Interviewer: Are alimony and spouse’s support the same? What is that exactly?
Paul Tafelski: Alimony or spouse’s support is one of the tools that the courts have to try and make things fair. First of all in Michigan, in all of the counties, they have certain judges that are just handling family law cases. They are part of what’s called the family court.
Family Court in Michigan, Which Hears Divorce Cases as Part of Family Law, Is Considered a Court of Equity
Now, those courts are considered courts of equity which means, to some degree, fairness. In a divorce case, the judges have great power and great latitude to try and decide what they think is fair. There are certain general principles that are usually applied in dividing assets and determining whether or not alimony or spouse’s support is appropriate and things like that. The judges have great discretion in how they decide these cases.
Alimony Is Considered When One Spouse Has Not Been Employed in Some Time or Has Limited Earning Potential
Alimony comes into play as one tool to try to make the outcome fair for both spouses. It’s usually part of a case where the marriage has been long term or when one spouse has been a stay-at-home mother or a stay-at-home father and the other spouse is the primary breadwinner.
The Alimony Amount Is Arrived at through Negotiation
The court can look at the situation and try to decide is alimony appropriate and if it is, should it be for a short period of time or should it be for a long period of time. They decide how much should it be. It is one thing that really is not done by a formula. It’s done by negotiation and it’s done by considering various factors.
Some of those factors are like how long was the marriage, what did each party contribute to the marriage, how old are they, and what is their state of health. Also taken into account are what the necessities are that they require, what kind of ability to earn money do they have, and what is their role in the breakdown of the marriage?
Are they responsible more or less for the breakdown, or do they have a drug or alcohol problem? The last factor is just general principles of equity and fairness.
While Economic Factors Contribute to the Divorce Rate, When the Economy Is Poor, Many People Cannot Afford to Divorce
Interviewer: Do statistics for divorce vary year by year or do they stay consistent? In mean, 2013, for example, was that year any different?
Paul Tafelski: When the economy was really bad here from probably 2009 until 2012, the number of divorces was down because people simply looked at the finances and decided that they could not afford to get divorce. They could not afford to survive on their own and so the number of filings went down.
Since the economy has bounced back somewhat, the number of filings has increased, I think, for two reasons. Number one, people realized that they can afford it and they can get a job and support themselves.
Number two is they just can’t take it anymore. They’ve been ready for divorce for a few years. For whatever reason, haven’t pulled the trigger and now they’re getting around to the fact that they just can’t take it anymore and they’re going to terminate the marriage.
Interviewer: What percentage of couples do you think are getting divorce these days? Is it half?
Paul Tafelski: They say 50% but the percentage of people that get divorced is probably a little bit less than 50%. Then some of the people that have been divorced will get divorced more than one time and that just raises the overall average up to 50%.