In Michigan, you can have your cake and eat it too when it comes to alimony. A new relationship or even a new spouse won’t necessarily terminate alimony in the state.
Also called “maintenance” or “spousal support”, alimony’s purpose is to help a needy spouse recover from the financial impact of divorce. Typically a higher-earning spouse (“the obligor” or “paying spouse”) is ordered to pay the other spouse (“the recipient” or “supported spouse”) regular financial support. Spousal support is gender-neutral and is only awarded when one spouse has a significant financial need and the other spouse has the ability to meet that need through alimony payments.
Although alimony automatically terminates when either spouse dies, neither remarriage nor cohabitation will spell an instant end to alimony. Nevertheless, under some circumstances either spouse can request a reduction or increase to alimony. This article provides an overview of the effects of remarriage on alimony payments in Michigan. If after reading this article you have questions, please contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Even after divorcing spouses part, the duty to provide for each other may continue. A financially-strapped spouse can request spousal support to help meet his or her needs. In deciding alimony, a judge will examine the following:
The amount of spousal support awarded is decided on a case-by-case basis according to the needs and financial condition of the spouses. When support is ordered, it will typically be paid monthly, although alimony can also be paid as a one-time payment or transfer of property. To learn more about how alimony is calculated and awarded in Michigan, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Michigan.
Either spouse can file a request to modify alimony at any point after a divorce decree is entered. While some changes to support are automatic – like when either spouse dies – all other adjustments to alimony require the spouse seeking the change to file a motion with the court. Before support can be adjusted, the spouse seeking the adjustment must show changed circumstances that justify an alteration to alimony.
In cases where a divorce order has defined support as non-modifiable, support can’t be changed or terminated. Nevertheless, in all other cases, either spouse can file a request for the court to adjust alimony. Previously paid support can’t be refunded and alimony will still be owed while a motion is pending. However, future alimony can be adjusted or even terminated by the court.
Cohabitation doesn’t have a bright-line definition in Michigan. Instead, whether a live-in relationship between two unmarried adults amounts to cohabitation depends upon the totality of the circumstances. Some factors considered as evidence of a cohabitation relationship are shared finances, relatively permanent relationship and shared residence.
In most cases, cohabitation won’t result in an immediate end to alimony. However, cohabitation combined with increased financial support from a cohabitating partner may justify a reduction or end to alimony. Simply put, if a supported spouse’s financial needs drastically change as a result of contributions from a live-in partner, spousal support may be adjusted accordingly.
A divorce decree can call for spousal support to outlast a second marriage. When an order is silent as to remarriage, it is for a judge to decide whether alimony should continue after the wedding bells have rung. A judge may end support upon a recipient spouse’s remarriage, but doesn’t have to under Michigan law
Although remarriage usually constitutes a “changed circumstance” resulting in a cessation of alimony, that isn’t always the case. Certain types of alimony, like rehabilitative, may justify a continuation of support. However, if a supported spouse’s finances have been improved by remarriage, it’s likely the judge will decide to terminate alimony.
A paying spouse’s remarriage makes little difference when it comes to alimony. A supported spouse’s need is weighted more heavily than a paying spouse’s, thus alimony typically continues even after a paying spouse has re-wed. Nevertheless, if a new marriage leads to an obligor spouse’s inability to maintain his or her household while still proving support to an ex-spouse, a judge may decide to reduce alimony.
If you have additional questions about the impact of remarriage on alimony rights in Michigan, contact a local family law attorney for advice.