The Impact of Job Loss on Spousal Support in Michigan
The divorce process in Michigan is designed not only to legalize the dissolution of marriage, but to fully separate two lives, including dividing assets, deciding child custody, if applicable, and determining whether or not alimony or child support is in order, and to what extent. While alimony, or spousal support, will not be granted in every divorce, there are cases in which one spouse may be ordered to make support payments.
The awarding of spousal support could be based on a number of factors, including the income of both parties and the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. If one party earns significantly more income than the other, and/or the lower-earning spouse cannot support him/herself adequately as a result of the divorce, for example, alimony may be awarded.
What if the spouse required to pay alimony can’t, due to job loss? While spousal support payments aren’t usually set in stone the way child support is, you still have to pay or face penalties. Here are a few things you should know if you lose your job and you can’t afford to pay spousal support.
Penalties for Failure to Pay
If you are ordered by a court to pay spousal support, you need to understand that failure to pay is a felony crime. If your spouse takes you to court for failure to pay, you could be fined up to $2,000 and/or sentenced to up to 4 years in prison.
In other words, you can’t just stop paying. Not having a job is no excuse to miss court ordered spousal support payments. What can you do? There are a couple of options.
First, you could try communicating with your ex to see if you can make some sort of arrangement to pay a lesser amount for a short time, then make back payments when you’re once again gainfully employed. Or you could file for an alimony modification.
Modifying Spousal Support
The courts are not unreasonable – they understand that job loss can make it difficult or impossible to continue scheduled alimony payments. However, you can’t just stop paying. You must go through the court system if you want to modify spousal support.
Modification of spousal support may be approved if you:
- Receive a reduction in pay
- Lose a job
- Suffer unemployment or underemployment due to medical causes
Modifications may also be requested if your spouse:
- Increases earnings
- Receives a windfall (such as inheritance)
- Remarries (or enters into cohabitation, in some cases)
Requesting a modification starts with filing a petition that outlines your causes for seeking long-term adjustment of the amount of alimony. Your ex-spouse will be allowed to respond to this request, after which a hearing will be scheduled and each party will be asked to present evidence (documents, testimony, etc.). The court will then determine if modification is warranted and what the new terms the spousal support will take.
If you have waived your right to modify spousal support as part of your divorce agreement, via a provision that states alimony is binding and nonmodifiable, the court will not entertain your petition.
If you need help modifying spousal support due to job loss, contact the qualified attorneys at The Gucciardo Law Firm today at 248-723-5190 or online to schedule a free consultation and learn more.
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