In every action for divorce or separation brought before the court, either party may be required to pay alimony for the suitable support and maintenance of the adverse party. MCL 552.13 Sec.13(1). An award of alimony may be terminated by the court on the date that the party receiving the alimony remarries, unless a contrary agreement is specifically stated in the judgment of divorce. Termination of an award under MCL 552.13 Sec. 13(2) shall not effect alimony payments, which have accrued prior to that termination. Statutorily, MCL 552.23(1) requires that upon entry of a judgment of divorce or judgment of separate maintenance, if the estate and effects awarded to either party are insufficient for suitable support and maintenance…the court may further award to either party…alimony out of the estate, real and/or personal, to be paid to either party in gross or otherwise as the court considers just and reasonable after considering the ability of either party to pay and the character and situation of the parties and all other circumstances of the case.
Court rules, unlike the statutes that referred to alimony, reference the term “spousal support” as opposed to alimony. MCR 3.206(A)(5) requires that a party who requests spousal support must allege facts sufficient to show a need for such support and that the other party is able to pay. A verified statement must be filed when spousal support is requested, consistent with MCR 3.206(B)(1). Court rules further provide, in 3.211(B)(3), that a divorce and a separate maintenance judgment must reserve or deny spousal support. A silent judgment on spousal support reserves it.
In making a determination concerning alimony/spousal support, there are 11 factors to be considered in determining whether spousal support should be awarded. Historically, these factors have been developed through case law in Michigan and are not codified in statute.
A landmark case in which factors were originally enumerated and past conduct was recognized as a factor in determination of spousal support is found in Johnson v Johnson, 346 Mich 418, 78 NW2d 216 (1956). The court must make the findings on each factor relevant to a particular spousal support claim. Sparks v Sparks, 440 Mich 141, 485 NW2d 893 (1992); Beason v Beason, 435 Mich 791, 460 NW2d 207 (1990); Parrish v Parrish, 138 Mich App 546, 361 NW2d 366 (1984); and McLain v McLain, 108 Mich App 166, 171-172, 310 NW2d316 (1981). The cases enumerate the following relevant factors:
- Past relations and conduct of the parties;
- Length of the marriage;
- Ability of the parties to work;
- Source and amount of property awarded to the parties;
- Age of the parties;
- Ability of the parties to pay alimony;
- Present situation of the parties;
- Needs of the parties;
- Health of the parties;
- Prior standard of living of the parties; and
- General principles of equity.
Spousal support guidelines are available. These guidelines make no presumptions, but many courts will not consider them. There are flaws in guidelines, and each case should be taken upon its own merits. Litigants and practitioners should remember that guidelines are no substitute for a case-by-case analysis. The responsibility of legal counsel is to know the facts of the case and the law and then apply the former to the latter. Presumptive guidelines should not be adopted and utilized as a rubber stamp by the courts, but courts should review matters on a case-by-case basis.
Alimony/Spousal Support is alive and is awarded in Michigan. It should be awarded on a case-by-case basis considering relevant factors presented to the court or consented to by the parties. Guidelines may be instructive but should not be applied in any type of presumptive fashion based upon the complexity of marital relationships. The factors to be considered are far more numerous than are contemplated by current guidelines and no two cases are the same.
Your specific situation may be somewhat different from the norm; please call, 734.927.9782, the Canton Michigan Divorce Lawyers and Canton Michigan Alimony Attorneys at Stelmock Law Firm, PC to discuss your matter. We represent clients in the Metro Detroit area (Canton, Plymouth, Northville, Livonia, Westland, Ann Arbor, Novi) and throughout Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland, and Livingston counties. The firm’s office is located at 8556 N. Canton Center Road, Canton, Michigan 48187
By: Robert J. Stelmock, Attorney, GAL, Parenting Coordinator & Mediator at Stelmock Law Firm, PC