Are there additional complications of spousal-support in same-sex divorces?
In a historic move, the United States Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that same-sex couples in all states have the legal right to marry. The decision also dictates that all states are required to recognize marriages legally performed in other locations.
If married in the US on or after June 26, 2015, for example, this would mean that all states are required to acknowledge your marriage as legal. This remains true even if you and your spouse wed before that date in a state where gay marriage was legal. In Michigan, the state also recognizes marriages that took place between March 21 and 22, 2014.
Even if your situation doesn’t follow one of the examples we just mentioned, you may still have a valid marriage.
If you and your spouse have decided to dissolve your marriage, there are several issues that you will have to work out including those related to debt, property division, and even spousal support.
What is Spousal Support?
In the state of Michigan, a spousal award is a sum of money that is paid by one spouse to the other to provide financial support either before or after marital separation or divorce.
The purpose of spousal support (also known as alimony) is to help shield one party from being unfairly impacted by the economic effects that a divorce can have on a family. If one spouse is not working or earns significantly less than the other person, spousal support will ensure that they have a continuing income after parting ways.
The Michigan Supreme Court established in Sparks v Sparks, 440 Mich 141 (1992) that certain factors must be considered to establish a spousal support order. These factors include:
- The total length of the marriage
- The ability of both parties to earn a living wage
- Past relations and behavior of both parties
- The age of both spouses
- The ability of both parties to pay out alimony
- The current circumstances of both parties
- The current needs of the individuals
- The health of both parties
- The standard of living of the couple before separation, and whether either party is responsible for the care of others
- Other general principles related to equity
A judge will make determinations on a case by case basis to decide whether spousal support should be awarded, and establish how long a spouse should receive alimony. The courts will also consider the amount of property awarded in a settlement and its income-earning potential when considering spousal support.
Payment and Enforcement of Alimony in Michigan
Spousal support is usually paid through the office of the Friend of the Court. Once the payment has been collected, this office is then responsible for redistributing the funds to the appropriate party. This allows for both individuals to easily track payments and receive assistance from the court if payments are not made as ordered.
If a former spouse refuses to make alimony payments, enforcement will be handled through a procedure called an Order to Show Cause.
You should also note that there may be certain tax implications related to payment or receipt of spousal support. Consult with your Michigan divorce attorney for more information.
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