What is Spousal Support?
In Michigan, a spousal support award (formerly referred to as “alimony”) is a sum of money paid by one spouse to another spouse for the support and maintenance of that spouse. In many large marital estates, as well as in long term marriages, spousal support should be considered.
The principal purpose of spousal support is to allow both parties to proceed with the balance of their lives after the divorce without impoverishing one party or the other. The factors that are required to be considered by the court in awarding alimony were set forth by the Michigan Supreme Court in Sparks v Sparks, 440 Mich 141 (1992), and include:
- The past relations and conduct of the parties;
- The length of the marriage;
- The ability of the parties to work;
- The source and amount of property awarded to the parties;
- The age of the parties;
- The ability of the parties to pay alimony;
- The present situation of the parties;
- The needs of the parties;
- The health of the parties;
- The prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others; and
- Other general principles of equity.
Whether spousal support should be awarded and the amount and length of time that the spousal support should be paid are determined on a case by case basis. While the above-listed factors are important in determining whether spousal support should be paid, the length of the marriage, the age of the parties and the difference in income of the parties are all pivotal in this inquiry.
Tax Implications of Alimony Payments
As a general rule, alimony is taxable income for the recipient of the payment, and is tax deductible for the spouse ordered to pay alimony. The phrase “payment until death,” must be part of the alimony clause, if it is to be considered as taxable alimony.
There may be other tax implications regarding the payment or receipt of alimony. Both state and federal laws may have an impact on the taxation of alimony payments. Any person who pays or receives alimony is encouraged to discuss the tax implications of alimony payments with both their attorney and their accountant, to ensure that they are complying with all of the applicable tax regulations.
Please visit the section on tax issues and divorce to learn more.
Payment and Enforcement in Michigan
Alimony is usually paid through the office of the Friend of the Court, which will then redistribute the payment to the entitled former spouse. This enables both parties to maintain an accurate record of 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 alimony payments is usually instituted by an Order to Show Cause. The procedure will be explained to you by your Michigan divorce attorney upon request.
Inter-Relationship Between Property Settlement and Spousal Support
The issue of spousal support, and its duration and amount, is closely related to issues associated with the allocation of property settlement between the parties in a divorce. This is particularly true in cases involving large marital estates. The Court is obligated to examine and consider the amount of property awarded, and its income potential, when considering spousal support. The Court must consider the level of spousal support as it examines proposed property settlement allocations between the parties.
There are times when the Court may allow for an allocation of property settlement in an amount other than an even split of the assets, in lieu of awarding spousal support. This is especially true when the need for spousal support is marginal, or when the spousal support payments may not be necessary for a long period of time. In such cases, the Court may determine that by allocating extra property to one party, the need for payment of spousal support can be avoided altogether.