Can I Change My Alimony In Michigan?

With inflation on the rise, many are looking to have their alimony payments modified in Michigan.

Is changing the amount of your alimony possible in Wayne County? How do you get your spousal support amended? We’ll explore these and other questions in this article.

What is Alimony?

Reduce your alimony payments in Wayne County

Alimony, or spousal support, is a payment ordered by the court from one spouse to another. Unlike child support, there is no ‘formula’ for spousal support in Michigan. The court will evaluate 12 factors once a petition for alimony is made. Once the court evaluates these factors, it will render a decision on whether spousal support should be paid, how much, and which of the parties is going to pay it.

Alimony exists because many years ago, one spouse would work and be the breadwinner while the other would manage the home. More often than not back then, it was the husband who was the breadwinner, while the wife would be a homemaker. Often, the homemaking spouse would be unable to be secure after a divorce, as they would have no means of support. So spousal support was the court’s remedy.

Over the years, the dynamics of the family have changed drastically. Most households now require two incomes to maintain. This is especially true today in the wake of high inflation and other economic issues. In 1967, for example, only 18% of U.S. households were two-income homes. Now, that percentage is estimated to be between 52% and 58%. So the way the court determines alimony in Michigan has changed as well.

The 12 Factors Determining Alimony in Michigan

As mentioned above, there are 12 factors that the court evaluates when determining spousal support in Michigan. Those 12 factors are somewhat subjective, with the courts in Wayne County weighing some factors more than others in their decisions.

The 12 factors the court takes into consideration are:

  • The ages of the spouses: The court may find that the younger a spouse is, the more earning potential they have, and will not order as much alimony be paid to that spouse. Or, courts have found that older spouses are not entitled to as much alimony, as they have less lifespan left. This is very subjective criteria.
  • The health of each spouse: Somewhat more objective criteria comes from the health of the spouses. If one spouse has ongoing medical expenses, such as a chronic heart condition, they may be entitled to more support. Conversely, a spouse with high medical expenses may not be ordered to pay as much alimony as is sought.
  • The needs of both spouses: If the marital home is granted to one spouse, then the other will need to seek housing. In some instances, one spouse may have been paying more than half the bills, so the other would need some support to pay their necessary expenses.
  • Each spouses earning capacity: The court will evaluate current income levels of both spouses, but also the earning potential over time of both. For example, if one spouse is working at a high powered law firm and the other is a server, the income and potential income of the attorney spouse is clearly higher. However, the potential income for a spouse that is currently enrolled in medical school will potentially be higher than their currently employed spouse.
  • Each parties’ conduct throughout the marriage: If there are documented cases of spousal abuse or domestic violence, general neglect, or substance abuse, this spouse may be ordered to pay more alimony.
  • The contributions of each spouse during the marriage: Was one spouse more attentive to the children’s needs? Was one more responsible to the growth of their shared wealth? Did either neglect to pay bills? These items can all be considered during a motion for alimony in Michigan.
  • The division of the marital property: The way the marital property was divided during the divorce will also be taken into account during a support hearing. If one spouse was given the home outright, or significant cash from a savings account, then that spouse may be entitled to less alimony.

Other factors will come into play as well. These are the major factors the court considers during a spousal support decision. As you can see, much of the criteria is subjective and also requires documentation. A skilled local divorce attorney will be your best bet in this situation.

Changing spousal support in Wayne County.

Is Changing the Amount Of Spousal Support You Pay Possible in Wayne County?

There are two basic types of alimony, modifiable or non-modifiable alimony.  If the case does not settle and goes to a trial in front of a judge and the judge awards spousal support, then the spousal support is modifiable. A judge can only order modifiable alimony without the agreement of the parties.  Modifiable alimony can basically be modified upon a change in circumstances at any time after the divorce.  If the divorcing couple agrees in mediation or settlement negotiations to non-modifiable alimony, then the court may order support that must be paid in a set amount for a set number of years or months and cannot be changed under any circumstances.  There are advantages and drawbacks to each that must be discussed with your Wayne County divorce attorney before entering into settlement negotiations.

If you have non-modifiable alimony and you are looking to change what you are paying or receiving, unfortunately non-modifiable means just that, you cannot change it and you are stuck with it regardless of almost any changes that may have occurred since the divorce.  If you have modifiable alimony, there may be certain circumstances listed in your judgment that qualify for the court to immediately consider changing the support amount, such as retirement or other life changing events.

If your judgment does not list specific events, then you will have to first prove to the court that there has been a significant change in circumstances that justify revisiting the alimony or spousal support award.  If you are able to prove to the court that such a change has occurred then the court will reconsider the alimony amount and may modify it to a higher monthly payment or a lower monthly payment based upon the current situation for the parties.

How Can Alimony Be Adjusted in Wayne County?

To modify your alimony in Wayne County, you must petition the court for a modification immediately upon a change in circumstances, such as losing a job.  You cannot unilaterally decide that there has been a change and stop paying.  For instance, you cannot retire and expect to simply stop paying, you must petition the court and get the court’s approval or otherwise get an order from the court modifying the alimony otherwise arrears will continue to accrue.  This is extremely important because spousal support is not retroactively modifiable, so once that alimony is due and owed, you cannot go back and get ride of the arrears that have accrued.

The court can only retroactively modify the amount of alimony to the date you filed the motion requesting the modification.  For instance, if you retire on January 1 and file your motion the same day but there is a three month delay until the court can hear the case and issue the decision, the court can modify the amount back to January 1, the date you retired and filed the motion.  If you retire January 1, but don’t file until March 1, then the court hears the case three months later, the court can only modify the alimony back to March 1, you are stuck with the arrears that accrued between January 1 and March 1 and there is nothing anyone can do for you.

Need to modify your spousal support, or handle a spousal support hearing? Contact The Mitten Law Firm today.