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Revisiting the topic of “suitable support and maintenance”

Back in February, we wrote about the issue of property division, and specifically when separate property may be subject to division in divorce. As we noted, even though separate property is generally not subject to division, Michigan courts are allowed to put separate property on the chopping block when the judge determines that a judgment of divorce or spousal maintenance is not sufficient to qualify as “suitable support” for a spouse, given all the circumstances. In this post, we want to offer a few additional comments on this issue.

The basic idea here is that courts are permitted to award spousal support in cases where the award of property is not adequate to support a party and the children for which that party is responsible. It is up to the party seeking spousal support, though, to provide enough evidence to allow the court to determine whether the judgment of divorce or spousal maintenance constitutes inadequate support. Failure to do so will result in the party’s efforts to obtain support being ineffective.

Couples who want to avoid the possibility of a judge determining when spousal support is appropriate have the ability to agree on the issue beforehand. Spousal support may be agreed upon by a number of methods, including prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, domestic relations or private mediation, arbitration, or settlement agreements. Whether or not an agreement is valid depends on the type of agreement and the circumstances of the case. We’ve spoken before about prenuptial agreements as a way for couples to protect their separate property from being taken from them in a spousal support award.

Regardless of the method of coming to an agreement about spousal support, it is important for parties to seek out the guidance of an experienced attorney to make sure their arrangement will be honored in the event of divorce. Failure to do things correctly will usually just result in a headache and lost efforts. 

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Revisiting the topic of “suitable support and maintenance” | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC