Under Michigan law, courts decide whether to award spousal support and how much to award based on a number of factors. The primary goal behind spousal support — also known as alimony — is to equalize the lifestyles of the parties, making sure that one spouse doesn’t experience a significant diminishment in their quality of life because of the divorce.
Through case law, including the decision in Parrish v. Parrish, the Michigan courts have established a list of factors for judges to consider in spousal support determinations. These factors include:
In addition to these factors, courts in Michigan look at the unique circumstances of each case and decide if it’s fair for one spouse to receive spousal support.
The court also has the authority to impute income to one or both spouses, which means the court can make a determination that a spouse would ordinarily have a higher income except for a voluntary decision on their part to forego or reduce their income.
In most cases, spousal support is not permanent. When the court makes a determination of spousal support duration, it usually looks at how long the parties were married and what kind of financial circumstances they had during their marriage. For example, spousal support in a marriage that lasted five years is probably going to be a shorter duration than in a 40-year marriage. Likewise, the court will probably award spousal support of longer duration for a marriage where one spouse spent two decades at home raising children versus a marriage where one parent took a couple years off to stay home until the children entered preschool.
There are essentially two types of spousal support in Michigan: non-modifiable and modifiable. Non-modifiable means a specific sum per month for a set length of time. For example, $400.00 per month for five years. Modifiable spousal support, on the other hand, is subject to an increase or decrease of the amount and/or length of term, at any time, during the lifetime of the recipient. For example, if the court initially ordered $400.00 per month spousal support for five years, either party can make a request to have that amount increased or decreased. The recipient could even come into court 10 years later and make a request for additional spousal support. Michigan law provides that the court can only order modifiable spousal support. However, the parties can agree to non-modifiable spousal support.