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Equitable factors guide child support, alimony calculations

A divorce involving minor children requires attention to several details. Courts in Michigan strive to divide assets and assign support obligations in a way that is fair. Notably, equitable distribution does not mean an exact 50-50- split of assets. In the same way, courts are governed by the principle of fairness when calculating child support and alimony obligations.

In the specific example of child support calculations, there are limitations on the court’s discretion because a state law called the Michigan Child Support Formula sets out specific factors. Those factors include each parent’s income and resources, the family’s size and child care expenses, and each child’s needs.

Some overlap in factors also applies when a court reviews a request for spousal support, which is not automatically awarded in Michigan. As in child support, a court will strive for an arrangement that is equitable under each family’s unique circumstances. Each party’s ability to work, potential earning ability, and contributions to the marriage will be reviewed for an alimony request.

For example, a parent’s decision to reduce or put his or her career on hold to care for minor children would likely be viewed as a marital contribution. In the event of a divorce, he or she may need support for a limited time in order to complete education or receive training to reenter the workforce. During that transition, the parent’s child support may also be reduced.

Notably, Michigan family law courts have made changes to keep up with changing American family demographics. Instead of a physical custody presumption in favor of the mother, courts now consider it to be in a child’s best interest to spend time with both parents. Recent data from the Pew Research Center confirms that the number of stay-at-home dads has almost doubled in the past 20 years. That shift could also impact more spousal support awards in favor of dads.

Source: Journalist’s Resource, “Stay-at-home dads: How unemployment, mother’s education impact family decisions about child care,” Denise-Marie Ordway, Sept. 26, 2016

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