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Can you revise judgment of divorce when it expressly denies spousal support?

Defendant appeals the trial court's order denying spousal support. Defendant argued that the trial court should have conducted a spousal support review and that any language restricting the modification of spousal support in the judgment must be stricken because it was in violation of statutory law and case law. Appeals court disagrees.

Once a court enters an award of spousal support, the court may, upon petition of either party, revise and alter the judgment, respecting the amount or payment of the alimony or allowance, and also respecting the appropriation and payment of the principal and income of the property held in trust, and may make any judgment respecting any of the matters that the court might have made in the original action. [MCL 552.28.]  However, it is well settled that where a judgment of divorce that denies spousal support becomes final, a court may not subsequently revise or alter the judgment to make an award of spousal support.

A judgment of divorce that does not grant spousal support must include a provision reserving or denying support; in the absence of such a provision, spousal support is reserved.

Defendant argues that the provision in the judgment of divorce barring the parties from future claims on spousal support is contrary to statutory authority and to case law. Defendant is mistaken. As indicated above, MCL 552.28 authorizes a court to modify a spousal support award contained in a judgment of divorce. However, when the judgment of divorce expressly denies a spousal support award, the court is without authority to revise the judgment to make an award.

Defendant correctly points out that the trial court made no findings of fact regarding spousal support. However, the record establishes, and defendant conceded at the hearing on her motion for spousal support, that she did not raise the issue of spousal support at any time during the litigation. Defendant did not request spousal support in her answer to plaintiff's complaint or by filing a counter-complaint. She did not raise spousal support as a contested issue at the scheduling conference. Defendant also did not raise spousal support as an issue at the parties' mediation, or settlement conference. Accordingly, defendant did not raise the issue of spousal support at trial. Therefore, because the parties presented no facts regarding spousal support at trial, appeals court declined to conclude that the trial court's failure to make findings about spousal support somehow constituted clear error.

Are you facing a divorce in Michigan?  Financial issues are often the biggest concern for individuals and families who are facing divorce. It is important to remember that decrees regarding child support, child custody, visitation and spousal support (alimony) are not always final. Circumstances change all the time, which is why it is possible to seek a post-decree modification. While it is possible to seek a modification at any time, receiving the modification is much more difficult. It is important to have an experienced and understanding divorce attorney by your side at every step of the way.

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