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Understanding spousal support in Michigan

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If you are contemplating divorce, you probably have questions about alimony, also known as spousal support. A divorce can seriously affect the finances of both parties in a variety of ways. Alimony often forms an important part of the overall financial picture.

Divorcing couples can retain control of post-divorce provisions for issues such as alimony by incorporating them into a prenuptial agreement. Alimony can also be an appropriate issue for divorce mediation, should you choose that route.

Judges can use discretion

When the issue of alimony comes before a judge, the court has a great deal of discretion in deciding it. Unlike child support, the law does not provide strict guidelines or formulas to plug into a calculator. While the law does list several factors to consider, judges apply varying approaches to their consideration and weighing of such factors.

Permanent alimony becoming rarer

Although permanent alimony remains on the table, today's legal decisions trend to avoiding such awards in a majority of cases. Courts tend to award alimony payments that would serve as transitional support to help the spouse with fewer resources gain financial independence.

Award amounts can depend on specific standard of living

Note that financial independence in this context does not necessarily mean affording bare-bones necessities - otherwise we would never hear about celebrity spouses getting huge spousal support awards. In most cases, the law wants to give the poorer spouse the ability to maintain a similar standard of living to the one prevalent during the marriage.

Factors that influence support awards

Important factors in alimony decisions include the spouses' relative incomes, ages, health and ability to earn or increase income. Sometimes, a court may choose to award one spouse an important asset that is difficult to split, such as a business, and compensate the other spouse with an equivalent alimony award. Other relevant factors include the length of the marriage, the respective contributions of the spouses to the family’s well-being, any actions that led to the breakdown of the marriage and the overarching issue of fairness.

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