Grand Rapids Alimony Lawyer
Whether you are concerned about paying alimony or hoping to receive financial support from your soon-to-be-former spouse, determining whether (and to what extent) alimony, also known as spousal support, is owed is a critical step in the divorce process. In Michigan, not all divorces result in an award of alimony. However, an agreement (or court order) to pay alimony can impact spouses’ asset division and various other aspects of their divorce. That said, spouses must carefully weigh their options with regard to spousal support and pursue a divorce strategy that provides the best long-term financial solution. An experienced Grand Rapids alimony lawyer can help you explore your choices.
Making Strategic Use of Alimony During Your Michigan Divorce
When spouses negotiate the terms of their divorce instead of the judge deciding the issues, they have a significant amount of leeway with regard to crafting a divorce settlement that involves mutually-agreeable financial and property-related terms. Depending upon their personal financial circumstances, this may or may not involve payment of alimony. For example, if one spouse wishes to keep high-value marital assets and the other prefers a fresh start, it may be possible to use alimony to arrive at an amicable resolution. On the other hand, if both spouses have roughly equal earning power and they wish to divide their assets equally, then incorporating an alimony award into their divorce judgment may be unnecessary.
Importantly, while alimony payments used to be tax-deductible, this is no longer the case under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. As a result, paying alimony does not offer the tax incentive it used to for high-earning spouses. However, there are still circumstances in which agreeing to alimony can ultimately serve both spouses’ best interests, and both spouses should devote the time and energy necessary to make strategic decisions regarding the use of alimony.
Spousal Support: When the Courts Decide
Often, parties are not able to reach an agreement regarding alimony, and then they must ask a judge to decide alimony for them. Under Michigan law, judges must consider the following factors when evaluating a spouse’s request for alimony:
- The length of the marriage
- The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
- Each spouse’s financial contributions during the marriage
- Each spouse’s conduct during the marriage
- The spouses’ respective ages and health conditions
- The spouses’ respective incomes and earning capacities
- The educational level of the spouse seeking alimony
- The spouses’ ability to pay and the need for alimony
- The division of the spouses’ marital assets
- Any other financial support obligations owed by either spouse
Based on a review of these factors, the judge will determine 1) if spousal support is appropriate; 2) who will pay support; 3) how much support must be paid; 4) the duration of the support payments, and 5) under which circumstances the amount or duration can be changed if your or your spouse’s situation changes.
Paying alimony does not have to mean writing a monthly check until the end of time. In fact, in today’s world, so-called “permanent” alimony is the exception rather than the norm. Temporary and “rehabilitative” alimony awards are far more common, and both spouses should approach the issue of alimony with realistic expectations in light of Michigan law and the unique personal and financial circumstances involved in their divorce.
Our Grand Rapids Alimony Lawyer Explains the Two Forms of Spousal Support
There are two types of spousal support: modifiable and non-modifiable. If the order provides for non-modifiable support, spousal support will not change, even when your circumstances change. Parties sometimes agree to a non-modifiable spousal support order for several reasons. In some situations, parties want to avoid future litigation. Some parties agree to non-modifiable alimony because the amount of spousal support is a way to pay off a property settlement, and sometimes clients agree to non-modifiable spousal support because they want to focus on their career which may create an increase in income, and the spouse does not want that to be considered for an increase in spousal support.
When you agree to or the judge orders modifiable spousal support, either party may petition the court to change the amount or the duration of support when circumstances change. Often spousal support orders provide for a specific amount of years of spousal support payments. Only in rare circumstances do we see permanent spousal support orders, meaning there is no date when the spousal support payments will end. Permanent alimony orders are sometimes ordered when the parties had a long-term marriage, when there is a significant difference in income between the spouses, or when one party is not able to earn any income in the future due to a medical or other condition preventing employment.
The reality is that in most circumstances, judges accept that both spouses are able to earn an income. Even if a spouse left the workforce many years ago, the judge will likely provide short-term spousal support to allow the nonworking spouse to return to school to get a degree or a few years to find a job and new career. In such a situation, the spousal support order will indicate the number of years that the support is ordered and provide a date when the alimony is supposed to end.
When Can a Spouse Petition to Change Spousal Support Payments?
The spousal support order may also include additional circumstances when the support obligation will end. Common circumstances are 1) death of paying or receiving spouse; 2) remarriage of the receiving spouse; 3) cohabitation of the receiving spouse.
A new romantic relationship often causes disputes and litigation. When does the former spouse have a “sleepover” at their friend’s house, and when is it considering cohabitation?
