How do I know if I will receive or be ordered to pay alimony?

There are some computerized formulas that attorneys use to get an idea of whether you will owe alimony and if so, how much and for how long. These formulas are not binding on the court like child support guidelines are.

The court considers the following factors in making a decision as to whether to award alimony:

  1. The past relations and conduct of the parties;
  2. The length of the marriage;
  3. The parties' ability to work;
  4. The source of an amount of property awarded to the parties;
  5. The age of the parties;
  6. The parties' ability to pay alimony;
  7. The present situation of the parties;
  8. The needs of the parties;
  9. The health of the parties;
  10. The parties' prior standard of living and whether either is responsible for the support of others;
  11. General principles of equity.

The main purpose of alimony is to balance the incomes and needs of the parties in a way that would not impoverish either party. There is no sense of “entitlement” when it comes to alimony.

If the court decides to award alimony, it must then consider the following factors in deciding the amount of alimony:

  1. The duration of the marriage;
  2. The contributions of the parties to the joint estate;
  3. The age of the parties;
  4. The health of the parties;
  5. The parties' station in life;
  6. The necessities and circumstances of the parties;
  7. The earning ability of the parties.

Some courts are unwilling to award any substantial amount of alimony unless the parties have been married for 10 years or more. Shorter marriages may warrant some form of “rehabilitative alimony.”

In Michigan, parties can agree to an award of alimony that cannot be modified.  The court itself cannot put these limits on alimony, but the parties can and then the court will enforce it.

If alimony is “barred” at the time of the divorce with regard to one of the parties, then the court cannot later award alimony to that party.

Alimony is the same as spousal support.  The words “spousal support” are preferred these days.