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Michigan Family Law Blog

Monday, June 10, 2019

Divorce and Abandonment in Michigan

Should I Be Worried About Abandonment if I Leave the Marital Home Before I File for Divorce?

Michigan is a No-fault Divorce State 

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means that a person does not have to state a reason in order to obtain a divorce.  It does not mean that fault cannot play a role in the division of property or award of alimony, but that is a topic for another blog.  Prior to 1972 (the year that Michigan enacted it's no-fault statute) if one filed for divorce, he or she had to state a reason for the divorce such as infidelity, physical abuse or abandonment.  If the person did not prove the grounds or basis for granting the divorce to the judge, the judge could deny that person a divorce.  There were some judge's who would simply not grant a divorce, particularly if the requesting party was a woman.  This created some serious social injustice and other problems.

So prior to 1972, if a person left the marital home for any reason, the court could find that person had abandoned the marriage.  The court could then grant a judgment of divorce based upon the abandonment.  It could also deny the abandoning spouse a share of the property, custody rights and either grant or deny alimony based upon the same.  Once Michigan adopted its no-fault statute, abandonment began to become much less relevant.  Today, abandonment as a legal term is virtually never used in divorce proceedings. 

Will Leaving the Home Before I File Change My Property, Custody or Alimony Rights? 

Typically leaving the marital home without contributing to the expenses will no longer cause a person to completely lose his or her right to seek a share of the marital property or custody/parenting time with the children.  However, the court will probably take the circumstances into account and may adjust the division of property depending on the circumstances.  This means all of the circumstances, so in the situation where there was abuse and one party had to flee the home and could not afford to contribute to the marital estate, that party may be granted an equal or even greater portion of the marital estate, whereas someone who simply took off may be entitled to a smaller share of the estate.  

If a parent has not seen a child or been involved in the child's life, then (depending on how long the parent has been absent) it can be very difficult to obtain custody of the child technically, but the person should still be able to seek parenting time with the child.  The parenting time may have to start off with shorter periods of visitation or parenting time, but that can be expanded as the relationship between the parent and the child grows.  If a parent has not paid child support that does not typically effect the person's rights to custody or parenting time and conversely failure to file for child support does not effect a person's ability to seek child support at any time after the parties separate. Child abandonment is still a criminal offense, but that applies to cases where the parent has abandoned the child, such as leaving it in a dumpster or out in the woods.  This is typically not what people are thinking of when they are asking questions about divorce. 

If you are contemplating a divorce, don’t hesitate to talk to an experienced Michigan family law attorney who can help you establish the need for these changes and propose alterations to the plan that are in the best interests of your children. Talk to family lawyer Cameron C. Goulding today at 248.608.4123 to determine your options.

 


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