Making the decision to divorce the person you envisioned at your side for the rest of your life is never easy and frequently brings up a mixture of strong emotions. Divorce is almost always the last resort after all other options of saving the relationship have failed. Such decisions are particularly difficult when the couple has been married a significant period of time and/or young children are shared between them. One group that seems to understand that divorce can happen regardless of where you are in life is Baby Boomers. The divorce rate for this generation has increased greatly since 1990, with the rate doubling for those from 55 to 64 years old and tripling for those 65 and older. These numbers are in contrast to the overall decrease in the number of divorces as younger generations wait longer to get married to avoid this outcome. However, once this decision is made, it is helpful to know the basics of obtaining divorce, while also realizing the issues or disputes surrounding child support, child custody, property division, and alimony can quickly and easily complicate any divorce case. An overview of what you need to file for divorce in Michigan, plus a brief summary of the law on key issues decided in divorce, will follow below.
In order to file for divorce, at least one spouse must be a resident of the state before the petition is filed. Further, the petition for divorce must be filed in the circuit court of the county where at least one spouse has lived for the previous ten days. If these residency requirements are not met, the court does not have jurisdiction to decide the case.
Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means it is not necessary to show that one spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. All that is required is for one spouse to testify “there has been a breakdown of the relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.” Note that while proof of fault is not necessary to file for divorce, bad acts can be a factor in disputes about issues like property division or child custody.
Michigan law imposes a minimum waiting period of 60 days that runs from the time a divorce petition is filed until the marriage is terminated by a court. Since testimony and evidence cannot be presented until this 60 day time period expires, a divorce with any unresolved issues will not be granted within this time frame, so only those that are completely uncontested have any chance of making this window.
Michigan divides marital property on an equitable basis, which means the division is fair, but not necessarily equal. Marital property includes all property acquired or debts assumed during the marriage. If the spouses cannot agree on how to divide the property, the court will decide this issue for them, but a court’s decision is final.
Michigan law favors awarding joint custody of children unless it is not in the children’s best interest. All decisions about custody and parenting time are based on this principle of what is in the child’s best interest and include factors such as the emotional bond between the child and each parent, the ability of a parent to give the child emotional and financial support, and the mental and physical health of each parent.
Awards of spousal support or alimony are made on a case-by-case basis and are not always awarded. Alimony awards can be temporary or permanent and paid in installments or in one lump sum. The court looks at a number of factors when making this decision, so the outcome is very case specific.
If you are facing a divorce, it is best not to proceed without an attorney. Issues in divorce can quickly become complicated and disputed, and experienced divorce attorneys will understand how to use the law to protect your interests. The Clinton Township law firm of Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. strives to get their clients the best possible results. Let us help you by contacting the office for a free consultation.
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