Michigan Divorce Laws – What You Need to Know!

When a spouse in Michigan decides that is time to end his or her marriage, there are certain steps that must be taken and requirements that must be met. However, Michigan is a no-fault state, which means that neither spouse has to prove that there was cruelty, adultery or abandonment in the marriage in order for a divorce to be granted. The court simply requires “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 means that it is highly unlikely that spouses can work things out.

There are instances where fault can be considered, however. For example, if you and your spouse do not agree on property division or child custody, the court may consider fault before ruling on the matters.

Is Divorce the Only Option in Michigan?

No. There are two other options that some spouses may consider: separate maintenance and annulment. Separate maintenance is different from a divorce, as you are still married. Issues such as child custody, parenting time, property division and more are decided by the court.

If you petition the court for separate maintenance and your spouse answers with a counterclaim asking for divorce, then the court will consider the case to be a divorce case. Separate maintenance might be filed for because the petitioner has a religious object to divorce or because of another reason that you want to stay married.

An annulment is a ruling by the court that the marriage never happened. There are only a few legal reasons that an annulment could be granted:

  • Use of force or fraud to enter into the marriage
  • The parties are too closely related
  • Age
  • Mental incompetence or deficiency
  • Bigamy

How Is Marital Property Divided in a Michigan Divorce?

In a divorce in Michigan, marital property will be split fairly, as will any debt accumulated during the marriage. Pension and retirement plans are also considered marital property and the other spouse can be awarded part of the benefits.

Separate property is different from marital property. It is property that one spouse owned before he or she was married. It can also be property that one spouse inherited while married, but the inheritance was kept separate from the couple’s combined assets. In most cases, separate property is returned to the spouse who owns it.

If the division of marital property and debt is not agreed upon by you and your spouse before going in front of the court, then the court will determine how it will be divided. There are several factors that the court will consider, including:

  • Fairness
  • Fault
  • How long you two were married
  • The ages of you and your spouse
  • The health of you and your spouse
  • The current living situation of you and your spouse, as well as you and your spouse’s needs
  • The ability of both spouses to make money

How Is Spousal Support Awarded?

Spousal support is not automatically or always awarded in Michigan divorces. If awarded, it may be permanent or temporary support or a lump sum payment may be required. The factors the court will consider include:

  • Fairness
  • Fault
  • How long you two were married (The longer you two were married, the better chance there is of an award for spousal support.)
  • How old you and your spouse are
  • The health of you and your spouse
  • The ability of both spouses to work
  • How much you or your spouse was awarded in property and debt
  • The ability of you and your spouse to pay spousal support
  • The marital standard of living.

How Is Child Custody and Parenting Time Decided?

The court will base its determination on child custody and parenting time based on what is in the child’s best interests. This is not always what you or your spouse may consider to be in your best interests. The court can award legal and physical custody on a sole or joint basis. Parenting time or visitation will be awarded when deemed appropriate by the court. The schedule for parenting can be worked out in court or it can be left up to both parents to determine.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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