Spousal support factors -- Show me the money!

This is the third part of a

three-part series.

As the spousal support factors come to a close, we're running out of ways you can continue to drain money from your ex. The next factor is "the health of the parties," which is fairly straight-forward -- the healthier you are, the more likely you're going to be able to work, and you're less likely to rack up serious medical bills and go into debt (the thought of having to spend hard-earned money on lab tests versus purses is just sickening). Conversely, if you're not in good health, spousal support can help cover the gap if you only work part-time or have to quit working sooner due to your illness.

The court also looks at "the parties' prior standard of living and whether either is responsible for the support of others." If you lived high off the hog (who came up with that expression anyways?!), the court takes that into consideration and realizes that just because you're divorcing doesn't necessarily mean you have to live like a pauper, although of course cutting back might be a good idea. Perhaps you should only take one trip to Europe this year instead of two, and of course invite me along -- be advised, I don't pack light.

If you are supporting your elderly mother or handicapped child, the court considers this care of others as another reason that you may qualify for spousal support. For example, if the parties have a disabled child who has reached adulthood but still requires care and assistance, which one party took upon him or herself, spousal support from the other party certainly helps ease that heavy burden.

"Contributions of the parties to the joint estate" takes a gander at what each party did to help build the marital estate, whether through working or raising the children while the other party was employed, etc. The next factor is repetitive if you ask me -- "a party's fault in causing the divorce." This runs parallel to the very first factor, the past relations and conduct of the parties. As I've said before, Michigan is a no-fault state, but the court can still look at it as one factor of many in determining spousal support award and property division.

The second to last factor is "the effect of cohabitation on a party's financial status." If you are shacking up with your Sugar Momma or Daddy and she or he is footing some of the bills, you presumably have more disposable income that could go towards a spousal support payment. However, if you're the one receiving the payment and are cohabitating with someone else, maybe your bills went down and you don't need as much support as you had been previously receiving from your ex.

Let's say you were to split from your new relationship and that break up negatively impacted your financial status. Assuming your spousal support award is modifiable, you could file a motion with the court to modify your award based on a change in circumstances.

The very last factor to consider is what I deem a catch all -- "general principles of equity." After all, despite what everyone really thinks, a court's job is to be equitable and fair in its rulings. When all things are considered in a case, if it's fair and just for both parties to award spousal support, then the court can rely on this factor as part of its reasoning. Most attorneys include this factor in their pleadings even though it doesn't exactly have a neat and tidy definition -- if there is another reason that isn't really covered by the rest of the factors, why not throw it in here.

Unless both parties come to an agreement about it, the court has the ultimate decision to "make it rain" money from your ex, and uses the factors covered in my last few articles to help it reach a decision on spousal support. Keep in mind that spousal support is not a guaranteed right, so you might want to set some of your own money aside for those shopping sprees just in case.

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Marie Matyjaszek is an associate attorney at the Law Office of Robert Matyjaszek, PLLC, Jackson, Michigan. Her blog site is: http://legalbling.blogspot.com. She can be reached at (517) 787-0351 or by emailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.

Published: Thu, May 3, 2012

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