Quick Guide to Spousal Support

By Daniel H Moss, Attorney

Spousal support, formerly called alimony, is a sum of money usually paid by one spouse to another spouse for their support and maintenance. The terms “spousal support” and “alimony” are frequently used interchangeably. The major factors considered by the court in awarding alimony are as follows:

  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 and amount of property awarded to the parties.
  5. The ability of the parties to pay alimony.
  6. The present situation of the parties.
  7. The needs of the parties.
  8. The health of the parties.
  9. The prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others.

Generally, Judgments of Divorce in which spousal support is not granted must either expressly reserve the question of spousal support or rule that neither party is entitled to spousal support.

Modifying Spousal Support

Spousal support may be raised, lowered, or cancelled, unless specific language is put in the Judgment making it non-modifiable. A modification is based upon a showing of a change in circumstances, which would warrant a modification.

Non-modifiable spousal support is limited to a negotiated amount certain and a negotiated term of years. It is not modifiable if the payer’s income or the payee’s income goes up or down.

If there is a trial and the Court awards spousal support, it is always subject to modification.

Spousal Support Taxation

Regular or periodic alimony was usually taxable to the recipient, and deductible by the payer if ordered in a Judgment before January 1, 2019. Spousal support awarded in a Judgment after January 1, 2019 is no longer tax deductible nor includible as income.

Spousal Support is not subject to bankruptcy action.

As tax laws and their interpretation continually change, as well as state laws and their interpretations, your attorney cannot guarantee any tax consequences resulting from your divorce proceedings and the Judgment of Divorce.

Spousal Support Payments and Enforcement

Spousal support is usually paid through the office of the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MSDU). This enables a party to obtain an accurate record of these payments. It also makes it easier to request assistance from the Friend of the Court in the event that payments are not forthcoming, or if a spouse denies receiving said payments.

Enforcement of regular or periodic alimony payments is usually instituted by an Order to Show Cause. Your attorney, upon request, will explain the procedure to you.

This information is intended to provide some general information. It is not intended to answer specific questions about a particular case, as each case is different.

If you have questions or are looking for advice about your specific situation, please contact me directly at 248.855.5656 or [email protected].