Michigan Divorce Basics

Obtaining a divorce in Michigan is a fairly straightforward process. While every state accepts “no-fault” divorce filings, the structure of the laws concerning this varies from state-to-state.

Some states require a statement of the grounds for divorce in the filing, and some even require a separation period. In Michigan, neither of these factors matter.

In fact, NO grounds for divorce in Michigan are accepted, other than: “there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.”

This is not to say that there are not some legal requirements to filing a for divorce in Michigan. The general process is outlined below.

First and foremost, you or your spouse need to be a resident of Michigan for at least the six months prior to your filing, and at least ten days in the county where you will file. For instance, if you are attempting to file for a divorce in Wayne County, and you have lived in Southgate for a year, then either you or your spouse can file in Wayne County. If your marital home was in Oakland County, and you moved to Southgate within ten days, then you would need to either a) file in Oakland County or b) wait until the ten days have passed.

Your first step is to file a summons, a complaint, and other required papers with the court. After filing the forms in the clerk’s office, you must have your spouse served with the papers. This can be done through process servers, or by sending certified mail.

You do not have to justify the divorce, and your spouse does not have to agree to the filing. So whether the situation is mutual or not is irrelevant. Now, because the filing is “no-fault”, this does not mean that some action or inaction played no role. For example: abuse, infidelity, and general spousal negligence may have played a role in your decision, the court does not need the information to grant the divorce.

So what happens in the case of, say, infidelity? Well, in Michigan, the judge is given leeway on the division of assets as well as alimony payments. The guidelines for asset division are that the judge is to divide property as he or she “shall deem just and reasonable.”

When it comes to alimony, many states have actual computations to calculate the alimony one spouse may be ordered to pay another. In Michigan, “alimony” is called “spousal support” and the guidelines are very vague (read: open-ended). Michigan courts say that spousal support can be awarded to either party “as the court considers just and reasonable, after considering the ability of either party to pay and the character and situation of the parties, and all the other circumstances of the case.”

So, much like the piece we published on child custody, the behavior and actions of the spouses does play a role in the division of assets. Especially if there is a documented history of domestic violence or drug/alcohol abuse.

The stakes are still high, despite the somewhat deceptive public myths around “no-fault” divorce. If you want to ensure your rights are protected in your divorce, contact The Mitten Law Firm today for a free consultation.

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