You and your spouse have the option of determining alimony arrangements for yourselves when you divorce. If you are able to come to an agreement, the court will make it official by approving it.

However, if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement yourselves, it is up to the court to make the decision whether to order alimony and if so, how much and for how long. To make a fair determination, the court considers several factors.

What if you are unable to pay alimony?

Unlike child support, which is inevitable if you and your spouse have children, there is no automatic award of alimony. Courts choose whether to order it on a case-by-case basis. The judge considers your financial situation in determining whether you can pay alimony, and if so, how much.

According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, it is usually possible to request a modification to your spousal support orders if your situation changes and you are no longer able to pay the designated amount. Alimony orders are also modifiable if your ex-spouse’s situation improves to the point that it is no longer necessary.

Does fault for the divorce factor into alimony determination?

All U.S. states, including Michigan, recognize no-fault divorces, which is a proceeding initiated by one spouse without the consent of the other. However, even in a no-fault divorce, the court may consider whether your actions or your spouse’s contributed more to the breakdown of the relationship.

A judge who determines that you are more at fault may order you to pay alimony to your ex-spouse. It is permissible for judges to use fault as a criterion for determining spousal support, but it is not a requirement.