A divorce can severely disrupt the financial situation of either or both spouses. One of the functions of an award of alimony is to soften the impact of this disruption. An award of alimony in a Michigan divorce is strictly within the discretion of the judge, but a working knowledge of the factors that a judge can rely upon helps a party gather and present evidence either in support of or opposition to a request for alimony.
Factors that can affect an award of alimony
Michigan does not have a legislatively prescribed set of factors that the court must considered. Instead, judges rely on decisions of the state’s appellate courts and the determinations made by other trial judges.
The most important factor is the financial situation of the spouses before and after the divorce. The judge will use alimony to alleviate any sharp disparity in the parties’ financial situations after the divorce and property division become effective. Courts usually compare each spouse’s standard of living before the divorce with the likely standard of living after the divorce.
Michigan judges also pay attention to marital fault in awarding alimony. A finding of fault can either compel an award of alimony where none would be made or persuade the judge to impose a heavier burden on the payor party as a form of punishment for fault committed during the marriage.
The judge will also consider custodial status. The court may award alimony to the custodial parent, especially if the children will be minors for several years.
Duration of alimony
The presiding judge will usually determine how long the payor party will be obligated to pay alimony. A common standard is that one year of alimony is granted for every three years that the parties were married. This formula can be altered based on other circumstances in the case.
Is an award of alimony final?
An award of alimony in a Michigan divorce is rarely final. That is, either party can bring a motion to amend the order awarding alimony based upon evidence that the financial situation of one or both parties has substantial since the divorce decree was entered. An experienced divorce attorney can provide helpful advice on whether new evidence will justify the amendment of the original order.