When irreconcilable differences arise between a married couple, divorce may be the only option. When it happens, both parties must deal with a wide range of issues from child support, division of property and possibly spousal support.

Divorcing couples in Michigan may find it interesting to know that, in most states, depending on the length of the marriage and disparities in income, one spouse may be required by the court to pay a permanent alimony or spousal support to their ex-spouse. In fact, a 48-year-old woman who decided to get a divorce from her husband after nearly two decades of marriage was required by the court to pay her ex-husband $1500 per month in spousal support.

In general, the purpose of spousal support is to minimize the potential economic impact on individuals who may have enjoyed a higher standard of living during the marriage because of either two incomes in the household during marriage or because one spouse was a higher wage earner. In the case above, the wife was the higher wage earner while her ex-husband worked in construction on and off. Courts have broad discretion in determining whether or not to award spousal support to one spouse.

In Michigan, courts consider various factors to determine if spousal support is warranted. These include the length of the marriage, the health status and ages of the divorcing couple and the earning capacity of both the parties. Even though these factors are given due consideration, it is imperative to remember that in today’s hard economic times, the earning capacity of the ex-spouse obligated by the court to pay spousal support may change from high income to low or no income. In such an event, a modification may be necessary.

However, it is important for parties in a similar situation as the case above to remember that spousal support is negotiable. Parties can draft a fair spousal support arrangement by setting up specific provisions. For example, if it should be temporary support until the low or no-wage earning spouse garners work skills and training for self-sufficiency and gainful employment or if it should be long-term spousal support.

During a divorce, the issue of spousal support may surface. When it does surface, both parties should be aware of their legal options and the factors that are applied to make a determination.

Source: WABC, “More women paying alimony to ex-husbands,” Darla Miles, Sept. 25, 2012