Unlike child support, in Michigan, there is no "formula" for determining an amount of spousal support or alimony. Instead, the issue of spousal support is governed by common law or case law precedence. A court charged with awarding an amount of spousal support must review several factors, including the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, the educational background of the parties, the income level of both parties, the amount of property awarded to each party, the needs of the parties, the health of the parties, the lifestyle of the parties, and whether one or the other party is at fault for breakdown of the marriage. Although there are computer "guidelines" which attempt to take these factors into consideration, this is an area of law where judges' awards are considerably inconsistent. Some judges employ their own "thumbnail guidelines," and consistently award one third of the income of the payer to arrive at an amount and one third of the length of the marriage, to arrive at the term of spousal support. Others take all of the factors into consideration; others do use the "guidelines," while other judges find the guidelines to be unhelpful or repugnant.
Length of the marriage and income level are important measuring factors wherein the division of labor during a long term marriage resulted in one breadwinner spouse and the other spouse having maintained the home and children. In these cases, usually a spouse maintaining the family is currently at an age where he or she will never have the opportunity to earn anywhere near the level of income generated by the breadwinner spouse. This situation usually lends itself to a substantial amount of long-term alimony. In other cases, spousal support might be considered rehabilitative, thus awarded for a shorter term with the amount tailored to allow for support during re-training or education for the recipient spouse. In cases where both parties have income that will sustain each of them, no spousal support is usually awarded. Spousal support is not usually awarded in very short term marriages, and if it is, it is for a very short duration. Property division also impacts an award of spousal support because a party may be awarded income-producing assets to help sustain the prior lifestyle.
The issue of an award of spousal support is usually determined on a case-by-case basis. Our attorneys perform a careful examination of the financial circumstances surrounding the marriage and eventual divorce, as well as the future family structure when providing advice to clients regarding spousal support.