The most common reasons to request a change in spousal support are changes in income, a party’s cohabitation or marriage, a party’s retirement, or an inability to continue the same employment due to health reasons. If you’re not sure if you’re eligible to modify your spousal support payments or obligations, a consultation with an alimony law firm is probably your best option.
How Much Will My Spousal Support Payments Be?
There is no set formula for calculating spousal support in Michigan.
Divorcing spouses can decide on a spousal support amount and duration through a negotiated agreement.- In the alternative, they can present their arguments and evidence to the judge who will decide based upon a review of a variety of factors outlined in Michigan law.
A Grand Rapids alimony lawyer at our firm can evaluate your case and help you resolve all issues related to spousal support.
How Long Does Alimony Last?
It depends. Divorcing spouses can negotiate whether payments will be temporary – to help the person receiving the payments get on his or her feet financially – or permanent. They can also list the circumstances under which payments will end or be modified, such as if the person receiving payments remarries or the person making the payments retires or dies or has income changes.
Permanent spousal support is not ordered very often, and in most situations, the spousal support is ordered for a specific number of years based on a review of the factors outlined in Michigan law. Judges often order spousal support for a number of years assuming the receiving spouse will use the money to bridge the gap while going to school, getting job training, or otherwise becoming self-sufficient.
Permanent spousal support payments are reserved for relatively rare situations in which the person receiving the payments is not expected to be able to earn a living, often because of health, disability, age, or other reasons. In most situations, permanent spousal support is only ordered for spouses that are married for a long time.
Can I Get Alimony in a Lump Sum?
Some divorcing spouses agree to a single, lump-sum alimony payment when the person making the payment is financially able to do so. Such a payment is often referred to as alimony in gross. Once that payment is made, no further spousal support can be considered or ordered.
It is vital that a person being offered a lump-sum payment considers the financial and tax implications of these arrangements. Our Grand Rapids alimony lawyers help clients navigate these and other questions to ensure their financial security.
What is a “Long-Term” Marriage for Alimony Calculation Purposes?
Generally, the longer the marriage, the longer the spousal support payments. “Long-term” marriages are typically considered those that last for 10 years or more.
That said, there is a list of other factors that judges look at when ordering spousal support payments and in some situations, a judge may order spousal support for a shorter-term marriage. Divorcing spouses can take the uncertainty out of the situation by exploring a negotiated settlement.
What Counts as Income for Alimony Calculation Purposes?
Courts are required to consider the divorcing spouses’ respective incomes when deciding on alimony.
Income most commonly includes paychecks from employment, but it also includes a wide variety of other sources of money. Pension benefits, stock dividends, other investment returns, and money generated from rental properties are among other forms of income.
In some situations, a court may attribute a higher level of income than what is on a paystub or a W-2to a spouse who takes a lower-paying job to either reduce or avoid alimony payments or even for legitimate reasons such as raising a child or furthering their education.
Can I Still Get Alimony if I Marry Again?
Many court orders for spousal support usually include a provision that the payments will end if the person receiving them remarries or cohabitates. Divorcing spouses also often agree to this term as part of a settlement arrangement.
My Former Spouse had Extra-Marital Affairs. Does this Impact Alimony?
Fault is a factor when considering the amount of spousal support to be paid and the duration. However, courts primarily focus on factors like the length of the marriage, the receiving spouse’s financial need, and the paying spouse’s ability to pay when determining alimony. Courts do, however, have the ability to take into account each spouse’s conduct during the marriage.
My Former Spouse Quit His/Her Job. Will This Change My Ordered Alimony Payments?
It may, but it depends on the wording of the spousal support order. Not all spousal support orders can be changed. A person paying spousal support can ask that the payments be reduced if he or she loses a job. A court may agree to a modification if it determines that the person can no longer make the payments. However, the situation becomes more complicated when the person quits his or her job voluntarily without another one lined up with comparable income.
Marital settlement agreements that provide for alimony often include provisions clearly stating the circumstances under which payments will stop or be reduced. A Grand Rapids alimony lawyer at Kraayeveld Law can help you negotiate the terms of an agreement so that the rights and responsibilities of you and your former spouse are clear.
My Former Spouse Died. What Does That Mean for Alimony Payments?
Court orders regarding alimony often state that the payments will end if the person ordered to make them passes away. That said, you can seek back payments for overdue spousal support from your former spouse’s estate if alimony is still owed when he or she dies.
Should Alimony Play a Role in Your Divorce? Speak With a Grand Rapids Alimony Lawyer to Discuss Your Case
If you would like more information about whether it makes sense to incorporate alimony into your divorce, we encourage you to contact a Grand Rapids alimony lawyer as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment at a time that is convenient for you, please call (616) 285-0808 or tell us how to reach you online today