187 South Old Woodward Avenue
Suite 250
Birmingham, Michigan 48009
Call Today (248) 540-3800
Divorce / Family Law Specialists
Ronald J. Bajorek
& Associates

Alimony and Spousal Support

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the fact that my spouse had an affair affect an award of spousal support?
Yes.  Since the “conduct of the parties” is one of the 11 factors.  However, if you have a short term marriage or there is insignificant disparity of incomes, then, despite the affair, or any other wrongful conduct (domestic violence, temper, cruelty, drug abuse) spousal support is generally not awarded.

My spouse and I were together for over 20 years even though we were only married for the last 9.  Can spousal support be awarded based upon the full 20 years?

No.  In 2003 the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the court can only consider the length of the marriage not the length of the relationship in awarding spousal support.  Periods of dating or cohabitation don’t count. 

My spouse voluntarily quit his job to take a lower paying position to avoid having to pay spousal support based upon his higher earnings.  Can he do this?

No.  Any attempt to voluntarily reduce income to avoid paying spousal support (or child support) will allow the court to impute income at the higher level.

Are there any software programs available in Michigan to forecast spousal support in Michigan?

Yes, but proceed with caution.  Spousal support guidelines were developed by Mr. Craig Ross, an attorney and former referee in the Washtenaw Circuit Court.  To purchase his software you may contact Mr. Ross at 734-663-0998.   Also free trial downloads of the software maybe had from his website www.marginsoft.net.  The other software is originated by the Kalamazoo Friend of the Court attorney Roland Fancher which may be purchased directly from him at 269-544-0683.   However, you must be aware that (1) these programs can be used to predict alimony awards but are only used as advisory tools to attorneys, judges and employees of the Friend of the Court and are not legally binding; (2) the court cannot legally use this software in awarding spousal support; (3) nor should attorneys or clients rely upon this software because the facts of each case are unique and the circumstances of each case must be examined individually.  To do otherwise would inevitably result in one of the two parties being cheated.  The greatest benefit of the software is to allow the parties to begin a common point in negotiations only. 

Are there tax implications in spousal support payments?

Yes.  Generally spousal support payments are generally deductible to the payor and included in the gross income of the payee (Internal Revenue Code sections 215 and 71).  However, there are strict rules that must be followed to implement the IRS rules, including that the spousal support must terminate upon the death of the payee spouse.   Consulting with your attorney or CPA is critical in this respect. 

Can my former spouse discharge the spousal support in bankruptcy?

No.   Debts owed to a spouse, former spouse or child of a debtor for alimony, support or maintenance are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

Upon divorce can spousal support be barred forever? 

Yes.  If you and your spouse reach an out of court settlement, part of the agreement can be a provision that both of you waive the right to ever return to court to ask for spousal support and that the spousal support agreed upon between you shall be final and non-modifiable.  This is a very common method to resolve spousal support since (1) the payor has peace of mind knowing that his spousal support payments can never be increased or the period of time lengthened and (2) the recipient payee has the peace of mind that the payor can never return to court to request the payments be lower.

If I remarry or cohabitate will I lose my spousal support?

Maybe. If your Judgment of Divorce was properly drafted it should clearly provide what would happen in case of your marriage or cohabitation.  However, Michigan law (MCL 552.13-2) provides that, absent any language in the Judgment, your spousal support is subject to being terminated upon your remarriage depending upon your circumstances.  Cohabitation, by itself, does not allow termination or modification of your alimony unless stated so in the Judgment.  Even so the courts have recently adopted a restrictive definition of cohabitation which makes it hard to prove and shifts the burden to the payor to prove cohabitation. 

Can I have my spousal support lowed if I lose my job and forced to take a lower paying job? 

Yes and no.  If you and your spouse signed an agreement that spousal support is non-modifiable then the answer is no.  Under these circumstances it best to negotiate with your ex-spouse a modified payment arrangement.  If the Judgment of Divorce allows the spousal support payments to remain modifiable or is silent on the issue, then the answer is yes.  Also, since retroactive modification of support is not allowed in Michigan, one must file a petition with the court as soon as the income level changes. 

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(248) 540-3800

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Alimony is now generally known by its politically correct name of “spousal support”.  
Other than child custody and child support there is no other divorce issue containing more emotion and, indeed, confusion.

In its simplest terms spousal support is payment of money or assets by a party to a former spouse for the continued support of the spouse after divorce.  The source of confusion is that unlike child support, Michigan has no legislative tables for when, how much, and for how long spousal support should be awarded.  The court goes by what it “considers just and reasonable”, in light of the ability of either party to pay and the character and the situation of the parties, and all other circumstances of the case.  Adding to the problem is that each county circuit court family law judge has their own philosophy so that one judge may award 10 years of spousal support while another judge in the adjacent courtroom, under the same facts, would award none. 

Despite the above, nevertheless there are 11 established guidelines that maybe used in every case to grant or deny spousal support.  These are:

  1. The past relations and conduct of the parties;
  2. The length of the marriage;
  3. The ability of the parties to work;
  4. The source of an amount of the property awarded to the parties;
  5. The age of the parties;
  6. The ability of the parties to pay alimony;
  7. The present situation of the parties;
  8. The needs of the parties;
  9. The health of the parties;
  10. The prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others;
  11. General principles of equity

By law the judge must consider each and every of the above 11 factors.  However, in actual practice courts tend to give more weight to the length of the marriage, the ability of the parties to work, the age of the parties and the prior standard of living of the parties.  
In general I have found that the following is generally true:

  1. For a marriage 5 years or less spousal support is generally not awarded absent very unusual circumstances. 
  2. For a marriage is between 6 and 10 years short term spousal support is considered and awarded only if there is a significant disparity of incomes and the payee spouse has not worked or is unable to immediately return to work. 
  3. For a marriage of between 10 and 20 years spousal support is normally a relevant issue to be decided applying all of the above 11 factors. 
  4. For a marriage over 20 years spousal support is always a significant factor which can range from long term support to permanent, lifetime spousal support.

It is important to keep in mind that no two cases are the same.  I have compiled a list of frequently asked questions below.  However, you may contact Ronald J. Bajorek & Associates at 248-540-3800 or email me at ronaldjbajorek@yahoo.com for an in-depth no fee consultation regarding your case including my professional opinion and options regarding spousal support. 

 


Ronald J. Bajorek
187 South Old Woodward Avenue
Suite 250
Birmingham, Michigan 48009
Call Today (248) 540-3800
Located in the historic Birmingham Theatre Office Building 1 block south of Maple, in the heart of downtown Birmingham.

Providing comprehensive divorce representation throughout Michigan including cities of Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham, West Bloomfield, Franklin, Bingham Farms, Beverly Hills, Huntington Woods, Troy, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Novi, Southfield, Royal Oak, Farmington Hills, Clarkston, Livonia, Canton, Plymouth, Northville, Commerce, Milford, Brighton, Grosse Pointe, Sterling Heights, Bloomfield Twp., Shelby Twp., Macomb, Ann Arbor, Lake Orion, Oakland County, Wayne County, Macomb County, Washtenaw County and Livingston County among others.

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