Spousal Support in Michigan and Indiana

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Michigan and Indiana differ significantly as it pertains to spousal support, otherwise known as “alimony.” In Indiana, a spouse may make a claim for “maintenance” under three limited legal theories:

1. If the spouse has very limited mental capacity to the extent that the spouse’s ability to support himself or herself is materially affected; or

2. If the spouse claiming maintenance is the primary custodial parent for the parties’ child(ren), whose needs requires the spouse to forego employment to take care of the child(ren), and, that spouse has a financial need for additional financing above what child support provides; or

3. Establishing that all of the following factors are relevant to the case:

(a) the educational level of each spouse at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced;

(b) whether an interruption in the education, training, or employment of a spouse who is seeking maintenance occurred during the marriage as a result of homemaking or child care responsibilities, or both;

(c) the earning capacity of each spouse, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, and length of presence in or absence from the job market; and

(d) the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse who is seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment.

As you can see, Indiana’s maintenance provisions are either protective of mentally incapacitated children or adults, or rehabilitative in nature to the extent it helps a spouse reenter the workforce. This analysis doesn’t consider “fault.” Fault, in terms of divorce, usually means adultery. Income disparity between spouses, standing alone, is insufficient. Older age, standing alone, is insufficient. The length of the parties’ marriage, standing alone, is insufficient. These are huge differences from Michigan law.

Michigan is much more liberal with spousal support. In Michigan, there are fourteen factors the court will consider in awarding spousal support:

  1. Parties’ past relations and conduct
  2. Length of the marriage.
  3. Parties’ ability to work.
  4. Source and amount of property awarded to the parties.
  5. Parties’ ages.
  6. Ability to pay spousal support.
  7. Parties present situation.
  8. Parties needs.
  9. Parties’ health.
  10. Prior standard of living of the parties and whether the parties support others.
  11. Parties’ contributions to the joint estate.
  12. A party’s fault in causing the divorce.
  13. How cohabitation affects a party’s financial status.
  14. General principles of equity.
Despite these factors, a very persuasive consideration Michigan Courts look to in awarding spousal support are the financial needs of the spouse making the claim for support in light of the other spouse’s ability to pay. In other words, income disparity, standing alone, is sufficient to make a prima facia case for spousal support in Michigan. The dollar amount and length of time one spouse must pay simply goes up or down depending on length of the marriage, or if one of the parties has significant health concerns, or if one of the parties committed adultery. Translated: the factors are used for negotiating or deciding how much should be paid and for how long.

At the LaBre Law Office, we’re licensed in Michigan and Indiana. We can explain the nuances between Michigan and Indiana law and help you plan your divorce. Please give us a call if you think we can help you with your case.

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