In Michigan the Courts do not have hard and fast rules when deciding whether to award spousal support (what most people call alimony). However, there are twelve factors a Judge takes in to consideration when deciding whether alimony should be awarded: (1) the past relations and conduct of the parties, (2) the length of the marriage, (3) the abilities of the parties to work, (4) the source and amount of property awarded to the parties, (5) the parties’ ages, (6) the abilities of the parties to pay alimony, (7) the present situation of the parties, (8) the needs of the parties, (9) the parties’ health, (10) the prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others, (11) contributions of the parties to the joint estate, (12) a party’s fault in causing the divorce, (13) the effect of cohabitation on a party’s financial status, and (14) general principles of equity.
There also are no hard and fast rules on how long alimony will last. Often lawyers use a rule of thumb - 1 year of alimony for every three years of marriage. Short-term marriages may provide a decreased opportunity for alimony while a longer -term marriage naturally lends itself to a longer alimony term. In cases where parties have been married for a long time and special circumstances arise for a party (like a disability, older parties and no work history) a life-time award of alimony is also a potential outcome.
How much alimony is paid depends on the income difference between the parties. If there is no income difference and no special circumstance when looking at the twelve factors listed above, alimony is not likely. Attorneys and Courts also use “prognosticator” programs to run numbers to get an idea of what an individual might have to pay or receive in alimony. But it is important to remember there is definitive math behind an alimony award because so many different social factors can sway the issue. It is critical to have an attorney who understands your rights and how your case may be perceived by your spouse and the Courts.
Most people associate alimony payments with a monthly payment; however, there are different forms of alimony which can be achieved. Traditional alimony payments are monthly payments paid to a party and can be paid directly or through the Friend of the Court. These payments can either be short-term or permanent. Sometimes parties will agree to pay a lump-sum as opposed to the monthly payment. In some cases, there may be incentive for the parties to elect a lump-sum payment as opposed to monthly payments. Another form of alimony is called, “rehabilitative” alimony. This is usually a short-term form of alimony which one party pays another to further their education, job skills or even while a person is waiting for a promotion. Finally, Reimbursement alimony is reimbursement to a party who may have foregone their own financial opportunities in support of their spouse. For example, if a husband worked and paid for his wife’s law-school education, he may want to seek reimbursement for his efforts in furthering the couple’s income.
The bottom line is, you need to know how much alimony you are going to be receiving or paying (at least ball- park) is it is certainly going to impact your post-divorce life. Although Cannon Law does not do free in-person consultation- we do comprehensive phone consults.