• (616) 454-5222

Everything You need to know about Spousal Support from a Grand Rapids Spousal Support Attorney

October 3, 2023 John Engman & Associates

Everything You need to know about Spousal Support from a Grand Rapids Spousal Support Attorney

alimony attorney Grand rapids

As Grand Rapids Alimony Attorneys, we understand divorce is a life-altering event that can bring about a multitude of financial and emotional challenges. One of the many aspects that often arises during divorce proceedings is alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance. Alimony is a critical component of many divorces, yet it remains a concept that many people may not fully understand. In this blog post, we will dive into what alimony is, how it works, and the key factors that influence it.

What is Alimony?

At its core, alimony is a financial arrangement made between divorcing or separated spouses. It involves one spouse making regular payments to the other to provide financial support after the marriage has ended. The primary purpose of alimony is to help the lower-earning spouse maintain a standard of living that is similar to what they experienced during the marriage.

Types of Alimony

Spousal support (commonly known as alimony) is divided into two types: short-term and long-term or otherwise known as permanent support. Long-term support is known as “reimbursement” support. Before the divorce is finalized, a spouse may be eligible for temporary assistance.

The length of time one ex-spouse must help support the other, as well as the amount of support, is entirely up to the judge’s discretion. Some judges begin by assuming that support should last half as long as the marriage and then work their way up or down based on other conditions.

Most states don’t have rules for how long assistance should be provided, but others do—in Texas and Indiana, for example, payments are limited to three years unless specific conditions apply. Support in Utah can’t last as long as the marriage did. In some places, a court must order assistance if the marriage has lasted at least ten years. The length of time that support lasts is determined by the nature of the support. However, here in Michigan, spousal support can last as long as the judge deems fit or when certain events occur such as remarriage.

It’s possible that a former spouse will be supported in more than one way at the same time. If a spouse receives more than one type of support, such as rehabilitative and short-term.  The rehabilitative support will terminate once the spouse returns to work. The short-term assistance would be provided until its expiration date.

Temporary Support During the Divorce Process

Wherever you are on the timeline of your Michigan divorce, know you don’t have to wait until your divorce is finalized to hash out spousal support agreements with your spouse. In fact,  while your divorce is still pending, the spouse that makes a lower income might need it to survive. Quite often, our households are not even when it comes to the division of income and household responsibilities.  When there is a separation, this needs to be made more even so that the other spouse making less can also support themselves as they are used to while married.

Making a formal agreement about temporary help is always a smart idea. (For one example, payments are only tax deductible if a contract is signed.) If you can’t agree on a temporary support amount, you’ll most likely end up arguing about it in court. If you have a right to support, it begins the moment you separate, therefore, go to court as quickly as possible.

Support for the Short-Term and Rehabilitative

grand rapids alimony attorneyWhen the marriage was short-lived, judges order short-term assistance. Short-term support is just for a few years, and the court ruling specifies when it will expire.

Rehabilitative support, often known as “bridge the gap” support, is a type of short-term assistance aimed to assist a dependent spouse in retraining and returning to work. It will last till the beneficiary is able to return to work. In most cases, that deadline isn’t carved in stone—the agreement is that support payments would end when the recipient completes some sort of education that helps them return to the workforce.

The beneficiary is responsible for completing the training or course of study in a timely manner and then looking for work. Until that point, the other spouse is responsible for paying the support—and a payer who feels the recipient isn’t genuinely striving to finish school or find job can ask the court to cut the support amount or set a termination date. The party requesting the adjustment would have to demonstrate that the other ex-spouse was not putting forth enough effort.

Support on a long-term or permanent basis

After a long marriage (usually more than ten years), permanent support may be given if the judge determines that the dependent spouse is unlikely to return to work and will require support eternally. Some states may not permit long-term support.

It’s strange, but even so-called “permanent” assistance eventually runs out. It, of course, comes to an end when either the beneficiary or the payer passes away. However, it may also come to an end if the receiver marries again. It also terminates in roughly half of the states if the recipient begins to live in a  marriage-like partnership or moves in with another party in which the pair shares financial responsibility and mutual support.

Support for Reimbursement

The only sort of spousal support that isn’t entirely based on financial need is reimbursement support. Instead, it’s a means to pay a spouse who postponed schooling, training, or career progress to maintain the family while the other spouse pursued a prosperous professional career. In this case, both spouses believed that after the first spouse was professionally established and earned a higher income, the other spouse would benefit from the greater standard of living.   Once this occurred, then it would be the other person’s turn; however, divorce happened instead of each other helping one another.  If the marriage ends before the supportive spouse receives any of the predicted benefits, reimbursement support helps to rebalance the scales by requiring the professional spouse to return some of the benefits that were given during the marriage.

