Sometimes when a couple is married, one spouse earns significantly more than the other. Some couples even decide to have one spouse stay out of the workforce entirely to care for the family. While these arrangements may work when a couple is married, should the couple divorce the lesser-earning spouse may be at a significant financial disadvantage. For this reason, courts may order the higher-earning spouse to pay alimony -- also known as spousal support -- to the lesser-earning spouse.
There are various forms of spousal support in Michigan. Sometimes spousal support is paid through one single payment. This is known as "lump-sum" spousal support. Other times spousal support is paid periodically over time, whether it occur once a month or once a year. This is known as "periodic" spousal support.
Sometimes periodic spousal support will only go on for as long as it takes for the receiving spouse to obtain the degree or skills needed to find adequate employment. Sometimes the divorce decree will indicate how long periodic spousal support will last or it will name a specific event that will cause the periodic spousal support payments to end.
However, in increasingly-rare situations, sometimes periodic spousal support is permanent. This may be the case if a couple divorces in their old age and the receiving party does not have much income, work experience, or education. However, even permanent spousal support can end. For example, spousal support may terminate if the receiving party remarries or once the paying party retires.
In the end, the type of spousal support awarded in any one case is very fact specific. What works in one divorce case may not work in another divorce case. For this reason, it is important that any parties to a divorce who are seeking spousal support or may being asked to pay it understand what their rights are so they can make informed legal decisions that protect their best interests.