Michigan Divorce Myths
As an attorney in Southgate, I hear a lot of myths posed as facts about divorces in Michigan. I wanted to put together a list of the ten most common ones I hear, and help set the record straight.
1. Visitation can be denied if my ex doesn’t pay child support.
Child support payment holds no direct bearing on custody agreements. Threatening to remove parenting time is not part of child support enforcement.
2. If you commit adultery, you’ll automatically lose everything.
While adultery will almost always lead to divorce, it does not always lead to the loss of your property, assets or even parenting time. It can definitely carry weight when the court determines your asset distribution, but cheating on your spouse will not cause you to lose anything, other than the marriage itself.
3. Divorce can be denied.
If you want a divorce, you probably will get a divorce. As long as you meet the residency requirements and will be able to testify that “there has been a breakdown of the marital relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved” the court should grant you a divorce. It does not matter if your spouse agrees that the marriage can not be saved.
4. Mothers always win custody of the kids.
This may be the most prevalent myth out there. While there may still be a slight bias in favor of mothers, the law has evolved along with changes in society to reflect that both fathers and mothers can be custodial parents. Decisions about custody and visitation will be made based on what is in the best interests of the child.
5. You can avoid paying child support.
Child support payments in Michigan are established by law. The court will look at facts such as the number of overnights, each of your respective incomes, health insurance, and daycare expenses (among other facts) to calculate child support according to the child support guidelines.
6. Children get to pick who they live with.
Watch a movie such as Kramer v. Kramer, and you’ll inevitably come across a dramatic scene where the judge asks a child who they want to live with. If a child has expressed a preference as to which parent they would like to live with, a judge may take it into consideration as one of the many factors guiding their determination as to custody. However, they are not required to follow a child’s choice and will make their custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child.
7. Divorces are always bitter and nasty.
Watch a movie like The War of the Roses, and you might think all divorces are going to be a fight. Divorce can often be acrimonious and full of hostility, blame, and finger-pointing. But it doesn’t have to be.
8. Equitable distribution results in equal division.
Property division in a Michigan divorce is governed by principles of “equitable distribution.” What is “equitable” in a given divorce is not necessarily the equal division of assets. Property can be and often is divided in a non-mathematically equal manner based on the many factors that go into a judge’s decisions about property division.
Remember when I said adultery could play a role? This is where that can be most true.
9. Women always get maintenance and men never do.
Decisions about spousal support, just like custody decisions, no longer are based on outdated prejudices and reflect the fact that women can earn more than their husbands. Decisions about spousal support are based on the economic realities of the respective spouses regardless of their gender. Michigan does not have any type of set Spousal Support formula and you will find that the judges in the area have vastly different opinions on when and how much spousal support should be awarded. It is important to contact an attorney who understands your judge’s position when it comes to spousal support.
10. Most divorces go to court.
While you have to file papers with the court in order to get a divorce in Michigan, that doesn’t mean that there will be a trial, or that you or your children will have to testify in court, or that there will be lengthy and expensive court battles. If the parties can reach an agreement on all issues, the divorce could be granted on the settlement agreement. Many divorces in Michigan are resolved without a trial or without the parties ever stepping foot in a courtroom (outside of placing statutory proofs on the record).
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