How is Alimony Determined in Michigan?

Navigating the complexities of divorce can be challenging, especially when it comes to understanding how alimony, or spousal support, is determined in Michigan. Unlike child support, which follows a clear formula, alimony decisions involve a variety of factors that consider the unique circumstances of each marriage. Michigan courts evaluate aspects such as the length of the marriage, the financial needs and resources of each spouse, their contributions to the marital estate, and their age and health.

If you are going through a divorce and concerned about how alimony might impact your financial future, it’s crucial to seek legal advice. At Clarity Family Law, our experienced spousal support lawyers in Dearborn understand the nuances of Michigan’s alimony laws and can provide personalized counsel to help protect your interests.

Call us today at (313) 513-1919 to set up a free consultation, and let us help you navigate the complexities of alimony determination to ensure a fair outcome in your divorce proceedings.

Types of Alimony

In the state of Michigan, there are four main types of spousal support:

  • Permanent Alimony
  • Temporary Alimony
  • Periodic Alimony
  • Lump Sump Payment

Permanent spousal support is pretty much what it sounds like. The judge will order one spouse to pay spousal support payments every month for the rest of their lives. This is most common in the case of a long-term marriage and when there is no prenuptial agreement in place.

After that, we have temporary alimony. With temporary alimony, the judge will only order the spouse to pay alimony for a short period of time. This time is intended to help the spouse who earns less to get back on their feet after the divorce process. Temporary alimony is typically awarded in the case of a shorter relationship and the duration of alimony will depend on the length of the marriage.

a divorce form, wedding ring, and money on a black background

Then there is periodic alimony. This type of alimony is usually utilized in cases where one spouse did not work for the duration of the marriage. The working spouse will be ordered to pay for an educational program or something that will help the non-working spouse gain the skills needed to secure a good job. After that, they will no longer have to pay alimony.

Finally, there is lump-sum support. This type of award of spousal support is rare, but can still be awarded if both the paying and recipient spouse request it. In lump-sum support, everything is divided at the time of the divorce and the recipient spouse simply receives a lump sum of money instead of smaller alimony payments every month. 

Factors Considered in Determining Alimony

Under alimony law, several factors are considered when deciding the award of spousal support.

Standard of Living During Marriage

The first factor that is considered is the standard of living during marriage. The idea in alimony law is that after the divorce, both parties should be able to maintain roughly the same standard of living as they did before. This will mean that the spouse with the higher income level will have to pay alimony to the spouse with less if it is necessary to maintain their quality of life. 

Some of the things that they look at for this are vacations, food and clothing budgets, and the area that you live in. 

Length of the Marriage

The length of the marriage is another super important factor that will be considered. For example, a 50-year marriage will receive much higher spousal support awards than a marriage that lasts for 50 days. 

Child Support

One factor that people often think is important is whether or not the couple has a minor child. However, in the state of Michigan, this is not the case.

Since the alimony provision is specifically directed at the spouse and is calculated using certain spousal support factors, it does not consider the children. Instead, the welfare of any children is considered using the Michigan child support formula.

Financial Needs and Resources of Each Party

Finally, the financial needs and resources of each individual are considered. This one can be tricky to sort through as it can be somewhat up to interpretation, especially when it comes to what is considered a need and a want.

Learn More: How Does Remarriage Affect Alimony?

An experienced divorce attorney will help you sort through all of this information and come up with an agreement that is fair for both parties. 

Process of Determining Alimony

There are a couple of steps in the process of determining alimony. Working with a skilled attorney will smooth over this process and make it much easier for you. 

Filing for Alimony

When you initially file the divorce the spouse who earns less can also file a request for alimony. Your attorney will help you to do this in the initial divorce paperwork.

Financial Disclosure by Both Parties

After the request has been received both parties will need to disclose their finances. After finances have been disclosed, each party's divorce lawyer will review the information and start to draw up the first agreements.

Mediation and Negotiation

After the first divorce agreements have been drawn up, the family law attorney will go into negotiations with the other spouse's attorney. Most of the time, this is the longest phase of a divorce.

The attorneys will continue to send agreements back and forth until they develop one that both parties agree with. If the spouses are unable to agree with the alimony awards, the case can move to the courts and a judge will be the one to decide.

Court Hearing and Judge's Decision

If the award of alimony cannot be agreed on through mediation, then the matter will be taken to a formal hearing with a judge. Each family lawyer will present their client's case to the judge.

Modifying Alimony

There are some cases where alimony may be able to be altered post-divorce due to a change in circumstances. However, in these cases, the majority of the time both parties will need to agree.

a gavel, wedding rings, and cash on a desk

If you anticipate a modification in spousal support payments will be needed, your lawyers can write that into the alimony agreement. This will make it much easier to alter the agreement when it's necessary considering that it has already been part of it from the beginning.

How a Lawyer Can Help With Alimony

An attorney helps you through alimony negotiations by:

Going the divorce attorney route is one of the best things that you can do to make the divorce process as simple as possible. First and foremost, a good family law attorney will be able to provide you with legal advice based on their years of experience and represent you in court should it come to that.

Assisting With Financial Disclosures and Documentation

They will also be able to help you write out your financial disclosure and get all of the documentation that you will need to do so. This is important because in this step it is crucial to avoid any errors in documentation. If you file something wrong, it can easily come back to bite you later on in the award of alimony process. 

Negotiating Fair Alimony Agreements

When you file your divorce petition, you will need to make an initial agreement that your spouse can then agree to or reject. Without the knowledge of an experienced divorce lawyer, you can easily ask for too much or too little, making the process more difficult or selling yourself short and ending up without the funds that you need.

Representing Clients in Court

Finally, your legal representation will be with you in court during the divorce proceedings. This ensures that your complaint for divorce is represented accurately, bringing all the applicable factors into consideration. Their presence can also provide emotional support during this difficult time, making sure that you do not feel alone in this process. 


Leaving a marriage can be difficult, especially if you do not earn as much as your spouse and are dependent on them for your income. However, in many cases, your spouse will be required to pay alimony. Alimony is meant to ensure that the dependent spouse can financially support themselves during and after the divorce. 

Alimony is calculated based on various factors and is somewhat up to interpretation, unlike child support. This is why working with a skilled Dearborn family attorney who can present your case in the best way possible is so important. 

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