For individuals considering the possibility of divorce and the likelihood of either paying or receiving alimony payments, one of the most common questions is whether such payments can ever change. Alimony is awarded in a divorce proceeding based on the financial circumstances of the spouses at the time. However, one or both ex-spouses may experience changes to their incomes or expenses that might prompt a desire to change the amount of alimony payments. Whether alimony can be modified in these circumstances depends in part on the terms of the original award.
While Michigan law provides for modification of alimony awards granted by the court, divorcing parties can agree to non-modifiable alimony or to payments that can be modified only in specified situations. If you are seeking a modification of alimony, whether as the recipient or the payer, it is advisable to speak with a divorce attorney to get an understanding of your chances of success.
As an initial step, you should review your original alimony order to see if it sets forth acceptable circumstances for future modification. It may be that your order permits alimony to be modified if the payer experiences a substantial loss of income or has a health issue that impacts their ability to work. Or the order may provide that the payer may seek a reduction in payments where the recipient has an increase in disposable income because of, for example, a new job or a move to an area with a lower cost of living.
If your original alimony order is silent as to circumstances allowing for modification, you can still seek modification of your alimony if the change is deemed to be “necessary and justified” under Michigan law. Courts have allowed modification when an ex-spouse has obtained new or better employment, begins to receive Social Security or disability benefits. Remarriage of the recipient does not automatically terminate alimony unless that condition was agreed to. For example, a remarried recipient might continue to be entitled to rehabilitative alimony, which is designed to help the recipient gain skills to improve his or her ability to find employment. Ultimately, the burden is on the ex-spouse seeking the modification to show why a change in alimony is necessary and justified.
If you are currently paying or receiving alimony and have experienced a change in circumstances that you believe warrant a modification of payments, the attorneys at Dawson Family Law, PLLC in Sterling Heights, Michigan can evaluate your case and represent you in the court procedure. To set up a free initial consultation, please call 833-671-4445 or contact us online.