What is spousal support?
Spousal support is one of those terms that carries with it vague negative associations. Perhaps because it was traditionally granted to women after a divorce, as they weren’t able to support themselves financially. As such, it now has the tarnish of being “gender-biased”.
Perhaps it’s simply because very few of the people paying it would do so if they had a choice. Either way, spousal support, which is commonly called “alimony” or “maintenance”, is a fixed reality in a great many divorces. So, if you’re considering divorce, there are a few things you should know about it.
Who decides on the amount of alimony paid out?
First, a divorcing couple can agree between themselves on an alimony arrangement that works for them. They aren’t required to involve the court. If you and your soon-to-be-ex are able to come to some kind of agreement, with or without the help of attorneys, then the law allows (and even encourages) that.
However, for many couples, divorce is a very contentious time. Agreeing on how much money one spouse is going to give another in order to help support them after the divorce, can be a rather difficult decision to reach. Especially without outside help. In fact, few couples can do this alone.
Secondly, while Michigan law has very detailed formulas for determining exactly how much child support a parent must pay, there is nothing in place like that for spousal support. Each case has to be determined by a judge on a case-by-case basis, using a long list of loose guidelines.
What factors affect spousal support?
The following is a rough approximation of the factors that a judge would take into account while trying to determine a proper spousal support payment in each divorce case:
- How long the couple was married for prior to filing for divorce
- The material and physical needs of each spouse
- The age, health and possible medical condition of each spouse
- The ability of each spouse to earn a viable income
- The income potential of the paying spouse
- How the assets and debts were divided in the divorce judgement
- The other financial resources available to each spouse
- Behaviors that may have led to the breakdown of the marriage by each spouse
- The lifestyle to which the couple was accustomed to living prior to the divorce
- General principles of fairness
Determining alimony can be a very complex process
Although this list of factors seems long, it doesn’t take into account the many other variables the court may include in its final judgements. Like we said, this is a very complex arrangement when the court is involved. It’s affected by a great number of factors. The best way to prepare is to have a skilled attorney who can explain the process, and prepare you for the judge’s possible decisions.
Join us next time, when we will be discussing the types of spousal support available. There may be more options than you thought! Until then, if you feel that you’re in need of spousal support payments, or are wondering if you’ll be required to pay alimony, contact us at 866 766 5245. Our experienced family law attorneys can help you through this difficult, and sometimes confusing, time.