Award of alimony 37 years after divorce overturned

Approximately 37 years ago, the Gallagher’s divorced after 22 years of marriage. The Judgment of Divorce provided that alimony for the wife was “reserved”.  37 years after the divorce, Ms. Gallagher petitioned the trial court for an award of alimony.

Remarkably, the trial court granted the request and ordered the former husband to pay $2,500.00 per month in monthly alimony. The trial court determined that Mr. Gallagher had amassed $3 million in assets since the entry of the Judgment of Divorce and Ms. Gallgher, now 81 was receiving a small pension and social security benefits. Although Ms. Gallagher received significant assets in her divorce, she had squandered her money and was now struggling financially.

Mr. Gallagher appealed the trial court order in the case of Rita F. Gallafgher v. John E. Gallagher, decided February 21, 2019. Mr. Gallagher argued that an award of alimony 37 years after his divorce was not fair.

The law

MCL 552.23(1) contemplates a case-by-case approach in determining an award of spousal support. Loutts v Loutts, 298 Mich App 21 (2012) stating:

“The primary purpose of spousal support is to balance the parties’ incomes and needs so that neither party will be impoverished, and spousal support must be based on what is just and reasonable considering the circumstances of the case.” Id. at 32.

A court should consider all relevant factors in determining an appropriate award of spousal support, including: (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 the amount of property awarded to the parties; (5) the parties’ ages; (6) the abilities of the parties to pay support; (7) the present situation of the parties; (8) the needs of the parties; (9) the parties’ health; (10) the parties’ prior standard of living and whether either is responsible for the support of others; (11) the contributions of the parties to the joint estate; (12) a party’s fault in causing the divorce; (13) the effect of cohabitation on a party’s financial status; and (14) general principles of equity. See: Woodington v Shokoohi, 288 Mich App 352 (2010). (emphasis added)

Court of Appeals determines award of alimony was not fair.

In law, “equity” means fairness and in the Gallagher case, the Michigan Court of Appeals determined that an award of alimony 37 years after entry of a Judgment of Divorce was simply not fair and overturned the trial court award. The Michigan Court of Appeals writing:

“It is simply inequitable to redistribute defendant’s assets to plaintiff 37 years after the divorce because of decisions plaintiff made during the many ensuing years since the divorce judgment was entered.”

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I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades.  The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.

By:  Daniel Findling

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