Reimbursement assistance terminates when the agreement or court decision says it should because it isn’t based on necessity. Its termination isn’t usually linked to a specific event, such as the sponsored spouse finding job or remarrying.

Common Misconceptions and FAQs Regarding Spousal Support in Grand Rapids

Let’s address some common misconceptions and frequently asked questions about spousal support in Michigan:

  • Is spousal support permanent in Michigan? No, it can be temporary or long-term, depending on the circumstances.
  • Is spousal support taxable? Tax laws have changed; it’s essential to consult with a tax professional.
  • Can cohabitation affect spousal support? Yes, it can impact spousal support if it affects financial status.
  • Is alimony awarded in every divorce case? No, alimony is not automatically awarded in every divorce case. It depends on the specific circumstances of the marriage and the financial needs of the recipient spouse
  • Can alimony be modified after it’s been established?Yes, alimony can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances for either spouse. For example, if the paying spouse experiences a significant change in income or the recipient spouse remarries, alimony may be adjusted.
  • What happens to alimony if the recipient spouse remarries? In most cases, alimony terminates if the recipient spouse remarries. This is because the financial support is no longer needed due to the new marital partnership.
  • Can alimony payments be enforced if the paying spouse refuses to comply?
    Yes, alimony payments can be enforced through legal means if the paying spouse fails to comply with the court-ordered alimony agreement. Enforcement actions may include wage garnishment or other legal remedies.
  • Can prenuptial agreements affect alimony decisions? – Yes, prenuptial agreements can have an impact on alimony decisions. If the agreement addresses spousal support, it may supersede state laws in determining the amount and duration of alimony.

Factors Considered by Michigan Courts for Alimony

When it comes to spousal support in Michigan, it’s a complex blend of legal considerations and individual circumstances. In the pursuit of fair and just resolutions, Michigan courts scrutinize various factors that play a pivotal role in determining spousal support outcomes. At John Engman and Associates, P.C., located in Grand Rapids, we recognize the importance of understanding these factors comprehensively. From the behavior exhibited during the marriage to the financial capacity of each party, these elements weave together a tapestry of spousal support decisions that can significantly impact individuals’ lives post-divorce. In this guide, we delve into the key factors that Michigan courts carefully consider when addressing spousal support matters, shedding light on the intricacies of this critical aspect of family law.

Behavior During Marriage

Michigan courts take into account how each spouse behaved during the marriage when determining spousal support. While fault alone does not justify an award, understanding this aspect is crucial.

Length of the Marriage

The duration of your marriage plays a significant role. Longer marriages are more likely to result in spousal support awards, especially if one spouse lacks career prospects.

Employability and Job Skills

The court assesses each spouse’s employability and job skills. Spousal support may be awarded if one party is unlikely to find work or needs time to acquire job skills.

Property Division

The type and amount of property each party receives in the divorce are considered. Spousal support may be appropriate if one party primarily receives non-cash assets.

Ages of the Parties

Age matters. Older individuals who have not worked during the marriage are more likely to need spousal support, but retirement status can also influence the decision.

Financial Capacity

Michigan courts balance the paying spouse’s earning capacity with the recipient’s ability to support themselves.

Current Living Situations

The court evaluates the current living situations of both parties, including their earning potential and career prospects.

Needs and Health

Health conditions can impact the ability to work and support oneself. The court considers each party’s needs and health.

Standard of Living

The standard of living during the marriage serves as a reference point. The goal may be to ensure that both parties maintain a fair standard of living post-divorce.

Responsibility for Others

If either party has the responsibility to support others, such as children, this can affect spousal support decisions.

Contributions to the Marriage

Contributions to the marriage encompass more than financial aspects. For example, raising children can be viewed as an equal contribution.


Living with someone else can influence spousal support decisions and financial statuses.


Fairness is a cornerstone in spousal support determinations. The court strives for equitable outcomes.

In the intricate landscape of divorce proceedings and spousal support determinations, knowledge is power. At John Engman and Associates, P.C. in Grand Rapids, we understand that these matters are deeply personal, and their outcomes can significantly impact your future. As we’ve explored the myriad factors Michigan courts consider when evaluating spousal support, we’ve highlighted the need for expert guidance and personalized support.

Contact Your Grand Rapids Alimony Attorney Today!

Our dedicated Grand Rapids alimony attorneys are here to help you navigate this complex terrain, ensuring that your rights and interests are protected every step of the way. Whether you’re facing a short-term or long-term support situation, we are committed to providing the counsel and advocacy you deserve. Contact us at (616) 454-5222 for a free consultation, and let us guide you through the path to a fair and equitable resolution. Your future is our priority, and we’re here to help you achieve it.

 Our Grand Rapids family law attorneys would be more than happy to assess the details of your case. To request a free consultation, call John Engman & Associates at (616) 454-5222.