Spousal support (also known as alimony or maintenance in other states) is often complex and a gray area in Michigan. Because Michigan doesn’t have written guidelines or a formula for spousal support, its determination can be largely based on the discretion of a judge. However, since the vast majority of divorce cases in Michigan aren’t decided by a Judge (i.e. don’t settle at trial), divorcing clients are often left wondering at to expect.
This blog will help shed some light as I break down some of the factors that can be considered as well as the role professionals play in the support negotiation process.
In fact, negotiating spousal support is a key reason divorcing parties in Michigan need experienced family law attorneys and divorce financial professionals on their team. Based on the circumstances of a case, an experienced divorce attorney understands the factors that can be considered and, more importantly, how they should be weighted. An experienced divorce financial advisor provides valuable support by helping to gather and present evidence to support the attorney’s positions.
Here are some of the factors that can be considered when deciding spousal support:
- Longer marriages are generally more likely to result in spousal support, so the duration of the marriage is an important factor.
- The income earning capacity of each spouse is also taken into account. This includes their current income and ability to earn income in the future.
- The age and health of each spouse are considered. This includes their physical, emotional and mental health.
- The standard of living that was established during the marriage is often taken into account.
- Contributions of each spouse to the marriage are considered. This includes child-rearing, homemaking and supporting the other spouse’s career.
- Other factors that may be considered include fault in the breakdown of the marriage, the size of the marital estate, the size of any separate property and the educational level of the parties as well as other relevant factors.
Building a case
Since spousal support is generally a negotiated aspect of divorce, building a case for spousal support often requires the assistance of a financial planner who is specifically trained and experienced in divorce. In conjunction with the attorney and client, here are some steps that a financial advisor will take to help build a case for or against spousal support:
They will start by helping clients determine their monthly needs including fixed and discretionary expenses that take inflation into consideration. This is often done through the creation of a post-divorce budget worksheet. Then, your spouse’s financial needs will also be similarly assessed. This will help determine how much support may be needed to balance the parties’ relative financial positions after the divorce in a fair and equitable manner.
The financial advisor will also take into consideration each party’s current and future income earning potential, including wages, Social Security, pension benefits and earnings on investments. Last, to build a case for or against spousal support, your financial advisor will also provide evidence of your financial situation through the creation of a detailed marital balance sheet with financial projections based on different settlement scenarios. This process may include gathering and reviewing bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, retirement account information and other financial documents.
Remember that spousal support is not guaranteed, and the specific terms of the arrangement will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. It is important to work with a qualified team of professionals who can help you build a strong case and advocate for your personal financial needs during and after the divorce.
For more information about how Pearl Planning can assist you during your divorce, reach out at email@example.com.
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