Monday, October 11, 2010

Spousal Support (Alimony) is Based Upon More than Just a Difference in Income

by Wendy Alton

A common misperception of people going through a divorce in Michigan is that spousal support (formerly called alimony) is based solely or mostly upon a difference in income between the spouses. While it is true that the court considers income when deciding if spousal support should be awarded—income is just 1 of 14 factors that the courts review.

In deciding whether or not spousal support should be awarded, the court must review the following factors before a decision is made, Berger v Berger 277 Mich App 700, 726-7 (2008):

1. The past relations and conduct of both spouses
2. The length of the marriage
3. The ability of both spouses to work
4. The source and amount of property awarded to each spouse
5. The spouses’ respective ages
6. The ability of both spouses to pay spousal support
7. The present situation of each spouse
8. The needs of each spouse
9. The health of each spouse
10. The prior standard of living of the couple and whether either is responsible for the support of others
11. Contributions of the spouses respectively to joint marital property
12. A spouse’s fault in causing the divorce
13. The effect of cohabitation on the spouse’s financial status
14. General principles of equity.

There are no hard and fast rules for determining if spousal support should be awarded, how much should be awarded and for how long. Each case is reviewed independently and separately to determine the answer to these questions.

If you are interested in learning more about divorce or family law, please call Wendy Alton at 248-380-9976 or email her at

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