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Family Law Update

In a recent decision, the State of Michigan Court of Appeals was asked to determine, among other things, whether an award of spousal support was warranted, and if so, whether the amount and the duration of the award was appropriate.  The trial court concluded that the plaintiff wife of (28) years was entitled to $100 a week in spousal support for (130) weeks.  Defendant husband filed this appeal claiming that plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence that she was entitled to spousal support.

When ruling on this type of matter, the Court of Appeals first reviews the trial court's factual findings for clear error.  If the factual findings are upheld, the Court of Appeals then determines whether the dispositional ruling was fair and equitable in light of those facts.

In determining whether a party should be awarded spousal support, and whether the amount and duration of spousal support are correct, the trial court should consider the following factors:  (1) the past relations and conduct of the parties; (2) the length of the marriage; (3) the abilities of the parties to work; (4) the source and amount of property awarded to the parties; (5) the parties' ages; (6) the abilities of the parties to pay spousal support; (7) the present situation of the parties; (8) the needs of the parties; (9) the parties' health; (10) the prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others; (11) contributions of the parties to the joint estate; (12) a party's fault in causing the divorce; (13) the effect of cohabitation on party's financial status; and (14) general principles of equity.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision concluding that the trial court made no clear error in its decision and that the trial court made factual findings sufficient to support its decision. Some of the important factors that the trial court and subsequent Court of Appeals relied on in determining that this was a proper case for spousal support and that the duration and amount were correct, were that the parties had been married (28) years, defendant built a career during the marriage while plaintiff only worked part-time as she maintained the home and raised their children, and that at the time of the divorce defendant had twice the income of plaintiff. (Fox-Harmor v. Harmor, Mich. Ct. App., unpublished, 12/18/01)