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Michigan Family Law Blog

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Role of Fault in Michigan Divorce Cases

I am a divorce lawyer in  Auburn Hills, Michigan close to Rochester Hills and Troy.  While Michigan is a "no-fault" state when it comes to divorce - which means that one does not have to prove a reason to get divorced, the fault in causing the breakdown of the marriage may be taken into account when dividing property or calculating alimony.

The matter of Schwartz v Schwartz, COA 324555; 330031;330213, September 22, 2016 (Unpublished) - an Oakland County case, provide an example of where the court considered the husband's affair and support of his girlfriend during the marriage, as a reason to grant a disproportionate division of the property.  In that case, the parties both attorneys, married in 1973 and had two children.  The initial collapse of the marriage occurred when the husband lost about one millions ($1,000,000) in the early 2000's when the stock market crashed.  The parties did not share a marital relationship for ten (10) years prior to the divorce.  In 2012, the husband revealed to the wife that he had been having a long-term affair with Julie Mareski whom he secretly supported during the marriage.  The wife requested a divorce at that point.

The trial court determined that the husband withdrew approximately $1,500 to $2,000 per month from his law firm to support Mareski for a period of time during the marriage.  It also found that the affair coupled with the support was the ultimate cause of the breakdown of the marriage. The husband appealed the trial court's decision to grant the wife a greater share of the marital property.  The Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court.  It found that when a party dissipates marital assets without the fault of the other spouse, the value of the dissipated assets may be included in the marital estate.  It found that if the trial court had specifically added back into the marital estate all of the money that he spent on his girlfriend, then the division of property would have looked more equitable.


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