawyers understand the factors at issue and have the knowledge and litigation experience to argue those factors in your favor.

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