Divorce or separation is not only traumatic and stressful; it can also be complicated. Trying to reach agreements on the division of financial assets and responsibilities, custodial issues, and child support can often cause more conflict and confrontation in an already fragile situation.
In the majority of cases, you will need an experienced family law attorney with extensive knowledge of family law matters in the state of Michigan to guide you through the process.
If you know how to find the best family lawyer in Michigan, then you know you will have an attorney on your side fighting for the best possible outcome.
An Experienced Family Law Firm Serving Michigan
Our law office covers the Detroit area and offers you years of experience in dealing with divorce and family law. Our priorities are to give you the best possible service while guiding you through the legal process and to ensure the well-being and security of any children involved.
Michigan Divorce Law
Michigan is what is known as a no-fault divorce state. What this means is that neither party in a divorce need to produce any evidence to support the divorce, they only need to state that the marriage has broken down and cannot be sustained.
However, the court may take ‘fault’ into account when considering aspects of the case such as alimony, custody, and child support.
Time-wise, a divorce can be granted 60 days after application if no children are involved. If there are children involved, the period is 6 months. Please note, these are minimum timeframes and, depending on individual circumstances, the divorce may take substantially longer.
As far as residency requirements are concerned, the partner filing for divorce must have been resident in Michigan for a minimum period of 180 days before the date of filing. They must also have been resident in the county where they file an application for a minimum of 10 days, except in cases where there is a risk of the other parent taking the children out of the U.S.
If your partner lives in a different state, then you can still file in Michigan but they will be given a longer period to respond to your divorce filing.
Alimony or spousal support is a financial arrangement that is either agreed between the parties or mandated by the court. It ensures the financial needs of the receiving party are met during and after the divorce. There are four main types of support:
- Lump-sum settlement
Temporary support can only be awarded for the duration of the divorce process if the court thinks it is appropriate (and if no mutual agreement has been reached by both parties).
Permanent support is becoming rarer in Michigan and is usually only awarded when the receiving partner would be unable to achieve financial independence alone. This could be due to age, medical conditions, or disability.
Periodic support is the most common form of alimony awarded in Michigan. This can be awarded for a wide variation of timeframes. The judge determines the period based on how long it may take the receiving spouse’s ability to be financially independent. This period could allow time for the person to seek vocational training, access education, or develop new job skills.
The awarding of lump-sum settlements is quite rare but can happen if the paying spouse can afford to pay the total amount awarded or agreed in one go. Lump-sum settlements may include property as part or all of the settlement.
Michigan’s child support laws state that a child must receive financial support to the age of 18, or the age of 19.5 if still attending high school. The court will consider several aspects of the case when deciding on a child support award. These include the number of children, parents’ incomes, time spent with each parent, any relevant child or healthcare costs and other elements the judge may feel are pertinent.
There is a useful online calculator which both family law attorneys and the individuals involved can use to determine an approximate level of child support in each case.
Child Custody Arrangements
The Michigan Child Custody Act assumes that in the best interests of any children, they should have an active relationship with both parents. Michigan courts look at factors – the ‘best interest factors’ – when deciding which form of custody will most benefit the children. These are:
a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
(b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
(c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other marital needs.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
(j) The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, or the child and the parents.
(k) Domestic violence regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute
The state of Michigan has two types of child custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to where the child will live. This can include joint custody where the child will spend time living with both parents. If sole custody is awarded, then the child will only live with one parent and the other parent may or may not have access.
Legal custody is where you are allowed to take part in any important decisions in your child’s life. This can include elements of the child’s life such as education and healthcare.
Custody and visitation rights are announced at the same time unless the parents have come to mutual agreement. Where there is no agreement, this can be one of the most complicated areas of family law issues. If you have now won custody, your divorce attorney will put forward your case for frequent access.
The judge uses the same ‘best interest’ factors used to decide custody, along with these further elements:
(a): Any special needs of the child
(b): Whether the child is nursing
(c): Whether abuse or neglect of a child during parenting time is likely
(d): Whether abuse of a parent during parenting time is likely
(e): The inconvenience and impact on the child of traveling for parenting time
(f): Whether a parent is reasonably likely to exercise parenting time
(g): Whether a parent has frequently failed to exercise reasonable parenting time
(h): The threatened or actual detention of the child with the intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent or from a third person who has legal custody. A custodial parent’s temporary residence with the child in a domestic violence shelter shall not be construed as evidence of the custodial parent’s intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent
(i): Any other relevant factors
Another major legal issue in divorce cases is the division of any property. The major thing to know regarding this is that courts look on property as being either marital or separate property.
Marital property is any assets or property which were earned, bought, or otherwise acquired during the marriage. This can include property, vehicles, artwork, furniture, pension plans, savings accounts, etc. All of these assets are viewed as jointly owned, no matter who earned them and they will be split equally in a divorce.
Separate property can include any type of asset which was acquired before the marriage but can also include gifts or inheritance received during the marriage. However, to qualify as separate, you must have kept ownership separate, for example, if a relative leaves you money in a will, that money cannot be deposited into any joint account.
This can be an area of divorce that causes the most disagreements as to what constitutes marital property and what constitutes separate property. Getting expert legal advice on this is a crucial step.
Investment/Retirement Funds Division
Generally speaking, investment and retirement funds set up during a marriage will qualify as marital property and will this be divided equally.
Once a Judgment of Divorce (JOD) has been made, each party is legally obligated to follow the terms of that judgment. Where either party does not follow the JOD, then you can return to court and file a motion asking the Judge to enforce the JOD or take other punitive action. Our experienced family law attorney can file any of these motions on behalf of our represented clients.
Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreement
Both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are recognized in Michigan. A postnuptial agreement must conform to Michigan contract law to be valid. These agreements can be a good way of protecting certain assets including property, or for protecting the rights of children from a previous marriage. They do not affect decisions relating to child support or custody.
If you have one of these agreements and are unsure how it will affect your divorce settlement, or if you want to consider having one drawn up, the experienced staff at our law office can advise you on all aspects of these agreements.
How to Prepare Before Filing for Divorce
There are several steps you should take before filing for divorce in Michigan, including ensuring you meet the requirements, gathering paperwork, and documenting all relevant assets. Seeking the legal services of a competent divorce lawyer can help you steer through all the legal aspects.
When you look in the lawyers’ directory, you will see the name of Michigan Premier Law as one of the leading family law attorneys in Detroit. While we also practice in areas such as personal injury and criminal defense, we specialize in family law services such as estate planning.
If you are considering divorce, or if your partner has filed divorce papers against you, we offer a free consultation to discuss your case and advise you on what strategies are open to you. You can call us on 248-688-0045 to book a complimentary case evaluation.