A Law Firm Protecting Your Interests In Divorce
Circumstances in a marriage change over time, and sometimes moving on separately is the best for both you and your children. When it comes time to formally end your marriage, contact DeBruin Law, PLLC, to learn more about your rights and the divorce process.
You can reach out to attorney Tiffany DeBruin by calling 517-731-0353 to schedule an initial consultation.
Types Of Divorce In Michigan
When preparing to file for divorce in Michigan, you should know there are essentially two different circumstances you face: an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce.
In an uncontested divorce in Michigan, your spouse agrees that it is the right time to end the marriage. They also agree on how to handle the various issues within a divorce, including the division of property, spousal support, child custody and child support.
If you have minor children, you and your spouse must wait six months before a judge can finalize the divorce. If you and your spouse have no minor children, then Michigan only requires a 60-day waiting period before a judge can grant a divorce.
A contested divorce in Michigan can last much longer than the required waiting period because you and your spouse do not agree on how to resolve various issues. A contested divorce does not mean the other party will argue that you should remain married. Instead, it means there are significant differences of opinion regarding property division, alimony, child custody and support and other issues. These disagreements may require several mediation sessions or asking the judge to decide after a trial.
You Don’t Need To Prove Fault In Divorce
In Michigan, you do not need to argue that your spouse is somehow at fault for the end of the marriage. You do not have to prove abuse, incapacity, adultery or any other type of misconduct. Instead, the state allows for no-fault divorces.
By filing for a no-fault divorce, you claim that there has been an irreparable breakdown of the marriage to the extent that the purpose of marriage has been destroyed, and there is no likelihood that it could be preserved.
The Divorce Process And Requirements
Below are the some of the steps and requirements you can expect when going through divorce.
Your divorce lawyer will review Michigan’s residency requirement found in MCL Section 552.9. To be able to file for divorce in Michigan, you or your spouse must have resided within the state for at least 180 days before the filing date. Also, you or your spouse must have lived in the county where you file at least 10 days before the filing date, though there are exceptions to this 10-day rule.
If you are unsure of where you can and should file for divorce, talk with an experienced attorney first. If you improperly file for divorce in the wrong place, or simply too early, your petition will be dismissed.
Filing The Divorce Complaint
Once you are confident you fulfill the residency requirement, then you will file a Complaint for Divorce with the county’s circuit court. If you live in Lansing, you will file the complaint with the Family Division of the Ingham County Circuit Court.
The complaint is a document that states you are married, whether or not you have children, that the marriage has broken down, that you are requesting the court to terminate the marriage and what you are asking for. Your Lansing divorce attorney will draft the complaint to ensure it contains all the necessary information and abides by court rules.
After you file the divorce complaint, you must properly serve your spouse with the paperwork. This is also where an experienced divorce attorney can help you. How your spouse must be served depends on the county’s court rules and the rules and processes where your spouse lives. Typically, service requires more than simply mailing them the documents.
Negotiating Various Divorce Issues
After you file for divorce and serve your spouse, the next step is to address the various issues related to the divorce, including what constitutes individual and marital property, how to divide that property, whether alimony is appropriate, and child custody and support.
You and your spouse have the right to decide these issues yourselves. If you have trouble agreeing on one or more topics, you may go through mediation. Mediation is an out-of-court process through which you and your spouse negotiate issues with a third-party mediator present. It can keep you from spending a great deal of time in a courtroom. However, it is not for everyone. Talk with a Lansing, Michigan, divorce attorney about whether divorce mediation may be right for you.
Divorce Decree/Judgment of Divorce
Once all the various issues are worked out, whether outside of court, through mediation, or at a divorce hearing, the last step is for the judge to finalize the divorce and hand down an order legally terminating your marriage.
Understanding Property Division
One of the most significant issues within divorce is property division. To start, you and your spouse must distinguish between your personal property and the property you shared, or marital property. If there are assets or debts you disagree on, then the court can make the final determination of whether something is individually owned or considered marital property.
Once shared assets and debts are identified, they must be divided between you and your soon-to-be-ex. Marital property often includes homes, vehicles, cash in checking and savings accounts, retirement savings, pension plans, life insurance plans, other investments and credit card debt.
Based on MCL Section 552.401, Michigan’s divorce law for property division focuses on equitable distribution. The judge, if they are making the final decision, will decide what is a fair distribution of the shared property. This could be a 50/50 split, but it might not be. Depending on the circumstances, the judge may find it fair to give you or your spouse a greater percentage of assets or to hold one of you responsible for a greater portion of the debt.
You and your spouse do not have to leave this decision to the judge. You have the right to decide how to divide your property yourselves or through mediation. To learn more about how your assets and debts will be categorized and divided in a Michigan divorce, call our Lansing divorce lawyers.
Will Your Case Involve Spousal Support/Alimony?
Another potentially contentious issue is whether or not you or your spouse can obtain financial spousal support. There is no formula for whether or not a spouse can obtain alimony, and if so, for how much or how long. Most spousal support or alimony calculators are inaccurate. You and your spouse can agree to some type of spousal maintenance, or a judge may order it if it appears to provide a more equitable resolution for one spouse.
A judge will look at many factors when deciding whether one spouse should receive alimony, including the length of the marriage, the lifestyle during the marriage, each person’s current income, each person’s ability to work and sustain their lifestyle, each person’s age and health, each person’s behavior during the marriage and more.
If a judge awards you or your spouse alimony, it may be in a lump sum or periodic payments. The award may be permanent, at least until the recipient passes away, remarries or enters into retirement. Or, the support may be for a limited period of time, such as a certain number of months or years.
Child Custody And Child Support Matters
If you and your spouse have minor children, then you need to address child custody and child support during the divorce. You can mutually decide how to split the physical and legal custody of your children. However, many parents have a hard time deciding on the best schedule for their sons and daughters. When you cannot quickly resolve the question of custody, you may choose to go through mediation or leave the decision up to the judge.
Custody is divided into two parts: physical and legal. You may have joint physical custody, or one parent may receive sole custody. Legal custody can be similarly shared, or one parent may obtain sole legal custody. There is no presumption that one parent should have sole custody. Instead, there is a presumption that a child should have a strong relationship with both parents. For a judge to determine the best custody arrangement, they will review what is in your child’s best interests. There are several factors in MCL 722.23 that the judge looks at to determine what is in your child’s best interests.
Once a custody arrangement is agreed upon or determined by the court, then the judge will use the Michigan Child Support Formula to determine which parent should receive child support, if any, and how much. This formula looks at each of your incomes, how many overnights you each have with your child per year, child care expenses and health care expenses. The parent with the most overnight visits usually receives child support.
Contact Us To Talk To A Skilled Family Law Attorney
If you are considering filing for divorce, or your spouse has served you with divorce papers, please contact DeBruin Law, PLLC, to discuss your options. While it is possible to go through an uncontested divorce without legal representation, it is not recommended. You are more likely to achieve a fair outcome to these proceedings when you work with an experienced and skilled attorney like Tiffany DeBruin.