How to Modify Spousal Support in Michigan
- posted: Sep. 15, 2021
Spousal support after a divorce serves an important function, helping the less financially secure spouse gain financial independence. But support should not be unaffordable or place a huge burden on the paying spouse. In most cases, support is not intended to be a long-term or primary source of income for the receiving spouse. A support order that seems appropriate at the time of divorce may become unfair or unmanageable later on.
If you believe you are paying too much in spousal support or are receiving an inadequate amount, you may be able to obtain a modification of the original court judgment.
A Michigan court can grant a spousal support modification only if there has been a significant change in financial circumstances between the payor and recipient since the original order. For example, if the receiving spouse earns a well-paying job or launches a successful business, the payor may be permitted to reduce or cease support payments. If the payor loses their job or experiences some other major financial setback, payment amounts also may be reduced. The court needs to see convincing evidence that a modification is justified.
However, if you and your spouse entered a spousal support agreement that was made part of your divorce judgment, the terms may be nonmodifiable. The Michigan Court of Appeals, in the case of Staple v. Staple in 2000, established that a support agreement can contain language that makes its provisions final and binding, preventing either party from petitioning the court for modification. The agreement may include a clause allowing for support to be ended early in certain circumstances, such as if the receiving spouse moves in with a financially supportive partner or if the financial disparity between the spouses changes in some other significant way.
It is crucial that you follow the terms of any court order as long as the order is in effect. Failure to make scheduled payments is a crime in Michigan and can also result in civil penalties.
To avoid future headaches over spousal support, divorcing spouses may factor the support amount into the property division agreement. If neither spouse asks for support during the divorce proceedings, they will not be permitted to petition for support after the divorce is finalized.
With offices in Rochester Hills and St. Clair Shores, Michigan, the divorce and family law attorneys of Shatzman & Shatzman negotiate and draft nonmodifiable spousal support agreements and represent divorced parties who seek to modify existing orders. Our lawyers advise and assist residents of Shelby Township, Chesterfield Township and throughout the surrounding region. To schedule a consultation with one of our dedicated legal professionals, call 586-800-3018 or contact us online.