Michigan is a No-Fault Divorce State
Most people who live in Michigan are aware that Michigan is a no-fault divorce state but what does that mean? The term "no-fault" in Michigan is really a response to issues that existed within the old fault based system. In the former system, you had to prove some sort of fault in order to obtain a divorce. This means if the judge decided that you did not supply sufficient proof, then the judge could deny you a divorce and you would have to remain married. That often led to devastating emotional, financial and even physical results to many people. Now, under the new system, one does not have to provide a reason to file for divorce or to actually get divorced. Good reasons or bad reasons, the judge can no longer deny someone the right to a divorce and freedom from a failing marriage.
Does That Mean Fault is Not Taken Into Account in a Divorce in Michigan?
No, it does not mean that fault plays no part in a divorce case. Fault, such as infidelity, physical abuse and other issues can be taken into account when the court is dividing debts or assets and when determining alimony, or spousal support, as it is known in Michigan.
Spousal support in Michigan is based upon the following several factors which the court have developed over time through case law:
- the past relations and conduct of the parties
- the length of the marriage,
- the abilities of the parties to work,
- the source and amount of property awarded to the parties,
- the parties' ages,
- the abilities of the parties to pay alimony,
- the present situation of the parties,
- the needs of the parties,
- the parties' health,
- the prior standard of living of the parties and whether either is responsible for the support of others,
- contributions of the parties to the joint estate,
- a party's fault in causing the divorce,
- the effect of cohabitation on a party's financial status, and
- general principles of equity
The court should specifically take into account a person's fault in causing the divorce or the breakdown of the marriage according to the above factors. In addition, some of the factors overlap, so that fault can be taken into account when considering the past relations and conduct of the parties, the contributions of the parties to the joint estate and general principles of equity when determining alimony. Of course, fault must be proved if it is an issue and often in a divorce case, there is plenty of fault to go around.
Fault can also be taken into account when dividing the property. While the courts start off with a relatively equal division of the property and debts of the parties, the law actually requires the division to be equitable. To determine whether the division of property is equitable, a court is required to consider the following factors (again pursuant to case law):
- the source of property
- contribution toward its acquisition
- the years of married life
- the needs of the parties
- their earning ability
- the cause for divorce
- age of the parties
- health of the parties
- life status of the parties
- past relations and conduct of the parties
- general principles of equity
As seen from the above factors that govern the division of property and debt between the married couple, fault can be taken into account in several of the factors that a court is required to at least consider in a divorce case. Given the wide array of factors the court can consider, it is apparent that the judge has a lot of discretion and leeway in crafting a judgment of divorce when it comes to the property distribution provisions.
If you or your spouse is thinking about filing for a divorce where fault could be a consideration, do not hesitate to contact us for a consult today through our online form or by calling at (248) 608-4123. Many of the issues in family law are governed by case law and not statute which makes the area of law even more confusing because you can't just look up a statute. Y
ou must have knowledge of how the case law has developed in this area, so it is in your best interests to have a good lawyer represent you.