Divorce Frequently Asked Questions

How do I obtain a divorce?

In order to obtain a divorce in Michigan it is necessary that you show there has been a breakdown in 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. A Michigan divorce case begins with the filing of the Complaint for Divorce and a Summons with the Court.

What is an absolute divorce?

An absolute divorce is a divorce in which the marriage is completely dissolved and both parties become single.

What if my spouse does not want the divorce?

Contesting a divorce in Michigan involves mediation and possibly a trial. If the parties do not agree as to the assets and debts of the marriage, discovery will occur as well. Ultimately, neither party can stop a divorce from occurring but either party can make it more difficult than it needs to be.

What are the mechanics of an Action for Divorce?

At least one of the parties to an action for divorce must have resided in the State of Michigan for at least 180 days immediately prior to the filing of the complaint, and must have resided in the county of filing for at least 10 days immediately prior to the filing of the complaint.

Does a spouse have to prove fault on the part of the other spouse to obtain a divorce?

No. However, when the court makes a division of property in a divorce case it can decide that one party is more at fault than the other and therefore entitled to more property. Usually, fault does not play a very big role in the division of assets, however, the court has great powers of equity that can be used when necessary to create a fair division of assets.

Does it matter who brings the action?

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state. It does not matter who brings the action, however, in some situations such as when the parties have been separated and there may be a custody dispute the first party to the courthouse may gain an advantage.

I don’t understand the term, a “no fault” divorce. Isn’t it always someone’s fault?

Michigan is a “no-fault” state. The court has the power to terminate the relationship between the parties regardless of who did what to whom. Fault does play a role however, in the court’s determination of child custody, property rights and spousal support.

How long does a divorce take?

At a minimum, if there are no children involved, a divorce may be granted in 60 days. However, typically a divorce will take 6 months from beginning to end. When children are involved, a divorce may take longer.

What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?

Many divorcing couples believe that they are ‘legally separated’ after one of them has filed for divorce. This is not true. Michigan does not require couples to separate when a divorce is filed. In Michigan, legal separation is known as “separate maintenance.” The procedure is similar to a divorce, except that neither party may remarry. These type of separations are rare. When parties are willing to go to the trouble of engaging the legal system they generally prefer divorce.

What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce occurs when there are no disagreements between you and your spouse over any financial or divorce-related issues (i.e., child custody and support, division of marital property or spousal support); and your spouse either agrees to the divorce, or fails to appear in the divorce action.

How is property divided in Michigan?

Michigan is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that all marital property acquired during the marriage is subject to division. Property brought into the marriage that a person had before is generally not subject to division in a divorce, however, commingling of money and long term marriages can greatly complicate this issue. In addition, most divorcing spouses set out who will pay what debts as part of their marital settlement agreement during the divorce process, and close all of their joint accounts.

Can I handle the divorce without an attorney?

Yes. However, of great concern is the fact that a divorce judgment will permanently extinguish certain rights, including the right to equitably distribute your property and the right to spousal support if you do not “preserve” those claims prior to the entry of the divorce judgment. Judges and court personnel are legally prohibited from giving legal advice. Anyone who can afford counsel should be represented in a divorce. Everything you own, including retirement assets, real estate, business interests, commissions, etc. is being divided and at risk. Save yourself some time, frustration, and heartache, contact a divorce lawyer at Paul J. Tafelski, P.C. to assist you with this matter.

What is alimony and who gets it?

In Michigan, alimony is called Spousal Support. It is support that one spouse has to pay to the other after a divorce is finalized. It can last for a short time. This is called rehabilitative spousal support and is intended to help the other spouse transition back into the workforce. It is often common when one spouse stayed at home with children while the other worked. Since it usually takes time to get a good career going a spouse may need spousal support for a period of time as they get back to work. Long term or permanent spousal support usually occurs after a long term marriage where a spouse, usually the wife, has been out of the work force for decades and has no real prospects for ever being able to earn income comparable to the other spouse. It is important that the issues of need, equity, earning ability and length of marriage be thoroughly analyzed by an experienced professional when spousal support is at issue.

I think my spouse is hiding assets. What can be done?

Your spouse is not the first who tried to hide assets in a divorce. Experienced counsel has many tools to try and locate hidden assets. Tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills all provide clues to assets. More sophisticated methods are also worthwhile in high dollar cases. Don’t give up on what is rightfully yours without a fight.

Who pays the attorney fees?

Often both parties pay their own attorney fees. However, where one party has a superior financial advantage the other spouse can often be required to pay the fees throughout the divorce.

Who pays the bills while we are getting divorced?

Usually, the court will require the parties to continue paying any bills and obligations they were paying during the marriage. This is called maintenance of the status quo. If either party moves out of the marital home during divorce they will still be required to pay their share of the bills absent strange circumstances such as domestic violence.

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