A divorce is a legal proceeding which dissolves a marriage between a husband and a wife. Following the finalization of a divorce, both spouses are free to remarry as they choose.

All states in the United States require the spouse that files for the divorce to be a resident of the state in which they file. Requirements for residency may vary by state but typically range from 6 months to 1 year.

Each state also has its own procedures for divorce. Most states have adopted the no fault divorce approach while others retain the fault divorce system. Michigan is a no fault divorce state.

The main component of a no fault divorce is that the spouse who is filing for the divorce is not required to provide any fault or wrongdoing on behalf of either party in order to be granted a divorce. In some states, the couple is required to declare that they can no longer get along.

In other states, the couple is required to reside apart for a specific period of time, months or years, prior to filing for a no fault divorce. In Michigan, spouses are not required to legally separate or live separately from their partner in order to file for a divorce.

In order to obtain a divorce in the State of Michigan, one spouse must have resided in Michigan for at least 6 months prior to filing for divorce. They must also have lived in the county where the divorce is filed for at least 10 days prior to filing.

To file for divorce in Michigan, a spouse is only required to allege that there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the bonds of matrimony cannot be preserved. Although Michicgan is a no fault divorce state, the court may evaluate a spouse’s behavior or fault for the purpose of property division proceedings and alimony.

A legal separation is a court approved separation of the spouses. It typically involves a court order which outlines the legal rights and obligations of the parties. A legal separation is more formal than a trial separation because the terms of the separation must be reviewed and approved by the court. A legal separation does not end a marriage.

In Michigan, there is a distinction between a legal divorce and a legal separation, called separation maintenance. Unlike a divorce, which is the termination of a marriage, separation maintenance occurs when the couple resides separately, divides their assets and child custody but does not seek permanent dissolution of the marriage. Separation maintenance may be used for many reasons, including health insurance.

What Paperwork Do You Need to File for Divorce?

In the State of Michigan, the paperwork which is required to be filed for separation maintenance is similar to that paperwork which is required for a divorce. The steps for a divorce in Michigan are as follows:

  • One spouse, the plaintiff, is first required to file an action for separate maintenance with the court, in the same way and using the same reasons the spouse would use to file for divorce;
  • The non-filing spouse, or defendant, then responds with an answer. The answer may accept the reasons for the separation maintenance or divroce or the answer may deny those reasons;
  • If a counterclaim for divorce is filed, the reasons that are listed in the initial claim may be reviewed by the court;
  • Both spouses will present evidence to the court regarding the state of the marriage. The, the court may issue:
    • A judgment of separate maintenance; or
    • A judgment of divorce, which is known in Michigan as dissolving the bonds of matrimony.

The proper paperwork must be completed truthfully and accurately. It must also be filed at certain times according to court rules. It is essential to have the assistance of a lawyer during the process.

What is Community Property vs. Separate Property?

Michigan is an equitable distribution state. This means that a divorce court in Michigan can distribute marital assets of spouses in such a way that they believe is fair but does not necessarily have to be even.

There are many factors which the courts consider when determining the division of marital assets, including:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The assets brought to the marriage by each spouse;
  • The contributions made to the marriage by each of the spouses;
  • Each spouse’s health and age;
  • Each spouse’s financial circumstances;
  • The past conduct of each spouse during the marriage;
  • The best interests of any dependent children, and
  • Custody arrangements.

In more cases, the court will attempt to divide property as close as possible to a 50-50 split. However, each case will have a unique outcome based on what the court determines is fair considering the previously mentioned factors.

Separation maintenance and divorce may require extensive documentation of income, expenses, and marital assets. An individual will be able to assist in the process by having documentation of their current financial situation and any required records.

What Should You Do if There are Children Involved?

Children are provided certain protections by Michigan courts. The court managing a divorce proceeding involving a child or children will always consider the best interest of the children.

This means that the court will take into consideration the children’s safety and stability when making any custody decisions. A Michigan court may also make a child support determination.

Child support is financial payments that are made by one parent to the other for the costs associated with having and raising children. Child support is intended to pay for the child or children’s basic needs and other needs the court may deem necessary.

Similar to marital assets, divorcing spouses will likely be required to take an accounting of the expenses which are required to raise their children. Courts will generally do everything in their power to ensure children are prioritized during the divorce process. It is important to note that failure to pay child support may result in further court involvement, including, but not limited to, wage garnishments and, in some cases, jail time.

Do You Need to Pay Alimony?

In Michigan, one spouse may be required to pay alimony to their former spouse. Alimony is payments that are made to the former spouse so that they can continue living at a similar standard they were prior to the divorce.

Alimony can also be used to ensure one spouse is able to recover financially, especially if they were dependent financially on the other spouse. Alimony issues may be particularly contentious during divorce proceedings so it is important to have a lawyer protecting an individual’s rights.

Where Can You Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?

It is essential to have the assistance of a Michigan divorce lawyer if you are considering filing for divorce, are filing for divorce, or are facing a divorce. Divorces, especially those involving children, are difficult and complex issues.

Your lawyer can review your situation, determine if you are eligible for alimony, and ensure your property is fairly divided and child support payments are provided. It is important to have an attorney protect your rights during what may be a very difficult and emotional time.