Grand Rapids Spousal Support Lawyers
Persistent Legal Advocates with Your Best Interests in Mind
When negotiating alimony payments in a divorce settlement, it is best to have an experienced attorney on your side to persistently represent your side. Our team of lawyers at Scozzari Graham, PLLC will keep your best interests in mind as we help you prepare for the alimony negotiation in court or the mediation room.
Types of Alimony
Michigan family law enables spouses to request alimony (or spousal support), which is a payment from one ex-spouse to the other during or after a divorce, if the requesting spouse can demonstrate a financial need and the other spouse can afford to pay. The purpose of alimony is to ensure that each spouse can meet financial needs during and after the divorce process. The amount, frequency, and duration of support will depend on the individual case.
Michigan offers four specific types of spousal support depending on the circumstances:
If a spouse qualifies for support, the court will determine what kind of support is best for their situation. Temporary support is only available during the pendency of the divorce and is available for spouses who are unable to support themselves during the divorce process. Either party can request temporary support when filing for divorce, but the court will only award it if they deem it appropriate. Note that some courts may refer to temporary support as “status quo” payments, as it could order a spouse who usually paid certain bills during the marriage (e.g., mortgage, utility, car payments) to resume the payment throughout the divorce process to maintain the “status quo.” The court may award temporary support in addition to status quo payments if it sees a need and a significant discrepancy in income. Temporary support and status quo orders typically terminate when the judge finalizes the divorce and creates a new, final support order.
Periodic support, the most common type of support in Michigan, is paid in equal payments over either a short period (rehabilitative support) or long period. Periodic support is common in cases where one spouse is capable of eventually becoming self-supporting. For instance, in cases where one spouse may have given up a career to raise a family or support the other’s career, the court may award periodic spousal support for a term that allows the recipient time to develop job skills or finish a degree that will help that spouse become financially independent.
As the name suggests, permanent support lasts indefinitely. However, it is rarer to obtain and is reserved for couples who were married for a long time and where the receiving spouse is unable to become financially independent due to age, health, or disability.
Lastly, lump-sum support, also rare, is spousal support paid all at once and is appropriate in cases where one spouse can afford to pay the entire support award in one payment. Lump-sum payments are commonly made as personal or real property instead of money. With lump-sum support, the paying spouse will not have a continuing obligation for bi-weekly, monthly, or annual payments to an ex-spouse.
Unlike child support calculations, there is no straightforward formula that a Michigan judge will use to calculate the amount and duration of spousal support. Judges will instead consider various factors of the relationship, such as the length of the marriage, and each spouse’s:
- past relations and conduct;
- ability to work;
- source and amount of property awarded in the divorce;
- age and health;
- financial situation;
- certain needs;
- prior standard of living and whether they support other dependents;
- contribution to the marital estate;
- conduct that may have led to the divorce;
- impact to financial status due to cohabitation; and
- other general principles of equity.
Alimony payments end when either party dies or when the person receiving alimony remarries (unless they’ve agreed to other terms in the divorce agreement).
Enforcement and Modifications
Michigan’s Friend of the Court (FOC) monitors child support and alimony payments. Typically, the court will issue income withholding orders to the employer of the paying spouse, which will contain identifying information for each spouse, employment information for the paying spouse, and the amount, frequency, and duration of the award they must pay. After receiving the withholding order, the employer must make the appropriate adjustments to the person’s payroll such that the payments are removed from the paying spouse’s paycheck and routed directly to the recipient spouse.
Be aware that support orders are court orders, so any violation of the payment plan could lead to civil penalties. If the paying spouse stops making payments, the recipient spouse can file a motion for contempt with the FOC. If the FOC finds that the party is indeed violating the order, it can set a hearing for the paying spouse to appear in front of the judge. Penalties for contempt of such orders in Michigan include:
- restriction of driver’s or professional licenses;
- interruption of passport services;
- garnishment of wages and bank accounts;
- tax refund interceptions; and
- jail sentences.
In cases where the parties do not share minor children or have a history with domestic violence, they can opt out of FOC services. In these cases, though, the two parties will be solely responsible for making their own arrangements for sending and receiving payments.
Note that courts understand that circumstances change, so if a person can prove a significant change of circumstances since the last order, they may ask the court to modify the existing order. Circumstantial changes that warrant modification include:
- the recipient spouse cohabiting with a new partner (though not enough of a reason on its own);
- fraud and unilateral mistake;
- a change in need of the parties; or
- a difference in the payer’s ability to pay.
Questions? Contact Scozzari Graham, PLLC.
Spousal support matters are complex to navigate, especially when you are dealing with numerous other discussions while negotiating the terms of your divorce. Michigan offers four different types of alimony payments for eligible spouses, and the type, amount, and duration of support will depend heavily on your circumstances after divorce. Let Scozzari Graham, PLLC take a look at your situation and help you plan your next steps to negotiating spousal support.