What are the legal steps to obtain spousal support in Michigan?

Understanding Spousal Support in Michigan

Spousal support, commonly referred to as alimony, is a legal obligation for one spouse to provide financial assistance to the other spouse during and/or after a divorce or legal separation. In Michigan, spousal support is not an automatic right, and its award depends on various factors. This article outlines the legal steps required to obtain spousal support in the state of Michigan.

Initial Considerations

Before delving into the legal process, it is important to understand that spousal support in Michigan is gender-neutral and can be awarded to either spouse based on need and ability to pay. The primary purpose of spousal support is to balance the financial effects of divorce by providing continuing income to a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse.

Filing for Divorce and Requesting Spousal Support

The first step in obtaining spousal support is filing for divorce. When one spouse files a complaint for divorce, they can include a request for spousal support in the initial filing. If the request is not made at this stage, it can also be raised during the divorce proceedings before the final judgment.

Temporary Spousal Support

While the divorce is pending, a party can file a motion for temporary spousal support. This type of support aims to maintain the status quo and provide financial stability during the divorce process. A hearing will be set, and both parties will have the opportunity to present their financial situation to the court. The judge will then make a determination based on immediate needs.

Factors Considered by the Court

In determining whether to grant spousal support, Michigan courts consider several factors outlined in Michigan Compiled Laws Section 552.23(1). These factors include:

No single factor is determinative, and courts have discretion in weighing each factor's importance relative to each case's circumstances.

Negotiating Spousal Support

If both parties can reach an agreement on spousal support, they can submit their agreement to the court for approval. The agreement should outline payment amounts, duration, and conditions under which support would terminate. Once approved by a judge, this agreement becomes legally binding and enforceable as part of the final divorce judgment.

Trial and Court Determination

If parties cannot agree on spousal support terms, they will go to trial where a judge will decide based on evidence presented by both sides. Issues such as property division, child custody, and child support can also influence spousal support determinations at trial.

Modification and Termination

Once ordered, spousal support can be modified if there has been a significant change in circumstances. Either party may file a motion with the court requesting an adjustment or termination of spousal support payments. The party seeking modification must provide evidence that justifies their request for change.