Spousal Support

Spousal support, also called alimony, is a sum of money usually paid by one spouse to another spouse for the support and maintenance of the spouse. The factors the court considers in awarding spousal support are as follows:

  • the past relations and conduct of the parties (fault)
  • the length of the marriage
  • the ability of the parties to work and their respective incomes
  • the source and amount of property awarded to the parties
  • the ability of the parties to pay spousal support
  • 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
  • the age and educational level of the person claiming spousal support

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.

Regular or periodic spousal support clauses in the judgment of divorce are modifiable at any time. When limitations are placed in the judgment regarding modification, specific language is necessary to try and ensure that the court will honor these limitations. Spousal support may be increased, decreased, or canceled, is based on a showing of a change in circumstances that warrants a modification.

Regular or periodic spousal support is usually taxable to the recipient and is deductible by the payer. The phrase “payment until death” must be part of the spousal support clause for it to be considered as taxable spousal support. This type of spousal support is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Qualifying clauses such as “payable until remarriage” may be included.

Another type of spousal support, referred to as Alimony in Gross, has all the attributes of a property settlement and is not modifiable. This type of spousal support is for an amount certain and has no qualifying clauses such as “payable until remarriage.” The court will look to the intent of the parties to determine the nature of the spousal support.

There are many tax consequences and restrictions in regard to spousal support and spousal support in gross, which your attorney or your accountant should explain to you. Because both federal and state tax laws and their interpretation continually change, your attorney cannot guarantee any tax consequences resulting from your divorce proceedings and the judgment of divorce.

Spousal support is usually paid through the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MiSDU). 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 if payments are not forthcoming or a spouse denies receiving payments.
The enforcement of regular or periodic spousal support payments is usually instituted by an order to show cause. Your attorney will explain the procedure to you on request. Spousal support in gross is more difficult to enforce, and there are other procedures available for enforcement and/or collection.

With respect to health care coverage, your attorney will explain to you, on request, your options, including your right, if applicable, to elect health care under COBRA (a federal law that makes health care insurance portable in some instances).

Call an experienced Family Law attorney at the Cohen Law Office, P.C. today to discuss whether you may be entitled to Spousal Support.