Eisenberg, Middleditch & Spilman, PLLC

Spousal support laws are changing little by little

Property division, child support and alimony are usually the three most contentious financial issues people deal with in a divorce. Spousal support may be the most controversial of the three, and there are grass-roots efforts working for reform in Michigan and across the country. Lately, however, the push for change is coming from a surprising faction.

In the 1970s, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that wives are not exempt from paying alimony. As more women joined the workforce over the past decades, more men began to ask the courts to order their ex-wives to pay alimony. Still, women make up only about 3 percent of those paying spousal support. Alimony itself is becoming a rare ruling. Only 8 to 10 percent of divorce cases include a spousal support award.

Nevertheless, while the men seemed to have quietly accepted their orders, the women are not so acquiescent. Many are protesting the notion of permanent alimony -- for men or women -- as something unfair and illogical. Slowly, states are beginning to agree. Some have limited longer alimony periods to those who are disabled or past the age of employment. Other states have passed laws that determine the duration of spousal support by the length of the marriage.

Often, a divorcing couple in Michigan will come to an agreement regarding spousal support before going to court. If they cannot agree, the court will consider a lengthy list of factors to arrive at a fair decision. Having the support and advocacy of an attorney is helpful, whether a person is requesting alimony or is being asked to provide it.

Source: Time, "Breadwinning Women Are Driving Alimony Reform", Beth Pinsker, Accessed on Jan. 23, 2017

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